Analyses: FAA, JPDO Challenged To Achieve NextGen

FAA and the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) planning the Next Generation Air Transportation System face challenges of funding, program management and coordination across multiple agencies, according to two federal analyses.

As Congress considered FAA’s 2007 reauthorization proposal, two federal officials, Calvin L. Scovel III, Department of Transportation inspector general, and Gerald L. Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), testified in May on progress toward the future airspace system — called NextGen. While acknowledging improvement in FAA’s management of major modernization programs, they also raised cautionary flags regarding the agency’s ability to accomplish NextGen while at the same time maintaining the nation’s present, overburdened system.

The estimated federal cost to implement the NextGen infrastructure through 2025 ranges from $15 billion to $22 billion. The estimate for airspace users to equip with advanced avionics ranges from $14 billion to $20 billion.

"Our recent work shows that the development of and transition to NextGen are extraordinarily complex, high-risk efforts that will involve billion-dollar investments by both the government and airspace users," Scovel stated in written testimony to the House Aviation Subcommittee. "Much work remains to establish requirements and align agency budgets to make the JPDO a truly effective, multi-agency vehicle.... Moreover, FAA is at a crossroads with respect to modernization; there are a wide range of actions that it must take to reduce risk and position the agency to successfully deliver new capabilities."

Dillingham told the House committee that FAA in recent years has made "measurable improvements" in its acquisition processes. However, the agency’s "air-traffic control modernization program remains on our list of high-risk programs because of its history of systemic management and acquisition problems that contributed to cost growth, schedule slippages and performance shortfalls.... The realization of NextGen goals could be severely compromised if FAA’s improved program management and outcomes are not institutionalized and carried over to the implementation of NextGen, which is an even more complex and ambitious undertaking than past modernization efforts."

Among challenges cited in the federal analyses were:

  • Funding. NASA historically has performed long-term aeronautical research but is shifting to more fundamental research and proof-of-concept demonstrations, Scovel testified. "This is in sharp contrast to the support it gave FAA with the (previous) Free Flight Phase 1 program.... [I]t will be important for FAA and NASA to come to a clear understanding of the level of technical maturity that NASA projects will have. This has cost and schedule implications for NextGen, particularly new automated systems for controllers. If NASA is unable to provide projects at a level that FAA can transition to prototypes, the JPDO and FAA will have to determine how this R&D will be completed, managed and paid for." [JPDO said May 21 it had briefed officials of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and received "their continued commitment to providing fundamental research for NextGen."]

  • Leadership. FAA by this fall will have lost two "significant agents for change." The agency’s Air Traffic Organization remained without a permanent head following the departure in February of Russell G. Chew, and Administrator Marion C. Blakey’s term expires in September. "For the financial, management, and acquisition improvements to further permeate the agency, and thus provide a firm foundation upon which to implement NextGen, FAA’s new leaders will need to demonstrate the same commitment to improvement as the outgoing leaders," Dillingham stated. Meanwhile, JPDO "has suffered from a lack of stable leadership" and was functioning with its third director — Charles Leader — in four years.

  • Interagency cooperation. In February, Scovel found "little or no alignment of research and development plans" among JPDO agencies. "This is still the case today," he stated. "Central to the JPDO mission, and making it an effective multiagency vehicle, is the alignment of agency resources. This is a complex task, and the law provides no authority for the JPDO to redirect agency resources. To its credit, JPDO has released a Concept of Operations for NextGen, but considerable work remains to effectively align federal research dollars for NextGen."

Scovel’s office is tracking 18 current modernization programs with a combined acquisition cost of $17 billion. Several, totaling $6 billion, "will require significant attention and oversight because of their size, diminishing benefits, potential cost and schedule problems, or importance to the NextGen transition." These include En Route Automation Modernization, the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure, Airport Surface Detection Equipment-Model X, Air Traffic Management and Advanced Technology and Oceanic Procedures.

FAA’s FY2008 budget submission contains funding for several NextGen initiatives, led by $85.7 million for ADS-B development and $50 million for "infrastructure development activities" and demonstrations of trajectory-based operations in the oceanic environment and "super density" operations at airports. FAA sought $21.3 million for developing System Wide Information Management; $7.4 million for NextGen Data Communication; $7 million for Network Enabled Weather; and $3 million for a new National Airspace System Voice Switch.

