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Sunday, October 1, 2006

R&D: The Flying Edge

Lockheed Martin has modified a UH-1H into a flying test bed for quickly developing, integrating and refining advanced concepts. It hopes the aircraft will prove an advantage in the USAF Combat Search and Rescue X competition.

By James T. McKenna

Lockheed Martin’s facility in the Finger Lakes region of New York, just about where that state’s border cuts due west toward Lake Erie, is crammed with military colors— the flight suits of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps test and evaluation pilots, the hulls of transformed Navy Seahawks, an EH 101 and even a fixed-wing U.S. Air Force A-10.

Home to Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, the Owego facility is upgrading more than 500 Sikorsky Aircraft H-60 variants to the MH-60S and R configurations that will form the backbone of the Navy’s rotary-wing fleet. It is converting AgustaWestland’s EH 101 to the communications- and defenseladen USMC VH-71A U.S. presidential transport. It also is enhancing the ability of the USAF A-10 to more precisely engage targets.

At a far end of the plant, though, near a fire station and the anechoic chamber, is an unusual aspect of the facility: a small, FAA -certified flight test operation. At the heart of the operation is a modified, company- owned Bell Helicopter UH- 1H flying test bed that Lockheed Martin is using to speed research, development and integration of advanced display, safety, communications and navigation systems.

“We’re unique here, because we’re an FAA -type operation,” said Bruce Davie, Lockheed Martin’s production flight test manager for the flying test bed. “The rest of what you’re seeing here is all Defense Logistics Agency-type operations. So we have a different set of requirements and processes that we have to go through in order to make sure that the FAA is happy with what we’re doing.”

The company is looking for the flying test bed to give it an edge in winning more military work: the USAF competition to provide more than 140 next-generation combat search-and-rescue aircraft. The Huey’s projects have included flight testing advanced terrain-following/ terrain-avoidance multimode radar and other systems targeted for combat search-and-rescue aircraft (CSAR ).

The Air Force is slated next month to pick the winner of its Combat Search And Rescue-X contract to replace its HH -60G Pave Hawks. Lockheed Martin and its Team US101 partners, AgustaWestland and Bell, are bidding the US101 variant of the EH 101 in that competition.

The flying test bed program was born in 2001. That was when engineering and flight test leaders convinced company executives to back an idea they’d had for some time: to acquire an aircraft to help them cut the cost and risk of developing and field new advanced-technology components and applications.

“In the world today, if you want go out to get a government asset to fly, it’s difficult,” said Bruce Paradies, Lockheed Martin’s director of special operations programs. “They’re all deployed, and if they’re not, they’re in maintenance. So this is a way to get a lot of stuff done before you actually have to get on a customer aircraft for final certification. It’s become a powerful tool in the minds of some of our customers because of that. They don’t have to put up the asset; Lockheed Martin does.”

The company acquired the UH-1H and spent about a year and half doing alterations on the aircraft to convert it from a military to a civilian configuration that would support test programs. The flying test bed is certified experimental R&D for crew training.

Lockheed Martin chose the Huey “because a) cost—it’s cheap to operate, and b) it’s got a nice payload capacity, particularly when you’re trying to look at test programs and you’re going to throw various types of gear on board,” Davie said.

Powered by the 1,400-shp Honeywell T53-L-13B engine, it can carry a payload weighing up to 2,000 lb, or seat 13 (three crew and 10 passengers. “We can put auxiliary tanks on there if we need to,” Davie said. “We also have some racks which we can hang additional things off of. If we ever wanted to hang a NightSun, we could do that.”

The aircraft is a low-time Huey. “This air f rame only has about 6,800 hr on it,” Davie said. “That’s a virtual baby, even when you compare it with these Seahawks that are down here in the hangar.”

The alterations that Lockheed Martin did included six major ones. It added avionics racks on both sides of the aircraft. One holds all the equipment for the aircraft’s processors and communications gear. The racks also include a flight-test instrumentation system to permit flight test teams to collect data and do data reduction and all the other various testing needed to have back-up information for the projects.

The Huey got another rack on the left side of the aircraft for a power inverter system. “That is a unique, isolated power system that allows us to have additional power to run the actual digital avionics and sensor systems that we have on board,” Davie said. “If you tried to just go off the main generator that you have, you wouldn’t have enough power.

Lockheed Martin had to enlarge the aircraft’s instrument panel. When we had to put two 6X8-in color displays on the left side [for the co-pilot/ test pilot position], we had to actually increase the size of the instrument rack, so it wasn’t a standard Huey rack,” Davie said. The company had the larger panel built. The instrument panel was modified further to accommodate additional instrumentation, such as a radar altimeter and improved horizontal situational indicator to assist in additional aircraft flight-check accuracy throughout various flight tests.

The radio console was also extended and built up to accommodate the additional radio systems in the aircraft.

Lockheed Martin built up a universal forward-looking infrared (flir) sensor mount. It also built a mount for a terrain-following/terrain-avoidance radar.

Command test consoles can be installed in the cabin when needed.

The aircraft’s pilot’s position on the right side of the cockpit uses all analog instruments and controls. The left-side pilot’s position has a glass cockpit; its 6X8-in color displays that show primary flight instruments, aircraft status, and integrated navigation, communications, sensor video and mission management functions. The left-side displays are being upgraded to 12X12-in ones.

