Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China Ltd. (COMAC) in July signed agreements with joint ventures involving GE Aviation and Rockwell Collins to provide avionics for the new C919 family of narrowbody aircraft.

COMAC announced the selection of GE Aviation and AVIC Systems, partners to a proposed joint venture, to provide the avionics core processing system, display system and onboard maintenance system of the C919. Rockwell Collins and China Electronics Technology Avionics Co. Ltd (CETCA) signed a letter of intent with COMAC to provide communication and navigation systems.

The 150-seat C919 is expected to fly in 2014 and enter service in 2016. It will be powered by the new CFM International Leap-X turbofan.

“We are building a long-term partnership through the (GE) joint venture and will provide the C919 with advanced commercial technologies and products for its avionics systems. Although this joint venture is based in China, we anticipate expanding our customer market to the U.S. and other global markets... to achieve mutual business success,” said Zhang Xinguo, AVIC vice president.

Rockwell Collins and CETCA also signed a memorandum of agreement to establish a China-based joint venture, which is expected to sign a formal supply agreement with COMAC by year end.

“I believe, by working together, Rockwell Collins and CETCA will successfully fulfill the mission of developing communication and navigation systems to meet the requirements of the C919 technical scheme as well as the airworthiness regulations,” stated COMAC President Jin Zhuanglong.

Rockwell Collins equipment already is installed on ARJ21, MA60/600, Y8, Y12, K8 and H425 aircraft made in China.

Flight Planning

Jeppesen signed a five-year digital navigation and flight planning service renewal agreement with China Cargo Airlines, China’s largest air cargo carrier.

Components of the service agreement, announced June 9, include JetPlan flight planning, digital charting, electronic flight bag, data distribution management, weather and NOTAM services.

China Cargo Airlines also uses Jeppesen OpsData aircraft performance analysis and international trip planning systems to manage airline operations.

The OpsData system included in the agreement provides analysis of takeoff and landing performance and tailored airport departure procedures. The analysis allows the airline to maximize aircraft payload and comply with regulatory requirements.

China Cargo Airlines, a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines, operates 11 freighters as its cargo fleet. Shanghai Airlines Cargo International and Great Wall Cargo Airlines will be merged with China Cargo Airlines, which will expand fleet size to more than 20 aircraft.

Human Factors

FAA on July 6 announced an agreement with Georgia Institute of Technology to study how sophisticated flight decks envisioned under NextGen will affect pilots and air-traffic controllers.

FAA said the agreement is the first of several it expects to announce in the coming months with universities that specialize in aviation-related human factors research.

Among the areas studied will be pilot response to alerts from TCAS systems under NextGen; how flight crews and controllers interact with automation; and the use of automation to manage pilot and controller workloads.

Surface Surveillance

Air navigation service provider Nav Canada acquired a majority interest in Searidge Technologies, of Hull, Quebec, a supplier of video systems to the air-traffic control and airport markets, the companies announced July 1.

Searidge’s intelligent video platform, IntelliDAR, is a non-cooperative surveillance system that provides detection, positioning and tracking of all targets on the airport surface.

“Nav Canada believes in the potential of intelligent video technology to drive the adoption of new methods to support air traffic surveillance at airports,” said John Crichton, Nav Canada president and CEO. “Searidge continues to demonstrate innovation and leadership in this space and together we intend to bring to market proven solutions that meet strict industry standards.”

LiveTV Antenna

JetBlue Airways subsidiary LiveTV and Iridium Communications entered into an agreement to develop an aviation antenna based on the Iridium OpenPort high-speed communications service, which launched in the maritime market in 2008.

The antenna and electronics, displayed at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, in May, represents the first of a series of LiveTV products for both commercial and general aviation. The solution provides up to 128 kbps and three voice channels in an always-on IP configuration, LiveTV said.

“Under our agreement with Iridium, our engineering teams are working closely together to finalize a market-ready service, and we expect to engage in Supplemental Type Certificate air trials by the fourth quarter 2010, with full commercial rollout early in 2011,” said Mike Moeller, LiveTV vice president of sales and marketing.

Iridium NEXT, Iridium’s next-generation satellite constellation, will be backward compatible with OpenPort.