FAA estimates $15.4 billion will be required for capital projects from FY2008 to FY2012, including $4.6 billion, mostly from the capital account, for NextGen initiatives. Bill Carey


Southwest Adopts RNP

Southwest Airlines will equip its 520-aircraft fleet for Required Navigation Performance (RNP), becoming the largest airline to equip fleetwide. By year-end, half of Southwest’s fleet will be RNP-ready Boeing 737-700s. The carrier will retrofit its classic -300 and -500 models and specify RNP capability for future purchases.

Southwest in May said it had signed an agreement with Naverus, of Kent, Wash., to partner on development of the airline’s RNP program, including the design of approach and departure procedures at the 63 airports it serves. Naverus was co-founded in 2003 by Steve Fulton, who helped pioneer RNP RNAV (area navigation) procedures in Alaska while serving as an Alaska Airlines technical pilot.

In April, Naverus became the first third-party organization designated by FAA to provide the services needed to implement an RNP program.

RNP takes advantage of an aircraft’s satellite-based navigation capability to fly a more precise flight path to an airport, saving on fuel and reducing noise and emissions. The capability increases airport access during marginal weather and allows for closer route separation. The aircraft’s flight management computer must be capable of alerting pilots if the aircraft strays from tightly defined airspace.

"We discovered how tailored RNP can be used for more than just terrain-challenged airports. By using it everywhere, we’ll unlock the tremendous capabilities of modern avionics, maximizing our investment in new aircraft and equipment," said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest executive vice president and chief of operations.

FAA reported in May that it had implemented 37 RNP approaches at 17 airports, with another 34 approaches planned by year-end. The agency that month published 10 additional RNP approach procedures at Atlanta-Hartsfield and three at Dallas-Fort Worth. It plans to publish "at least" 25 such approaches in 2008.

The agency had implemented 155 RNAV arrivals and departures at 38 airports, with 42 more to be published by the end of the year. RNAV, which allows aircraft operation on a desired course within coverage of navaids, is saving about $8.5 million per year annually at DFW, with RNAV departures allowing between 11 and 20 additional operations per hour. Delta Airlines reported saving $36 million annually at Atlanta, with 10 additional departures per hour. In May, Delta received approval for its 737-800s to fly RNP approaches.

"We realize that required navigational capabilities are one of the cornerstones for the next generation air-traffic control system," said Brandy King, a Southwest spokesperson, in response to questions from Avionics.

"We believe (aligning) with the FAA and airports during this transition will provide our industry with operational efficiencies, including reducing fuel burn and reducing congestion and delays. We have made the internal decision to move forward with the philosophy of RNP/RNAV."

In late May, Boeing said a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-700 completed a flight into Linzhi airport in the mountainous region of Tibet using RNP.

NextGen North America

The United States signed a trilateral agreement with Canada and Mexico to implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), FAA said.

In a meeting in Quebec in May, the three nations agreed to harmonize efforts on technologies such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast and Required Navigation Performance.

"If there’s one thing on which we all agree it’s that we need to modernize and transform our aviation system. The status quo simply will not suffice. We know that more than a billion passengers are headed our way. With our system stretched thin as it is in terms of capacity and efficiency, we must find a better way to operate, a better way to do business," FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey said. NextGen is "the perfect meld of technology, policy, plans and procedures to accommodate the swell in traffic that’s headed our way," Blakey said.

Flight-Route Software

Dutch airline KLM will continue its partnership for an additional five years with Lufthansa Systems to support its flight-planning processes.

The system, Lido OC, supports airlines in minimizing fuel and operational costs by selecting the optimum routing for each flight. In addition, KLM selected the Lido module "LinTop" to calculate single-point takeoff performances, replacing the paper-based charts previously used for that purpose.

More than 160 other airlines are using Lufthansa Systems’ airline operations systems, including British Airways, Finnair, Lufthansa, Air Berlin, LTU, Emirates and Singapore Airlines.

Air China Avionics

Air China specified Rockwell Collins’ avionics on 25 Boeing 737NG and 24 Airbus A320/A321 aircraft.

Rockwell Collins will provide its MultiScan Hazard Detection System, VHF-2100 data radio, ADF-900 Automatic Direction Finder, DME-900 Distance Measuring Equipment, HFS-900D High Frequency System, CPL-920D Coupling Unit and VOR-900 VHF Omnidirectional Radio. Deliveries are scheduled to begin this fall.

Air China also selected the Rockwell Collins GLU-925 Multi-Mode Receiver, an integrated unit that provides the aircraft’s primary position, velocity and time reference and enables precision landing capability.


