Industry Scan

By Jonathan Ray | May 1, 2011
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iPad2 Flight Test

Jeppesen announced in March that it completed rapid decompression testing of an Apple iPad 2 tablet computer.

The test was completed to an altitude of 51,000 feet, proving the integrity of the iPad 2 in the event of sudden cabin pressure loss, the company said.

Last year, Jeppesen completed a similar test of a representative iPad as part of a program to obtain initial FAA authorization of its Mobile TC charting App.

Jeppesen in February announced that NetJets subsidiary Executive Jet Management had received FAA authorization to use the Mobile TC App for iPad as sole reference for electronic charts, including taxi, takeoff and landing phases.

The project included a three-month in-flight evaluation involving 55 pilots, 10 aircraft types and 250 flight segments. It followed established FAA authorization requirements for electronic flight bags (EFB) applicable to an air carrier.

The authorized EFB configuration is a Class 1 portable, kneeboard EFB solution that is secured and viewable during critical phases of flight as defined in FAA Order 8900.1, Jeppesen said.

“Because of structural changes in iPad 2, Jeppesen determined that a new (rapid decompression) test was warranted. No anomalies were detected during either iPad testing period,” the company said.

GTN 650, 750 Series

Garmin on March 23 unveiled the GTN 650 and 750 series touchscreen multifunction displays for GA aircraft, succeeding the GNS 430W and 530W GPS/Nav/Comm systems announced in 1998.

The GTN 650 and 750 received FAA TSO authorization in March and are STC approved “on a broad model list covering most Part 23 fixed-wing aircraft,” the company announced.

The GTN 650 has the same exterior footprint as the GNS 430W, but has a 4.9-inch screen (diagonal) with 53 percent more screen area. The GTN 750 has a 6.9-inch screen (diagonal) with 98 percent more screen area than the GNS 530W, making it possible to view an entire chart via the Garmin FliteCharts and ChartView applications, the company said.

Both units display a higher resolution picture — 600×266 pixels for the GTN 650; 600×708 pixels for the GTN 750 — with five times more pixels than the GNS 430W and 530W, respectively. They feature “a shallow menu structure, desktop-like menu interface with intuitive icons, audio and visual feedback, and animation so that pilots know exactly how the systems are responding to their input,” Garmin said.

Both display units have a finger anchoring bezel around the side of the display and fingerboard at the bottom of the screen for hand stabilization.

The GTN 650 is expected to be available at a suggested retail price of $11,495; the GTN 750 at $16,995, Garmin said.

Glass Cockpit

Garmin on March 29 announced the G2000 glass cockpit suite, designed for high-performance piston aircraft.

Garmin said the system has many of the same features found on the G3000 suite for Part 23 light jets, announced at the 2009 National Business Aviation Association conference, and G5000 for Part 25 business jets, announced at NBAA 2010. Earlier in March, Garmin unveiled the G1000H integrated glass cockpit for Part 27 helicopters.

As with the G3000 and G5000, the G2000 uses the GTC 570 vehicle management system, a 5.7-inch diagonal touchscreen controller, for radio management, weather systems management, synoptics and other systems. The G2000 system will come with high resolution, 12-inch or 14-inch diagonal displays. The system’s landscape oriented multifunction display has multi-pane capability, allowing multiple pages to be viewed on the screen.

Garmin said it expects to receive certification of the G2000 this year.

Gulfstream G650 Crash

One of five Gulfstream G650 flight-test aircraft crashed April 2 during takeoff performance tests in Roswell, N.M., killing four Gulfstream employees on board, the company announced that day.

Immediately following the accident, Gulfstream temporarily suspended flight testing of the remaining four test aircraft. “All other certification and production work on the G650 program continues, and all other activities at the company are proceeding normally,” Gulfstream said.

The accident aircraft, Serial Number 6002, first flew in February 2010 and had accumulated 425 hours of flight-test time as of March 31, Gulfstream said. The combined flight-test fleet had accumulated 1,570 flight hours.