Time-Triggered Protocol

Parker Aerospace selected TTTech Computertechnik AG, of Vienna, Austria, to provide an integrated communication system based on Time-Triggered Protocol (TTP) for Parker’s new generic fly-by-wire actuation platforms.

Initial applications of the platform will be on the Bombardier CSeries and Embraer Legacy 450/500 aircraft programs, TTTech said.

TTP is an open industry standard, SAE AS6003. The communication protocol offers higher bandwidth compared to CAN, MIL Std-1553 and ARINC 429 buses and provides advantages in reliability, modularity, lower weight, certification, reduced cost and faster time to market, said TTTech, a leader in TTP technology, along with GE Intelligent Platforms.

“This technology, based on the benefits we can already describe, is penetrating the control system domain, especially modular controls where people are looking for a reduction of system complexity and design of advanced, integrated systems,” said Mirko Jakovljevic of TTTech.

In 2008, Bombardier selected Parker Aerospace as exclusive supplier of fly-by-wire flight control systems for new Bombardier aircraft programs for 10 years.

TTTech also announced the delivery of a Distributed Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) test bed to Sikorsky Aircraft, which is working on a proof-of-concept of a modular, reusable and scalable Vehicle Management System.

The Distributed IMA test bed features an approach that integrates a high-bandwidth time-triggered network and an ARINC 653 partitioned operating system, Wind River’s VxWorks 653, enabling the system “to operate as a fault-tolerant hard real-time distributed computer, hosting time, mission and safety-critical functions,” TTTech said.

Fleet Broadband

XOJET Inc., of San Carlos, Calif., will install broadband Internet connectivity on its fleet of Cessna Citation X and Bombardier Challenger 300 jets, becoming the first business aviation operator to offer wireless service on every flight in the continental United States, the company announced June 10.

XOJET said it expected to have 70 percent of its fleet equipped with the Aircell High Speed Internet system by the end of June. With the system installed, customers will be able to use Wi-Fi enabled devices including laptops, netbooks and smartphones to access the Internet in flight.

Flight crews will remain connected to the company’s centralized dispatch system via handheld mobile device, and electronic flight bag applications will be linked with each aircraft, XOJET said.


C-130 AMP

Boeing received the go-ahead to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) of its C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), the company said June 24.

Boeing announced the completion of a Defense Acquisition Board Milestone C review, clearing the program for LRIP. The company said it has performed extensive flight tests to validate the system’s design and development.

C-130 AMP improvements include an integrated, night vision goggle compatible glass cockpit and dual head-up displays, certified as primary flight instruments.

Major suppliers include GE Aviation, providing the mission processor, Multifunction Control Display Unit, Integrated Cockpit Voice and Data Recorder, Integrated Standby Instrument System and interface units; Rockwell Collins, the HUDs, multifunction displays, radios; Honeywell, All Weather Flight Control System, inertial navigation units; Raytheon, military GPS; and Telephonics Corp., Interphone Communication System and communication/navigation control panel.

The upgrade is designed to standardize the cockpit across all variants of the C-130 and conform avionics to new CNS/ATM requirements. The upgrade also simplifies and reduces wiring harnesses to 90 on the aircraft, Boeing said.

“Behind the instrument panel, you’ll find Ethernet, you’ll find fiberoptics,” said Jeff McDaniel, Boeing director of strategy and growth for Weapons System Modernization. “It’s open-system design; you can plumb data from the back of the airplane or from an external sensor to these displays.”

The first two LRIP aircraft were scheduled for induction in August and October at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Ga., where the Air Force will perform Lot 1 installations. The first two AMP kits had been delivered.

Boeing will upgrade five of the 20 aircraft during LRIP. Ten aircraft will be upgraded by the Air Force at Warner Robins; the remaining five will be awarded to a third party. Full-rate production is planned for 2013.

Three AMP test aircraft will undergo Periodic Depot Maintenance at Warner Robins prior to being delivered to Little Rock AFB, Ark., where initial operational test and evaluation will be conducted.

Boeing estimates there are 2,500 C-130s in service worldwide. The company sees a potential AMP market of about one quarter of those.

Boeing Acquisitions

Boeing will spend $775 million to acquire Argon ST, of Fairfax, Va., a developer of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) and combat systems, Boeing announced June 30.

Also, on July 7, Boeing said it will acquire another company Narus, of Sunnyvale, Calif., a provider of real-time network traffic and analytics software used to protect against cyber attacks and persistent threats aimed at Internet Protocol networks.