Raytheon said in May it completed the critical design review milestone on the General Civil Aviation Authority of United Arab Emirates AutoTrac III contract, which aims to replace UAE’s aging en route system with a new air-traffic management system.

Raytheon was awarded the contract in September 2006.

"The critical design review milestone marks the acceptance of overall system design, including the definition of external interfaces, new software development requirements and final hardware configuration," said Riis Johnasen, director of projects and planning of General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). "There is still a lot of work ahead, but we are confident that Raytheon and the GCAA will continue this success story."

Raytheon’s AutoTrac III will be installed in the new Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Center, Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi. AutoTrac III provides software and hardware to ensure safety for 16 airspace sectors in the area control center and 10 in the emergency area control center.

The system, with its open architecture design, is fully adaptable and scaleable to any air-traffic management environment, ranging from a simple tower automation application to a fully integrated national, multi-center system, Raytheon said.

Flight Tracking

International Communications Group (ICG) signed an agreement with Flight Explorer to incorporate the company’s FE Professional Aircraft Situational Display (ASD) flight tracking system with the ICG CIS-100 and ICS-120 satellite transceivers.

ICG, Newport News, Va., said the FE Professional ASD is an integrated global flight tracking and management support tool that provides air carriers with the system features required to improve operational efficiency and performance. Key components in the system include data feeds, third-party data integration, flight planning system integration, route building, checking and display, airport information, user-selectable graphical overlays and map and background image overlays.

The CIS-100 incorporates a single channel Iridium transceiver and an internal GPS receiver with built-in CTU features. The device provides a standalone comprehensive communications systems in a small, rugged metal enclosure.

The ICS-120 is a full service aeronautical communications system incorporating a single channel Iridium transceiver with a dedicated Short Burst Data (SBD) modem for ACARS DataLink services and an internal GPS to support automatic flight following in a single LRU.


TCAS Safety Letter

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), in a safety recommendation issued May 2, called for enhanced aural and visual warnings in the event an aircraft’s Traffic Alert Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) is not functioning.

The safety recommendation to FAA followed the Sept. 29, 2006 midair collision in Brazil of an Embraer Legacy 600 business jet with a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800. All 154 occupants of the airliner were killed. The Legacy, operated by ExcelAire, of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., sustained damage to its left wing and left horizontal stabilizer, but was able to make an emergency landing.

NTSB said flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) information recovered from the aircraft revealed no indication of any TCAS alert onboard either aircraft, no evidence of pre-collision visual acquisition by either flight crew and no evidence of evasive action by either flight crew.

The investigation has centered on the Legacy’s TCAS system, which was not functioning at the time of the accident. The TCAS 2000 unit was manufactured by Aviation Communications & Surveillance Systems, with a Honeywell Mode S transponder. Honeywell, facing lawsuits over the accident, has said the transponder did not malfunction.

"The investigation of this accident (by Brazilian authorities) is ongoing; however, preliminary findings suggest that a critical safety issue exists regarding the loss of functionality of an aircraft’s collision avoidance system and resulting cockpit warnings to flight crews," NTSB said.

"[F]or reasons yet to be determined, the collision avoidance system in the Legacy airplane was not functioning at the time of the accident, thereby disabling the system’s ability to detect and be detected by conflicting traffic. In addition, CVR data indicate that the flight crew as unaware that the collision avoidance system was not functioning until after the accident."

NTSB recommends that pilots of TCAS-equipped aircraft be provided with "enhanced aural and visual warning requiring pilot acknowledgement" in the event that collision avoidance system functionality is lost, for any reason. FAA also advised to evaluate the feasibility of aural and visual warnings of the functionality of ground collision avoidance systems.

Pilots should be informed "about the circumstances of this accident and the lack of a conspicuous warning to indicate the loss of collision protection resulting from a compromise in functionality of either the transponder or TCAS unit," NTSB said. Pilots should be familiar with "the annunciations currently used to indicate failure or lack of functionality of these components."

Meanwhile, media reports indicated that Brazilian police were moving forward with criminal charges against the two American pilots of the Legacy 600 and at least three air traffic controllers.

"We are disappointed that Brazilian police officials continue down the road of emphasizing ‘criminalization’ in the wake of last year’s tragic accident, instead of recognizing the premium the international community places on investigating the root causes of the accident, so that safety improvements can be made," Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, said May 11.