According to a preliminary report issued April 7 by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the aircraft was performing a takeoff with a simulated engine failure to determine takeoff distance requirements at minimum flap setting. The crash occurred at 0934 mountain daylight time at Roswell, N.M., International Air Center (ROW).

“Wingtip scrape marks beginning on the runway approximately 5,300 feet from the end of the runway lead toward the final resting spot about 3,800 feet from the first marks on the runway,” NTSB said. “Witnesses close to the scene saw the airplane sliding on the ground with sparks and smoke coming from the bottom of the wing, and described the airplane being fully involved in fire while still moving across the ground. The airplane struck several obstructions and came to rest upright about 200 feet from the base of the airport control tower.”

Gulfstream identified the four employees who were aboard the aircraft April 3. Killed were experimental test pilots Kent Crenshaw, 64, and Vivan Ragusa, 51, and technical specialists David McCollum, 47, and Reece Ollenburg, 48.

“We mourn the loss of our colleagues and friends and extend our deepest sympathies to their families,” said Gulfstream President Joe Lombardo. “The Gulfstream team has already rallied to support the people these men left behind, and we know that the local and aviation communities will do the same.”

The ultra-long-range, large cabin G650, Gulfstream’s newest jet, first flew on Nov. 25, 2009. Gulfstream said the aircraft was on track for certification this year, with entry into service in 2012.

In a statement issued April 4, Jay L. Johnson, chairman and CEO of Gulfstream parent company General Dynamics, said, “I am confident that as Gulfstream assists aviation authorities in the accident investigation, the cause of this terrible tragedy will be determined. We look forward to continuing the rigorous testing required to achieve flight certification of the aircraft.”

Eclipse Avio FMS

Eclipse Aerospace, Inc., March 30 said FAA has issued a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the Avio Integrated Flight Management System (IFMS) of the Eclipse twin-engine light jet.

The IFMS system was developed for the twinjet by Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S), of Exton, Pa., and is offered by Eclipse Aerospace as part of its “Total Eclipse” package.

“Orders for Total Eclipse jets complete with the new Avio IFMS are now being taken with delivery time averaging 60 days,” stated Mason Holland, Eclipse Aerospace CEO.

The IFMS system incorporates dual WAAS/SBAS Beta-3 GPS receivers, supporting dynamically calculated top of decent guidance and coupled LPV approaches. Flight management data is presented on a 15-inch, high-resolution multifunction display. Data entry is performed through integrated bezel pushbuttons and encoders as well as an externally mounted keyboard, IS&S said.

“The Avio IFMS avionics suite is one of the most advanced cockpits available on any aircraft,” said Roman Ptakowski, IS&S president. “The 13 microprocessors in the IS&S displays control all major aircraft systems. Improvements to e-Chart, mapping and satellite weather functionality along with FMS precision navigation give the Eclipse Twin-Engine Jet unrivaled performance.”

Honeywell, Aspen MFD

Honeywell and Aspen Avionics, Albuquerque, N.M., said they are collaborating to produce a “NextGen-ready” multifunction touchscreen cockpit display for general aviation. The companies have completed a development agreement to bring Honeywell’s Bendix/King KSN 770 multifunction display to the market before the end of 2011.

The Bendix/King KSN 770, part of the company’s Apex Edge series, is a 5.7 inch touchscreen display with GPS, communication and navigation capabilities. Based on a scalable system architecture and interfaces to most general aviation aircraft, it will be integrated with Aspen’s Evolution Flight Display system.

The KSN 770 will have Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV) and Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) capabilities. It also will display weather radar, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), data link weather, traffic information and charts and maps.

“Honeywell and Aspen are delivering a level of technical innovation and ergonomic functionality previously only available to business jet customers,” said John Uczekaj, Aspen Avionics president and CEO. “The product’s interoperability, expandable architecture and flexible interface offer a clear alternative to existing systems.”

Goodrich Acquisition

Goodrich Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire flight-control actuation supplier Microtecnica S.r.l., based in Turin, Italy, for $462 million.

The agreement, expected to close in the second quarter, was concluded with SSCP Aero Holdings S.C.A., a company backed by the European private equity firm Stirling Square Capital Partners. The latter firm acquired Microtecnica from Hamilton Sundstrand via management buyout in 2008.