The flight controls and display systems on either side are non-coupled “so that we maintain the ability to have a safety pilot in that analog position at all times,” said Davie. “Whatever goes on with the processor system and avionics on the digital side won’t effect anything on the analog side, so we can always remain flightworthy.”

The flying test bed’s operational flight system is an advanced, integrated avionics system. It consists of a modern, PowerPC-based mission processor that was integrated, installed and flown on the flying test bed in less than six months, according to the company. The system has evolved into what is now considered a second-generation advanced integrated avionics system. Rapid-prototyped on the flying test bed, that system consist of display processor and mission proces sor functions combined in a single, line-replaceable unit known as the Integrated Display and Mission Processor, a control display unit to provide alphanumeric data entry and edit capability, and a remote terminal unit to interface to non-MIL-STD-1553B compatible signals and equipment.

The system also includes an embedded Global Posit ioning System/Inertial Navigation System, integrated VFR /IFR en-route and terminal approach charts, and an integrated WSI satellite weather datalink.

The integrated avionics system uses Garmin GNS 430 and 530 navigation backup systems, a Garmin Mode S transponder, and a radar altimeter. The Garmin units give the aircraft the ability to see other traffic in Class B airspace. Jeppesen navigation charts are a part of the Garmin suite. It has a track handle and pointing device, a signals instrumentation and recording system, and a digital map with digital terrain elevation data. It also has a built-in simulation/mission rehearsal mode, a universal flir sensor mount and an integrated radar sensor mount. “Probably the most important takeaway is the sensor support for multiple flir systems there,” Davie said. “That allows us to do the multi-mode radar, terrain-following radar with weather radar detection and obstacle avoidance.”

The flight system’s legacy goes back to the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Aircraft program, of which Davie’s boss, Kim Evans, was program manager. “He’s lived with that thing for many, many years,” Davie said. “We needed a good, operational flight software system that was very capable and robust to do the testing we needed. That one fit the bill right off the bat.”

“It was actually designed to go on the MH-60K and MH-47E seamlessly as a common cockpit,” said Evans. “Because it had those features, it was easy to adapt to another aircraft, and we used it.”

Some of the flight system components came right off of the Lockheed Martin’s plant’s military floor. “We have a Honeywell EGI system for GPS/ INS, and the software was a lift and re-host on the modern processor,” he said. “The displays were all new, but basically we used the same stacks and everything that we had from the military system and replicated them in our modern hardware.”

That provides an advantage with some customers, Evans said. “As it turns out, when some of our customers see this, they’re very familiar with it. It works like things they’ve flown.”

“We’ve enhanced it some,” Davie said, “which is why we call it advanced integrated avionics system.”

“Those things they don’t get,“ Evans laughed, saying of the customers familiar with the system.

Lockheed Martin uses contract pilots to fly the aircraft. They are all FAA -certified commercial instructor test pilots. “We have about 9,000 hr between us,” Davie said, more than 55 years of helicopter experience and more than 75 years’ combined experience in flight test programs.

The program’s maintenance personnel are FAA -certified A&P mechanics, with about 20 years of helicopter experience between them.

In three years of flying, the aircraft has accumulated more than 450 accident- free flying hours, Davie said, and over 10,500 incident-free, crosscountry miles. “Since 2001, we’ve only had one, benign component failure,” Davie said. “It was in a N2 tach generator, which doesn’t affect flight. So that’s quite a compliment for our maintenance guys.”

The flight time includes more than 800 sorties, including 155 engineering test flights. The aircraft has flown demonstrations for customers that range from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy to a variety of law enforcement agencies. “We’ve been really around the block with an awful lot of folks that had interest in the test bed,” Davie said.

Lockheed Martin conducts extensive crew training “in both contact day and night maneuvers for our own proficiency as pilots and crew,” Davie said. “We are IFR -capable.”It took a year of operation before the FAA signed off on the IFR operations.

The aircraft’s operations must adhere to FAA regulations. Whenever it is modified for a test program, FAA designated engineering representative on staff at Lockheed Martin must okay the changes on an FAA Form 8110-3, “Statement of Compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations,” and a mechanic also must sign off on the changes with a Form 337, “Major Repair or Alteration.” The forms are filed with the FAA ’s Flight Standards District Office in Rochester, N.Y., which oversees the flying test bed operation’s certificate. Davie said the team usually gets a flight clearance from Rochester within a day.

That FAA office audits the operation 3-4 times a year, a frequency that may be explained in part by its uniqueness. “It doesn’t hurt that we’ve got the 101 here,” Davie said.

The Huey has provided Lockheed Martin with “a platform to develop new systems and new product sets,” said Davie. “We’ve been able to mix and match all sorts of different types of technology and capabilities. It really helps us to provide some unique system solutions that can be transferred over to some of the other programs.”

“We’re able to demonstrate both systems and products to our customers a lot more readily and easily,” he added. “In the interim, it allows us to go ahead and buy down the cost and risk that are associated with development work. It’s already paid dividends on a number of programs.”

Examples of the work the flying test bed has fostered include integration of a CSAR-X terrain-following/ terrain-avoidance multi-mode radar with flight director cuing. It also has been used to evaluate a sub-optical laser obstacle awareness sensor and a cognitive decision aiding system for threat avoidance and automated route re-planning. Other systems evaluated include hover display symbologies for their ability to help pilots precisely maintain hover in low-visibility conditions and integrated digital mapping and charts with geo-position overlay encompassing state-of-the-art tactical and commercial maps from multiple sources.

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