Mustang Certification

Cessna Aircraft said its Citation Mustang Very Light Jet received certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency. Cessna made the announcement at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland.

"The Citation Mustang has met or exceeded every performance objective established when we announced the program in 2002," said Jack J. Pelton, Cessna chairman, president and CEO.

"The Mustang is proving its capability in the United States, where several owner-operators are currently flying their new airplanes. We’re looking forward to starting deliveries of the Mustang in Europe later this summer."

The six-place Citation Mustang has a top speed of 340 ktas, a range of 1,150 nautical miles and a service ceiling of 41,000 feet.

The Mustang cockpit features a Garmin G1000 avionics suite with two 10.4-inch primary flight displays and a 15-inch multifunction display. Cessna says the Citation Mustang is the first aircraft with an integrated flight deck that is certified to take advantage of WAAS navigation features, including approaches that provide both lateral and vertical guidance. The avionics suite also includes a new feature called SafeTaxi, which gives a graphical representation of the aircraft on the ground in the airport environment.

In a separate announcement, Flightcraft, of Portland, Ore., said it is the first Authorized Citation Service Center to be certified for the Citation Mustang.

Flightcraft already performs work on 500-series Citations, including phase inspections, routine maintenance and warranty work.

Latest King Air

A Rockwell Collins integrated avionics suite and advanced Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) from Aviation Communications & Surveillance Systems (ACSS) are features of the King Air C90GTi, the latest evolution of King Air C90 turboprop from Hawker Beechcraft Corp.

Hawker Beechcraft was formed in March with the sale by Raytheon of its Raytheon Aircraft Co. subsidiary to Onex Partners and GS Capital Partners for $3.3 billion.

The King Air C90GTi, poised to compete against Very Light Jets, features the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite with three large-format LCDs and digital radio and audio systems. "This upgrade creates the lowest priced, twin-turbine aircraft with mid-size jet avionics," according to Hawker Beechcraft. Certification and deliveries are expected in the fourth quarter.

ACSS, the joint venture of L-3 Communications and Thales, will provide its advanced terrain awareness warning system, TAWS +, for the C90GTi.

ACSS’s TAWS+ and TAWS+ performance are stand-alone, Class A Terrain Avoidance Warning Systems for passenger airplanes, jets and military aircraft.

ACSS said more than 2,000 units have been sold or ordered as a stand-alone product or as part of the company’s T2CAS product, an integrated Traffic Alert Collision Avoidance System and TAWS in a single line-replaceable unit.

"We’re excited to announce the first new aircraft by Hawker Beechcraft Corp.," said Brad Hatt, president of the Commercial Aircraft division. "The new King Air C90GT is a logical step in creating a common avionics package across the King Air line and continuing on up into Hawkers. In conjunction with the airplane’s Pratt and Whitney PT6A-135 engines, the C90GTi will deliver its passengers in a nearly 50-percent larger cabin and within minutes of even the closest competitive Very Light Jet."

Sikorsky Data Monitoring

Sikorsky Aircraft signed an agreement with Flightscape, of Ottawa, Canada, to provide a Helicopter Flight Data Monitoring (HFDM) capability for the S-76 and S-92 helicopters.

HFDM is a ground-station based system that plays back flight data to assess how the aircraft is flown and operated. Flight data is recorded by the Goodrich Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) on the S-92 and by the EXVP HUMS on the S-76.

"The lessons learned from these reviews can be fed back into the operator’s training process. The system’s data collection and analysis capabilities augment the aircraft’s existing HUMS system and also can help with the troubleshooting of aircraft operational issues," said Marc Poland, Sikorsky vice president of commercial programs.

Sikorsky’s commercial aircraft Flight Management Operations Center will support the HFDM service.

Cabin Telephone

Satellite communications provider EMS Satcom unveiled a new voice solution for its eNfusion CNX-400 Cabin Gateway product line at EBACE 2007 in Geneva.

The CNX-400 is a SwiftBroadband-ready cabin networking device, which combines compression and acceleration functionality of EMS Satcom’s CNX-200 Network Accelerator with a multifunctional voice solution and an integrated PBX telephone exchange. SwiftBroadband, the new broadband service provided by Inmarsat, will become operational this year.

The voice system consists of the CNX-400 Cabin Gateway, the CNX Communications Convergence Unit (CNX CCU), and a wired or wireless handset with a cradle. The system supports two-wire POTS (plain old telephone service), four-wire voice and 802.11g SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) voice capabilities. With four Ethernet ports, the CNX CCU also supports fax and printing capabilities.