Microtecnica supplies flight control actuation systems and components for helicopters, regional and business aircraft and missiles, as well as aircraft thermal and environmental control systems. The company employs 700 people at facilities in Turin, Luserna San Giovanni and Brugherio, Italy, and Bristol, U.K. Sales this year are expected to be $220 million.

Microtecnica will become part of the Goodrich Actuation Systems business.

“This acquisition supports our business model and fits with our strategy by increasing Goodrich’s exposure to three growth markets: commercial and military helicopters, commercial regional, business and general aviation aircraft and missile actuation,” said Marshall Larsen, Goodrich chairman, president and CEO.


Smoke Warning

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was investigating the cause of an apparent electrical incident April 4 aboard a United Airlines Airbus A320, leading to the emergency evacuation of 109 passengers and crew.

United Airlines Flight 497 left Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport around 7:25 a.m. CDT and returned 20 minutes later, “due to electrical difficulties and smoke in the cockpit,” according to an NTSB advisory issued that day. Upon landing, the crew described a loss of anti-skid braking and nose-wheel steering and exited the runway 2,000 feet from the approach threshold, NTSB said.

The safety board issued an investigation update April 7. In interviews, “the crew indicated that, at about 4,000 feet, the airplane’s electronic centralized aircraft monitoring (ECAM) system provided an autothrottle-related message, then an avionics smoke warning message, accompanied by instructions to land. Despite receiving this message, neither crew member recalled smelling smoke or fumes during the flight.”

The captain used the electronic checklist for the avionics smoke warning indication, which included shutting down some of the aircraft’s electrical system. The first officer’s display screens went blank, the ECAM messages disappeared, the cockpit to cabin intercom stopped functioning and the air-driven emergency generator deployed.

The captain was able to use the airspeed, altimeter and attitude indicators on his primary flight display during the return to the airport.

After landing, the aircraft’s forward right slide did not properly inflate during the emergency evacuation. Investigators later found the aspirator that inflates the slide partially blocked, NTSB said.

The cockpit voice recorder captured about 7 minutes and 30 seconds of the flight, NTSB said. The flight data recorder contained 25 hours of data and captured about 18 minutes of data relevant to the flight. Both the CVR and FDR stopped recording prior to landing.

Airbus technical advisors and the French Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses were taking part in the investigation with other parties, NTSB said.

747-8 Intercontinental

The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental completed its first flight March 20, departing Paine Field in Everett, Wash., for a four-hour, 25 minutes flight, landing at Boeing Field in Seattle.

The first flight of the newest member of the 747 family marked the beginning of a 600-hour flight test program. The aircraft reached a cruising altitude of 19,000 feet and speed of 250 knots.

Boeing says the 747-8 Intercontinental will have the lowest seat-mile cost of any large airliner, with 12 percent lower costs than its predecessor, the 747-400. The aircraft provides 16 percent better fuel economy, 16 percent less carbon emissions per passenger and generates a 30 percent smaller noise footprint than the 747-400.

The 747-8 Intercontinental applies interior features of the 787 Dreamliner, including a new curved, upswept architecture, providing a greater feeling of space and comfort, while adding more room for personal belongings, Boeing said.

First delivery of the 747-8 Intercontinental is scheduled for the fourth quarter this year. Thirty-three aircraft have been ordered by launch customer Lufthansa as well as Korean Air and VIP customers. Air China has agreed to order five 747-8s, pending government approval.

LiveTV Agreement

JetBlue Airways subsidiary LiveTV signed a letter of intent with Continental Airlines in March to provide ViaSat Ka-band service for live television and in-flight Internet access.

LiveTV said it expects to install the new service on Continental’s fleet of 200 Boeing 737s and 757s beginning in 2012.

The first Continental aircraft is expected to launch the service following JetBlue’s introduction of the ViaSat-1 broadband network for the first time in commercial aviation, also in 2012. ViaSat and JetBlue signed an agreement in September 2010 for the provision of in-flight broadband access and other services on JetBlue’s fleet of 160 aircraft.