The two acquisitions are seen as complementary.

“Combining the strength of Boeing with the experience of Argon ST will significantly accelerate our capabilities in sensors, communications technologies and information management,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

Argon ST will be a stand-alone subsidiary of Boeing and a new division of Boeing Network & Space Systems. The transaction was expected to close in the third quarter.

Curtiss-Wright Purchase

Curtiss-Wright Corp. in June said it acquired Specialist Electronics Services Ltd. (SES), of Camberley, U.K., for $22 million.

SES designs and manufactures rugged, security encrypted data recorders, processors, display media and software for aerospace and defense applications.

The company’s proprietary technologies include high-integrity mission computing, engine monitoring, multi-channel video and data mission recording, rugged and extreme environmental computing, and software for data transmission and technical analysis.

Sales this year are estimated at £6.5 million, or about $9 million.

“The addition of SES’s broad range of COTS data and video recorder products to our existing recorder product family will further our ability to meet our customers’ requirements,” said David Adams, Curtiss-Wright Corp. co-chief operating officer.

“We are very excited about the expertise they provide us in data security encryption and high reliability rugged packaging,” he added.

SES will operate within the Integrated Sensing division of Curtiss-Wright’s Motion Control segment.

EAL 4+ Evaluation

Wind River, based in Alameda, Calif., said its Linux Secure embedded Linux operating system is in evaluation by the National Information Assurance Partnership (NIAP) to be certified to Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 4+ (EAL 4+), with availability expected in the first half of 2011 pending certification completion.

For the EAL 4+ evaluation, Wind River selected atsec information security, of Austin, Texas, as the Common Criteria Test Lab to conduct the independent evaluation of Wind River Linux Secure.

Upon certification to EAL4+, Wind River Linux Secure “is expected to be the first commercial embedded Linux operating system accepted by NIAP,” Wind River said.

This will enable Linux to be deployed securely on hardware from multiple vendors, including Freescale, Intel and Texas Instruments.

“Wind River is committed to delivering software designed to comply with national security criteria to meet diverse customer needs,” said Chip Downing, Wind River director for aerospace and defense.

“As the first and only commercial Linux vendor to produce an embedded Linux solution in evaluation to Common Criteria EAL 4+, Wind River will be providing customers with a wide choice of hardware platforms for secure applications such as military communications and software-defined radio systems.”

Data Link Contract

ARINC Engineering Services was awarded the U.S. Department of Defense Data Link Services Provider (DSP) contract, valued at $20 million over five years. The contract was awarded June 1 by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The award means ARINC will continue as the primary provider of commercial aviation communications services for the U.S. Air Force and other government agencies, a position the company has maintained since 2001 “against stiff competition.”

Under the contract, which includes one base year plus four option years, ARINC will continue providing the Air Force and government agencies with global commercial data link communications, satellite voice services, and VHF and HF voice services.

The new DSP contract also includes high-speed satellite broadband communications services for the first time.

Unmanned Systems

KQ-X Program

Northrop Grumman was awarded a $33 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to demonstrate aerial refueling of a NASA Global Hawk UAV by a sister ship. The program is designated KQ-X.

Northrop Grumman will retrofit two of the high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) UAVs, with one aircraft pumping fuel into the other in flight through a hose-and-drogue refueling system. The aerial refueling engagement will be completely autonomous.

“Demonstrating the refueling of one UAV by another is an historic milestone,” said Carl Johnson, vice president for Advanced Concepts with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. “It adds aerial refueling to the list of capabilities that can be accomplished autonomously by Global Hawks; it opens the door to greatly expanded operational utility for UAVs; and, as a side benefit, it promises to increase the safety and reliability of aerial refueling between manned aircraft by reducing pilot workload.”

Engineering work will be performed at the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Development Center in Rancho Bernardo, Calif. Pilots from NASA, NOAA and Northrop Grumman will fly the Global Hawks from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Raven Course

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DoI) National Business Center, Aviation Management Directorate, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Aerodyne Corp., completed a second Raven A Small UAS training course for DoI employees in Las Cruces, N.M.

Thirteen students from USGS, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FAA completed the training, hosted by New Mexico State University.