Satcom STC

Satellite data and voice system provider Blue Sky Network, La Jolla, Calif., and Nayak Aircraft Service of Germany received supplemental type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to install satellite communications on the Hawker 800, 800XP and 850XP models.

Blue Sky’s components provide operators and passengers with access to voice and circuit data connections from as many locations in the aircraft as necessary. The equipment includes an Iridium satellite portable telephone for use on or off the aircraft, providing airlines and fleet operators with two-way communications capability.

Installations will be performed by Nayak, an aircraft maintenance provider with facilities in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

Meggitt Restructures

Endevco Corp., San Juan Capistrano, Calif., now is part of the new Meggitt Sensing Systems (MSS) division of Meggitt PLC, under a restructuring unveiled by the parent company.

The division was formed by merging the Meggitt Aerospace Systems and Meggitt Electronics groups. MSS will have capabilities to deliver sensing services into the aerospace, energy, medical, industrial and automotive sectors.

Richard Greaves, a 30-year industry veteran and most recently the managing director of Meggitt Aerospace Systems, will lead the new division.

Endevco designs and manufactures dynamic instrumentation for vibration, shock and pressure measurement. Meggitt, headquartered near Bournemouth International Airport, U.K., designs and builds high-performance components and systems for aerospace and defense with capabilities including sensing, data acquisition and avionics.

Gulfstream Guidance

Beginning in 2009, Rockwell Collins’ new HGS-6000 Head-Up Guidance System (HGS) series will be featured on new aircraft delivered by Gulfstream Aerospace.

The HGS-6000 will be standard equipment on Gulfstream G450 and G550 aircraft, and optional equipment on the G150, G200, G350 and G500 aircraft. The all-digital display will allow the pilot to see an integrated display of flight information and an infrared image from Gulfstream’s Enhanced Vision System.

Another Rockwell Collins HGS system, the HGS-5860, received certification for the Dassault Falcon 7X. Previous models of Rockwell Collins’ HGS have been certified on the Dassault Falcon 900DX, 900EX, 2000 and 2000EX.

CJ4 Management System

Cessna Aircraft said it will use Rockwell Collins’ new digital cabin management system (CMS) for the Citation CJ4 business jet.

The new CMS will incorporate a range of new entertainment features, including high-definition video, audio and an integrated Airshow moving map. The system will be offered as part of the baseline CJ4 cabin package.

Rockwell Collins also supplies the Pro Line 21 avionics suite that will be standard equipment for the new CJ4 aircraft, as it is with other members of the Citation CJ family. The CJ4 is scheduled to enter into service in 2010.

Display Retrofit STC

Universal Avionics said it received an FAA supplemental type certification (STC) for its EFI-890R Navigation Display retrofit into a Learjet Model 25D by Stevens Aviation. The LR25 has also been equipped with Universals Synthetic Vision System "Vision-1" and the Application Server Unit providing WSI Weather and Jeppesen Charts for a paperless cockpit, UNS-1L FMS and Terrain Awareness and Warning System Class A. This FAA STC encompasses Learjet Models 25, 25A, 25B, 25C and 25F.

Universal’s synthetic vision system allows the pilot to see a computer generated rendering of the terrain ahead of the aircraft and is designed for the EFI-890R Primary Flight Display. The EFI-890R Navigation Display provides a view of the aircraft, flight plan and terrain from a position situated behind, above and to the right of the aircraft.

Satcom STC

AirCell said it received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification for its satcom system — AirCell Axxess — to be installed aboard a Cessna Citation 650.

AirCell said its satcom systems are in the EASA certification process for several additional aircraft types, with completion expected soon.


Radar License

Spanish defense and information technology company Indra signed a licensing agreement with Northrop Grumman, obtaining rights to manufacture and market Northrop Grumman’s ASR-12 air-traffic control radar system outside the United States.

The ASR-12 radar, designed and produced by Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector in Baltimore, is an updated version of its ASR-9 radar. Both versions are used by air-traffic controllers to monitor the approach, landing and departure of aircraft. The ASR-9 radar system is operating at 135 U.S. airports in addition to 18 airports in other nations.

Controlled Recon

Northrop Grumman demonstrated an autonomous control system, which it described as a low-cost way to manage U.S. Army reconnaissance aircraft and deliver real-time information about enemy positions to troops on the ground.

