U.S. Galileo Counter-Offer

Worried about the impact of Europe’s coming Galileo satnav system on the U.S. military’s prized but not yet fielded M-Code for GPS, the U.S. government has proposed an alternative signal structure for the Europeans’ open service (OS). If the Europeans accept this offer, the United States would promise to use the signal, as well, in the forthcoming GPS III system (see below). Offered in December and announced in January, the new proposal follows what U.S. officials describe as a "breakthrough" in November. At that time, representatives of the European Commission� offered a modulation for their government-controlled, encrypted public regulated service (PRS) signal that does not overlay M-Code. Billed as a "compromise," the new OS signal has less impact on M-Code than the one the Europeans prefer. M-Code overlays would make it more difficult for U.S. and allied forces to deny civilian satnav services to enemies in a combat zone while preserving the military signal. This issue is "the last major hurdle" in U.S.-European satellite navigation negotiations, says Charles Ries, the U.S. State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.

U.S. officials traveled to Brussels–meeting with representatives of the European Union–London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin and Stockholm to give the proposal the widest dissemination. The U.S. delegation got a "fairly good" reception, a senior defense official says. But Europeans may be less eager to accept the American proposal, as they regard their current OS signal structure as more robust and accurate than the U.S. alternative. The deal would be sweetened, however, with U.S. assistance on radiation hardening, atomic clock and ground control technology, which would help Galileo make up lost time and hold down development costs. Negotiations were scheduled to resume in Washington in late January. The U.S. is setting no timetable for European approval of the offer but "will stay at the table until we find a deal," Ries says.

Next-Generation GPS

Boeing and Lockheed Martin will help define requirements for the next-generation U.S. satellite navigation system, GPS III, under two $21-million U.S. Air Force contracts. The new satellites will feature at least one highly directional, high-power spot beam.

"Current studies are evaluating using a spot beam to increase the power of the military signals 100 to 500 times above the current power levels provided by today’s GPS Earth coverage antenna," says Col. Phyllis Loving, GPS III program manager. This significant power increase will be for the military signals only–increasing their resistance to jamming–"but there are plans to provide a small improvement in the new L5 signal," she says. (L5, the GPS system’s second, aviation-protected civil signal, is key to increased airborne GPS performance.) The study phase essentially asks what the requirements should be, how much it would cost, and what the best development strategies are. A 30-satellite system, including spares and replenishments, is estimated to require a $14- to 15-billion taxpayer investment.

If possible, the Air Force wants GPS III to provide global, real-time integrity–the ability to spot signal problems and alert users in a timely manner–to the military and civilians. But how best to achieve this is an open question and part of the study space. The system is expected to use radio frequency, satellite-to-satellite links, and these cross-links could be used to exchange integrity information, as well as direct the spot beams. Among the possible uses of intersatellite links in aid of real-time integrity are the following:

  • As a mechanism for rapid dissemination of alerts and alarms directly to GPS receivers.

  • As a means to provide health and status information to the ground control segment.

  • As part of an onboard, self-monitoring scheme. The spacecraft, via "satellite-to-satellite ranging," could make corrections to their orbital information and update themselves, downlinking the information to the ground.

The questions to be answered are how much integrity is needed–different levels are possible–what is feasible, and how much will it cost.

Real-time integrity would be a big improvement to the existing GPS system, whose sparse ground monitoring architecture means that all of the satellites can’t be monitored all of the time, and that users may not receive timely notice of signal problems. The U.S. satellite-based augmentation system provides accuracy and integrity data only over the continental U.S. and parts of Alaska and Canada. Additional ground monitoring also is planned prior to the deployment of GPS III.

A GPS III development award is expected in FY2006, and a production contract in FY2009. First launch of GPS III is expected in FY2012.