The two-week course included 22 classes spanning 80 hours, and was conducted by U.S. Army RQ-11A Raven instructors.

Each student received instruction in basic and advanced flight skills, airspace management, aviation safety, emergency procedures, crew coordination, DoI aviation policy and procedures and mission planning. Each student also received about five hours of flight time as vehicle operator and five as mission operator.

With the second class, there are 27 qualified Raven operators in four DoI bureaus, plus two in the Aviation Management Directorate and one in the USGS.

Cooperative agreements were being finalized with the Army “to afford DoI operators airspace to develop their proficiency” and with FAA to operate unmanned aircraft in specially designated airspace, DoI said.

ScanEagle Training

Boeing subsidiary Insitu, of Bingen, Wash., in June announced a partnership with BOSH Global Services, of Newport News, Va., to train U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in planning and executing missions using unmanned aircraft systems, specifically the Scan-Eagle UAS. The training offered by BOSH involves in-class and actual flight operations instruction. Each student operates ScanEagle during six 40-minute training periods of actual flight. Three courses are offered — basic, advanced and instructor preparation.

Also in June, Insitu signed a cooperative research development agreement with FAA to provide its ScanEagle and related support hardware and data to study the integration of UASs in the national airspace system. 

Laser Shootdown

The U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), with support from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Va., for the second time tracked, engaged and destroyed a threat representative UAV while in flight, May 24, at San Nicholas Island, Calif.
Two UAV targets were engaged and destroyed in a maritime environment during the testing, conducted by the Navy’s Laser Weapon System Program. “This marks the first Detect-Thru-Engage laser shoot-down of a threat representative target in an over-the-water, combat representative scenario,” NAVSEA announced.

Representatives of the NAVSEA Directed Energy and Electric Weapon Systems Program Office (PMS 405), Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, Raytheon Missile Systems and NSWC Dahlgren fired a laser through a beam director on an L-3 Communications Kineto Tracking Mount, controlled by a MK 15 Phalanx Close In Weapon System.

Sagem Patroller

France’s Sagem said its Patroller medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system completed a series of tests validating overall system operation. The tests, performed May 26 to July 2 at Istres air base in southwest France, included 10 qualification flights in manned operational mode and five flights in unmanned drone mode.

Patroller is a 1-ton class MALE drone system, based on the S-15 light aircraft built by Stemme AG, of Strausberg, Germany. It incorporates technologies developed by Sagem for its Sperwer Mk.II tactical drone, as well as combat experience logged by Sperwer/SDTI drones in Afghanistan. The aircraft is equipped with the Sagem Euroflir gyrostabilized optronics pod and a Ku-band link.

Fire Scout Trials

Northrop Grumman and industry partners completed a set of flight demonstrations of the MQ-8B Fire Scout vertical unmanned aircraft system (VUAS) in the United Arab Emirates under extreme environmental conditions, the company said July 14.
The test flights were conducted in early July, and validated Fire Scout’s system maturation. The tests included takeoffs and landings in windy and sandy conditions, in temperatures as high as 117 degrees F, and at altitudes up to 9,842 feet. The demonstration included non-line-of-sight operations showing Fire Scout’s ability to operate autonomously in remote locations.

Euro Hawk UAS Accomplishes First Flight

The Euro Hawk unmanned aircraft system (UAS), an international configuration of the RQ-4 Global Hawk built by Northrop Grumman and EADS Defence & Security, completed its first flight June 29.

The aircraft took off from Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, Calif., manufacturing facility and climbed to 32,000 feet before landing nearly two hours later at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Based on the Block 20 Global Hawk, Euro Hawk will be equipped with a new signals intelligence (SIGINT) mission system developed by EADS Defence & Security, providing standoff capability to detect electronic and communications emitters. A ground station consisting of a mission control and launch and recovery elements will be provided by Northrop Grumman. EADS Defence & Security will also provide a SIGINT ground station, which will receive and analyze the data from Euro Hawk as part of an integrated system solution.

In 2007, the German Ministry of Defence awarded a contract to EuroHawk GmbH, a joint venture company of Northrop Grumman and EADS Defense & Security, for the development, test and support of the Euro Hawk SIGINT surveillance and reconnaissance system.

Under the contract, EuroHawk GmbH also will provide aircraft modifications, mission control and launch and recovery ground segments, flight test and logistics support.

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