The Heterogeneous Unmanned Reconnaissance Team, known as the HURT system, controls combinations of manned and unmanned aircraft to send essential tactical data in real-time to soldiers equipped with handheld computers.

The latest exercise — the third demonstration of the HURT system — was conducted in April at Fort Hunter Liggett, an Army training installation near King City, Calif. The exercise showed HURT’s ability to simultaneously control three "tiers" of reconnaissance aircraft. Aircraft in Tier I flew as high as 6,000 feet and scanned areas as far away as 100 miles from the combat area; those in Tier II flew at 2,000 feet and covered areas about 50 miles away; those in Tier III flew as low as 100 feet over the immediate combat zone. Aircraft used in the demonstration were a manned C-12 Huron turboprop in Tier I; ScanEagle and Hunter unmanned aerial vehicles in Tier II, and Pointer, Raven and Wasp UAVs in Tier III.

Computing Partnership

Board manufacturer Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing will standardize the use of Wind River Systems’ general purpose Linux and Real-Time Core for Linux platforms on its Intel x86-based board products.

The May 15 announcement signaled an expansion of the existing relationship of Curtiss-Wright, Charlotte, N.C., and device software provider Wind River, Alameda, Calif. Curtiss-Wright already offers Wind River’s "VxWorks" platform as the standard real-time operating system (RTOS) for its rugged commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) board product line.

As a result of the expanded partnership, Curtiss-Wright said, embedded system integrators will be able to more easily and rapidly deploy Wind River Linux and VxWorks solutions for rugged deployed military systems, mitigating risk and speeding time to market.

Applications for the Linux platform are seen in rugged, high-capacity storage aboard reconnaissance aircraft; radar consoles in widebody aircraft; and vehicle management systems that keep track of cargo via electronic tags, Mike Hornby, Curtiss-Wright director of marketing, told Avionics.

Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing, one of three divisions of Curtiss-Wright Controls, manufacturers VME, VPX and CompactPCI board products for the aerospace and defense markets. The company is Wind River’s first board vendor strategic partner in these industries to standardize on VxWorks, Wind River Linux, and Real-Time Core, a real-time "executive" technology.

Wind River Systems in February acquired the intellectual property for real-time Linux technology from FSM Labs.

Eurofighter AESA

The Eurofighter development aircraft, equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar demonstration system, completed its first flight in May at the EADS Military Air Systems Flight Test Center in Manching, Germany.

The radar system, called CAESER, is a variant of the Eurofighter’s CAPTOR radar. The CAESAR demonstrator was developed in four years by the EuroRadar consortium, consisting of EADS Defence Electronics (Germany), SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems (U.K.), Galileo Avionica (Italy) and INDRA (Spain).

The CAESAR radar introduces AESA technology, which replaces mechanically steered antennas and high-power transmitters with an electronically steered array. The array is made up of more than 1,000 transmit/receive modules, enabling new surveillance capabilities. AESA radar is being fielded on American F-15, F-18 and F-22 jets, and will fly on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"The successful maiden flight on Eurofighter DA5 demonstrated that the existing CAPTOR radar could easily be upgraded to an AESA system, demonstrating extensive operational expandability and resistance to obsolescence of the system," said Bernhard Gerwert, CEO of EADS Defense Electronics unit.

The functionality of CAESAR was demonstrated in ground tests and in flights aboard a BAC 1-11 test bed in November 2006. The system is designed to be fully compatible with installation in Eurofighter Typhoon.

Obstacle Avoidance

BAE Systems completed flight testing of a prototype lightweight, all-weather cable and obstacle detection system, which uses radar to identify obstacles and provides precise altimeter information to military helicopter pilots.

The system weighs less than 8 pounds, including antennas, and can detect unknown obstacles at distances greater than 1.5 miles. BAE said it developed the test program with input from multiple government agencies and performed the evaluation in Arlington, Texas, using Bell Helicopter’s new 430 test aircraft.

The company estimates equipping the U.S. rotary-wing fleet with this capability would save the military more than $500 million over 10 years.

BAE Systems also said it is developing a commercial version of the system.

Signals Sensor

Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP), a next generation signals intelligence sensor for the U.S. Air Force, completed the engineering checkout and calibration testing phase of the ASIP U-2 flight-test program and embarked on the performance testing phase.

ASIP detects, identifies and locates radar and other types of electronic and modern communication signals. It is being tested with control and data from contractor-owned ground stations designed to simulate the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System.