Civil Anti-Missile System

Getting the facts about the performance, costs and maintainability of missile defense systems for airliners, in advance of a decision on whether to deploy such technology on air transport aircraft is the aim of a batch of contracts that were expected last month from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman and United Airlines in January were selected to participate in the Counter-MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) program. According to a sister publication, Air Safety Week, the contracts are part of a two-year, two-phase effort to refine installation and support costs, including ground support and less obvious factors such as additional in-flight drag on the aircraft and additional fuel burn. "We’ve got to get these facts on the table," says Penrose Albright, assistant DHS secretary for science and technology.

Phase 1 covers concept development. In Phase 2, contractors will put hardware on the airplanes, test it, and have the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certify it, using the "standard STC [supplemental type certificate] process," says Jack Pledger, Northrop’s director of IR countermeasures development. Some $122 million will be spent over a two-year period.

DHS officials say a "high premium" in the selection process was placed on the training implications and maintainability of missile defense systems. But, based on the timeline for Phase 1 and 2, it is not likely that installations would commence on in-service aircraft until at least the spring of 2005.

If the program proceeds to production, it could be a new growth industry, ranging from $10 billion to $100 billion in value. There are roughly 300 aircraft in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), but there are some 4,000 U.S. aircraft in the Boeing 737-and-larger class. "If you extend that to international-based carriers, you get at least 10,000," says Burt Keirstead, BAE’s Counter-MANPADS program manager.

Basically, DHS officials have ruled out ground-based missile defense systems, as well as hardening airliners against missile hits (deemed "very difficult"). Instead the agency opted for two airborne approaches. Broadly, the BAE/Northrop approaches are based on infrared (IR) systems, which direct an intense beam of IR energy to jam the missile’s optical seeker or cause it to deviate from its course. These are known as directed IR countermeasure, or DIRCM systems. Northrop’s solution, for example, sends out a modulated pulse of laser energy, which makes the "[missile] seeker perform a violent turn away from the aircraft," explains Pledger.

United Airlines proposes ejectable heat sources, or decoys. Essentially, one approach "blinds," while the other "seduces" the missile to miss its intended target. Northrop’s directed IR system, which uses software-encoded waveforms, can be quickly updated to counter new threats, Pledger says.

BAE Systems, teamed with Delta Air Lines, is proposing a laser DIRCM developed for Army helicopters. The company holds 11 STCs for installing anti-missile systems on VIP aircraft. Northrop plans to use technology developed for the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure (LAIRCM) program. United plans to use Avisys’ Widebody Integrated Platform Protection System (WIPPS), which employs "special material" IR decoys. These flares are claimed to be� "visually covert" and safe to use over urban areas. United’s team members, ARINC and Thales, respectively, will help tailor a solution to airliners and provide missile approach and warning system expertise.

Honeywell Acquires Hymatic

Honeywell’s aerospace business has acquired UK-based Hymatic Group, a maker of environmental control systems, including pneumatic equipment for cryogenic cooling and pure air systems. Visit www.honeywell.com.

Qatar Airways’ Satellite TV

Qatar Airways has inked a memorandum of agreement with Rockwell Collins to install Tailwind 560 multi-region satellite TV systems on the new fleet on order from Airbus. Honeywell has completed initial flight and ground testing of a comparable system in the Middle East. Visit www.rockwellcollins.com.

TopDeck in Venezuela

The Venezuelan Air Force has taken delivery of their first upgraded C-130 transport aircraft, equipped with Thales’ modular TopDeck avionics suite. Visit www.thalesgroup.com.

Wireless Laptop E-Mail

Emirates Airline says it soon will offer passengers the "world’s first regular, airborne wireless laptop service," under an agreement with Tenzing. In another endeavor, Tenzing and ARINC have joined to provide carriers an end-to-end solution for in-flight e-mail. Visit www.arinc.com and www.tenzing.com.

Emteq Approval

Emteq Aerospace has received supplemental type certificate approval for the installation of Honeywell’s Mk V enhanced ground proximity warning system on Boeing 737s. Visit www.emteq.com.

Dubai C-130 Upgrade

The Dubai Air Wing has selected Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Co. and CMC Electronics to upgrade the cockpits in its C-130 L100-30s. Visit www.cmcelectronics.com.

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