As planned, the Continental installation would provide passengers with 95 channels of live television programming and airborne Internet access provided by ViaSat.

Canadian North 737

The Esterline CMC Electronics ‘IntegriFlight’ GPS landing system has been certified for GPS Localizer Performance with Vertical Guidance (LPV) approach operations on a Boeing 737-300 operated by Canadian North Airlines.

CMC Electronics said the stand-alone, “ILS look-alike” system involves installation of dual CMA-5024 WAAS GPS receivers in conjunction with dual CMA-5025 control panels, providing “a highly economic approach” to retrofitting aircraft with LPV capability.

Logic-Air Aviation Services of Mirabel was responsible for development and installation of the system and holds the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) issued by ACS-NAI, a Transport Canada approved Design Approval Organization. ACS-NAI,based in Winnipeg, provided engineering and certification support, including STC data and documentation.

The CMA-5025 control panel was designed and produced by Air Data Inc., of Montreal in partnership with CMC.

“The addition of LPV capability to our aircraft permits us to provide significantly improved schedule reliability for our scheduled and charter clients, given the absence of traditional ground-based approach aids at many of the remote Canadian destinations we serve,” stated Chris Drossos, Canadian North 737-300 project pilot.

SJU Board Chairman

Matthias Ruete, director general of the European Commission’s Mobility and Transport Directorate-General, was appointed chairman of the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) Administrative Board.

The SJU is the public-private partnership formed in 2007 to manage the Development phase of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program. Eurocontrol and the European Commission are founding members.

Ruete succeeds Daniel Calleja Crespo, who had chaired the SESAR JU governing body since its establishment in 2007. Bo Redeborn, principal director ATM at Eurocontrol, remains deputy chairman of the board. Matthew Baldwin, recently appointed director of the EC’s Air Transport Directorate, has been designated as Ruete’s alternate.

“Daniel Calleja has been an outstanding chairman of the SESAR JU’s Administrative Board. As much as we regret to see him leave, we’re also looking forward to working closely together with Mr. Ruete in the future. I am fully confident that our cooperation will be as successful in this next, very decisive phase of the SESAR work program,” stated Patrick Ky, SESAR JU executive director.

Onboard Surveillance

The Lufthansa Technik Innovation business unit introduced the “aerosight” on-board camera surveillance system at the Aircraft Interiors Expo 2011 exhibition in Hamburg, Germany.

The company said aerosight is an Internet Protocol (IP) based camera system with an integrated local area network (LAN) connection that can be connected to pilots’ electronic flight bags (EFBs) and other network-capable displays or laptops. The system does not require any additional routers, control units or displays in the cockpit.

The system uses EFBs to display the camera images and can simultaneously control up to 16 cameras located by the cockpit entrance, in the passenger cabin and in the cargo bay. It switches automatically between a color visual display for daytime viewing and an infrared-based night vision mode.

Lufthansa Technik said it developed aerosight for an undisclosed commercial airline and has started installing the system in the customer aircraft.


F-35 Flight Tests

Lockheed Martin reported “considerable flight test progress” of the F-35 Lightning II during the first quarter 2011, with the program conducting 199 test flights versus a plan of 142 flights.

The test program remained ahead of plan despite the grounding of some test fleet aircraft for four to 15 days as officials investigated the cause of a dual generator/starter failure that occurred during a flight March 9.

Each of the three F-35 variants – conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL), carrier and short takeoff/vertical landing (VTOL) – exceeded planned test flights. The STOVL variant performed 61 vertical landings compared with 10 vertical landings during 2010.

Two production-model aircraft, designated AF-6 and AF-7, flew for the first time in preparation for delivery to the U.S. Air Force this year.

From the start of flight testing in December 2006 through March 31 this year, F-35s had flown 753 times, including production-model flights, Lockheed Martin said April 4.

Maintenance Terminals

General Dynamics Information Technology was awarded a contract from the U.S. Air Force, initially for $3 million, to provide ruggedized laptops in support of the F-22A Integrated Maintenance Information System (IMIS) program.

The three-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract potentially is worth $23 million if all options are exercised, General Dynamics said.

The company will purchase, deliver and integrate ruggedized laptops that will be used as Portable Maintenance Aids with F-22As. The mobile computing devices are used for technical data displays, diagnostic fault isolation, material management, maintenance documentation, health monitoring, prognostics and upload/download of operational data.

General Dynamics will install each laptop with required software, perform functionality tests and integrate required systems in support of the IMIS program.

In addition, the company will maintain an inventory control database to track equipment shipping and returns and maintain detailed records, to include warranty information.

The majority of work will be performed in Bossier City, La., supporting seven Air Force bases: Tyndall AFB, Fla.; Langley AFB, Va.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Nellis AFB, Nev.

Hellfire II Romeo

The U.S. Army Joint Attack Munition Systems (JAMS) Project Office and Lockheed Martin March 28 announced the successful firing of an AGM114R Hellfire II missile with a live warhead in a sixth proof-of-principle test.

The flight test at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., demonstrated the missile’s enhanced software capability and performance in a “military-operations-in-urban-terrain” scenario. The multipurpose warhead design enables the missile, with a designator spot laser, to seek out and defeat hard, soft and enclosed targets.  The initial fielding of the Hellfire II Romeo version is scheduled for late 2012.

The Romeo version combines capabilities of four previous Hellfire II variants into one multipurpose missile, according to Ken Musculus, Lockheed Martin director of Air-to-Ground Missile Systems. New design features include a three-axis inertial measurement unit, which enables properly equipped launch platforms to engage targets to the side and behind them without having to maneuver the aircraft into position.

The missile can be launched from high or low altitudes due to its enhanced guidance system and improved navigation capabilities, optimizing the missile’s impact angle for enhanced lethality, Lockheed Martin said.  

The Hellfire II Romeo version integrates with all Hellfire II-compatible platforms, including the Apache, Kiowa Warrior, Cobra, Seahawk and Tiger helicopters, and can be launched autonomously or with remote designation.

T/R Module Standard

Northrop Grumman said it has set a new standard for its gallium nitride-based high-power transmit/receive (T/R) modules, reliably operating them for more than 180 days during continuous high-power testing. The tests prove that the next generation of active electronically scanned arrays (AESA) is capable of reliable operation while producing much greater radar sensitivity, at higher efficiency and lower cost, Northrop Grumman said April 12.

In an evaluation conducted by the company’s Advanced Concepts and Technology Division, the T/R modules were tested by using high-stressing operational long-pulse waveforms, which operated on the modules nonstop for six months. The waveforms were designed to simulate electronic activities of actual radar functions in a relevant environment. “By successfully employing the latest advances in high-power semiconductor technology in a functioning T/R module, we have demonstrated the great performance and reliability of our design approach,” said Steve McCoy, vice president of the Advanced Concepts unit.

“This new level of maturity also supports technology readiness for the next generation of Northrop Grumman’s high performance, low-cost AESA radars, and opportunities for cost reduction and performance upgrades to our current AESA product line,” he said.

Elbit Acquisition

Elbit Systems Ltd., on March 30 said it completed the acquisition of remaining shares of Elisra Electronic Systems held by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary Elta Systems. Elisra, a supplier of electronic warfare solutions based in Bene Beraq, Israel, now is a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems.

Elbit announced in late February that it had reached agreement to acquire the remaining 30 percent of Elisra shares held by IAI Elta for $67.5 million. Elbit already owned 70 percent of Elisra.

Component units of Elisra include Tadiran Electronic Systems Ltd., and Tadiran Spectralink Ltd.


Global Observer ‘Mishap’

AeroVironment said its Global Observer high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft system (UAS) experienced a “mishap” April 1 while undergoing flight-test envelope expansion at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The company reported no injuries or property damage.

An investigation board will be convened to determine the cause of the mishap, which was not described in detail.

The first of two aircraft developed under a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration was performing its ninth test flight. The mishap occurred at 2:30 a.m. PDT, about 18 hours into the flight, AeroVironment said.

The hybrid-electric powered aircraft first flew Aug. 5, 2010. Following the completion of an initial flight-test phase in October, AeroVironment said its program team installed a hydrogen-fueled generator and liquid hydrogen fuel tanks.

The Global Observer is designed for “stratospheric, persistent” surveillance, flying at an altitude of 55,000 to 65,000 feet for 5 to 7 days. Communications and sensor payloads on the aircraft will cover an area up to 600 miles in diameter, equivalent to more than 280,000 square miles, AeroVironment said.

“Flight testing an innovative new solution like Global Observer involves pushing the frontiers of technology and convention,” said Tim Conver, AeroVironment chairman and CEO. “Risk is a component of every flight-test program, and the learning that results from a mishap enables us to improve system reliability and performance.”

AeroVironment, Monrovia, Calif., in September 2007 was awarded a contract to develop and demonstrate Global Observer as a JCTD program. Six U.S. government agencies have provided $140 million in funding for the program.

UAS Training Center

L-3 Link Simulation & Training, based in Arlington, Texas, and the University of North Dakota have signed agreements to jointly establish an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) training center at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

The UAS Training Center, expected to begin operations in June, will offer MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper training opportunities to UND students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics with a major in unmanned aircraft systems operations. The training center also is expected to provide UAS pilot and sensors training to U.S. government agencies.

L-3 Link will supply the training center’s high-fidelity simulator and logistics support as well as sensor operator course development and training.

The Predator and Reaper training system integrates ground control station hardware, simulation software and high-fidelity, correlated databases in creating a fully immersive training environment. Unmanned aircraft and sensor performance are modeled to support complex, real-world mission scenarios.

Simulation scenarios including “a robust urban environment” will be integrated with visualizations of moving vehicles and people, accurate terrain and various weather conditions.

“L-3 Link is very proud to partner with the University of North Dakota in establishing the first non-military UAS educational institution in the U.S. to provide Predator and Reaper aircrew training,” said L-3 Link President Leonard Genna.

Relative Navigation

Northrop Grumman April 7 said its Relative Navigation system exceeded accuracy requirements during recent flight tests for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Automated Aerial Refueling (AAR) program.

The objectives of the AAR program are to demonstrate critical technology to enable refueling of unmanned aircraft and develop tools to support airworthiness certification for integration with the existing Air Force tanker fleet.

The Relative Navigation software, hosted in a Northrop Grumman LN-251 GPS/inertial navigation system (INS) was tested in a Learjet surrogate aircraft operating with a modified refueling tanker. The test also used a modified Rockwell Collins 24-channel GPS receiver with enhanced tracking integrated with the LN-251 chassis.

A series of eight flight tests demonstrated the Relative Navigation software “produces consistent and predictable real-time accuracy performance across data link drops and varying time delays, close proximity and mid-range vehicle separations,” Northrop Grumman said.

The flight tests were conducted in collaboration with the Air Force Flight Test Center’s Test Operations Combined Test Force, the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard and Calspan Corp.

Indra ‘Pelican’

Indra, of Spain, said its Pelican rotary-wing unmanned aircraft system received a Special Airworthiness Certificate from the country’s State Aviation Safety Agency to perform integration, test and demonstration flights.

The certificate is the first awarded in Spain for a rotary-wing UAS, and “implies that the Pelican system complies with quality and security standards similar to those of manned aircraft and that the operation is fully safe under the flight conditions defined” by the safety agency, Indra said April 11.   Indra said the UAS is expected to enter service in 2012.   Capable of carrying a variety of payloads up to 50 kilograms, the Pelican can fly more than six hours with electro-optical payload and is equipped with a gas or jet propellant 5 engine for naval purposes. The Pelican system is based on the APID60 platform, developed by CybAero, of Linköping, Sweden.


➤ Rockwell Collins signed a maintenance agreement with L-3 Communications to provide avionics support for the U.S. Air Force MC-12W Project Liberty aircraft, a modified Super King Air 350 used for intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance. Rockwell Collins will maintain 37 MC-12Ws equipped with its Pro Line 21 integrated display system.

➤ AeroVironment in April received a $14.8 million order under an existing contract with the U.S. Army to supply digital retrofit kits for the Raven UAS.

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