The ASIP sensor is scheduled to complete flight testing on the U-2 in the first quarter of 2008 with operational fielding expected late that year. The Global Hawk variant of the ASIP sensor is expected to complete flight testing in 2008 and begin production in 2009, with operational fielding in 2012.

The ASIP industry team includes Northrop Grumman as prime contractor for the development of the ASIP sensor and the Global Hawk platform; Lockheed Martin, providing the U-2 aircraft and ground station interface; L-3 Communications, providing the data link; and Raytheon, providing sensor and ground station interfaces.

Predator Training

L-3 Communications’ Link Simulation and Training (L-3 Link) division delivered the first five of seven Predator Mission Aircrew Training System (PMATS) production units to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev.

Each of the PMATS units was training ready, enabling Predator unmanned aircraft system (UAS) pilots and sensor operators to undergo mission-based simulated training exercises.

Delivery of the PMATS units 18 months after contract award represented the first use of a high-fidelity UAS training system by the U.S. Air Force.

"Fully immersive simulation and training within the unmanned aircraft systems community has become a reality and will provide the same value and merit as it always has within the manned aircraft training arena," said Mike Wallace, vice president for Air Force and Navy programs at L-3 Link Simulation and Training.

High-fidelity training delivered by PMATS units is the result of L-3 Link’s simulation software being integrated with the Predator’s actual operational flight program software and ground control station hardware, the company said.

BAE IR Cueing System

BAE Systems was named sensor subcontractor for Raytheon Technical Services’ Shared Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) Target Cueing System demonstration.

Under a $2.3 million contract with Raytheon, BAE Systems will use its Spectral Infrared Imaging Technology Testbed (SPIRITT) high-altitude hyperspectral technology to detect, classify and identify camouflaged and concealed targets based on their spectral signature.

BAE said hyperspectral imaging extracts spectral data from visible to infrared wavelengths to detect objects based on their material composition. SHARP will provide a high-resolution, digital tactical air reconnaissance capability with advanced day/night and all-weather capability. It will be demonstrated on an F/A-18E/F aircraft in the first application of hyperspectral technology on a tactical fighter.

Image Generator

Rockwell Collins was selected to provide the EPX-50 image generator as part of a visual systems upgrade for the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT) program.

The EPX-50 image generator provides realistic scene fidelity, image quality and high performance using commercial-off-the-shelf computing technology.

AVCATT is a mobile, transportable, virtual simulation training system designed to provide Army aviation the capability to conduct realistic combined arms training exercises and mission rehearsals.

L-3 Communications Link Simulation and Training, prime contractor on the AVCATT program, will serve as lead systems integrator for the upgrade effort.

Nanotube Technology

Nanocomp Technologies, Concord, N.H., said it successfully produced a new textile material from long carbon nanotubes, which could be key to key to realizing functional performance benefits in defense and aerospace applications.

The material, which uses nonwoven sheet and yarn formats, is extremely lightweight and strong, and efficiently conducts both electricity and heat.

"We have a product platform with vast real-world functionality and, together with the system integrators that will ultimately incorporate it into end-use products, we aim to determine just how broad the benefits can extend," said Peter Antoinette, Nanocomp president and CEO.

Carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger than steel, one-third the weight of aluminum and extremely conductive of both heat and electricity.

Antoinette said commercial manufacturing processes to date have mostly produced only short carbon nanotubes — usually tens of microns long — that resemble a powder in final form.

These nanotubes can be difficult to incorporate into manufactured goods, and when done so, end products have not yet demonstrated their structural and conductive properties.

Nanocomp said it has overcome these limitations by producing extremely long (hundreds of microns to millimeters) and highly pure nanotubes. These long nanotubes are a key to producing the ultimate functional materials, nanotube yarns and nonwoven sheets, for in end-use applications.

Nanocomp said it expects its materials to be used to reduce weight and improve performance of body armor; incorporated into land, air and marine vehicles to improve fuel economy; used for wiring systems and antennas; and to create ultra capacitors to store energy from intermittent energy sources such as wind and solar energy.

Damage Adaptation

Athena Technologies, Warrenton, Va., said it completed a successful flight demonstration of damage tolerant flight control and autonomous landing capabilities on a subscale F/A-18 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored the demonstration, which was held April 18, in Maryland. The demonstration involved a subscale F/A-18 UAV, powered by a turbojet engine, that sustained wing battle damage simulated with the in-flight ejection of an aileron.

Athena’s damage tolerant controls detected the damage in flight and adapted to the new air vehicle configuration for the effects of the lost aileron, recovering the baseline vehicle performance.

The vehicle successfully landed in the damaged state with Athena’s INS/GPS-only autonomous landing system within a few feet of the target touch down point on the airfield runway.

Athena said the system provides for real-time autonomous accommodation of damage, followed by an adaptation process that alters the flight control system to compensate for the effects of the damage.

Athena said its controls technology is based on algorithms that have been developed and evolved.

Maintenance Authority

Deutsche Rettungsflugwacht (DRF), the German Air Rescue organization, won European Aviation Safety Agency approval to carry out and independently approve technical modifications and repairs of helicopters and medivac aircraft.

The approval expands the organization’s maintenance capabilities, saving money and increasing efficiency, DRF said.

"With the DRF’s own approval, large, costly coordinations and formal obstacles in the work process are omitted. Overall, faster repairs and modifications of our helicopters are possible. For our new medical equipment corresponding racks can be implemented more rapidly. Last but not least, costs are saved," said Wolfgang Stein, head of DRF’s Technical Department.

Eurocopter BO-105, BK-117 and EC-135 helicopters are serviced, repaired and modified at the DRF maintenance facility at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden Airport. Technicians also equip helicopters with medical installations, including stretcher systems, racks for medical devices, oxygen and electric supplies.

Israel OKs Hermes

Elbit Systems said its Hermes 450 is the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Israel to receive certification by the country’s civil aviation authorities.

The Hermes 450, equipped with Elbit Systems’ CoMPASS advanced observation system, can adapt to a wide range of payloads, including synthetic aperture/Ground Moving Target Indicator radar and dual payload configurations.

The highly autonomous UAV is controlled by the Hermes Universal Ground Control System, facilitating automated mission operation and control of the air vehicle and EO/IR/Laser payload, Elbit said. Hermes 450 had accumulated more than 65,000 flight hours.


  • The U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin a performance based logistics contract, with a potential value of $380 million over four years, to support the Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (TADS/PNVS) and Modernized TADS/PNVS systems on the AH-64 Apache helicopter.

  • Tecom Industries, Thousand Oaks, Calif., was selected by Raytheon Space & Airborne Systems, Electronic Warfare Systems, to develop and manufacture the mid- and high-band receive and transmit antennas for the ADM-160B Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) program. MALD can replicate manned aircraft combat flight profiles and radar signatures of U.S. aircraft, diverting enemy air defense resources.

  • The U.S. government awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin for 18 Sniper Advanced Targeting Pods, a part of the new F-16 Advanced Block 52 program with Pakistan.

  • U.K.-based Pascall Electronics Ltd. received a $1.2 million order from the U.S. military for power supply products. Pascall is a subsidiary of Emrise Corp., of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

  • Avionics & Systems Integration Group, Little Rock, Ark., received a contract from the Air Force Materials Command to supply avionics kits for VHF communications, engine indication and pedestal module sub-systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.

  • Canadian flight simulator company CAE signed contracts for the sale of five full-flight simulators (FFS), valued at nearly $65 million. The contracts bring the total FFS sales CAE has announced so far in fiscal 2008 to 10.

  • Northstar Electronics, Vancouver, British, Columbia, received a $775,000 contract from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to manufacture parts for Lockheed Martin’s service life extension kits for the Norwegian Air Force’s P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft.

  • Real-Time Innovations (RTI) won a $600,000 Small Business Innovative Research Phase II contract by the Naval Air Systems Command to research upgrades to the Navy’s E-2C Hawkeye. Santa Clara, Calif.-based RTI will research technologies relevant to an ongoing comprehensive upgrade to the E-2C Hawkeye weapons system.

  • Honeywell’s Defense and Space Electronic Systems won a $7.4 million contract from the U.S. Air Force for 74 embedded Global Positioning/Inertial Production Units on CH-47F, MH-47, H-1W and HH-60J helicopters and F/A-18, F-15 and F-16 fighters. Another Honeywell unit, Defense Avionics Systems won a $5.5 million contract to develop form-fit-function replacements for obsolete subassemblies in the F-15 Avionics Intermediate Shop Antenna Test Station and Enhanced Aircraft Radar Test Station for the Air Force. The effort includes the design, hardware and software, and formal testing of prototypes for obsolete subassemblies.

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox