Panel: GPS Is Vulnerable

Aviation concerns went before a House subcommittee in February touting the importance of the GPS network to the industry, but urged lawmakers to defend the integrity of the GPS network from potential interferences and/or jamming.

The House Subcommittee on Aviation called the hearing to assess the importance of the GPS signal, particularly with respect to the proposed LightSquared broadband network and its potential to interference with GPS, and the rollout of the FAA’s NextGen initiative, which relies heavily on GPS.

“Given the essential role of GPS, the federal government must develop comprehensive safeguards for aviation’s use of it,” said Tom Hendricks, senior vice president, safety, security and operations at Airlines for America. “The stakes are too high for the passengers and shippers that rely on air transportation.” Specifically, Hendricks said LightSquared’s proposal needs to be defeated as it would create “ruinous effects on aviation.”

Aviation groups and others have lobbied strongly against the LightSquared proposal. FCC last year preliminarily approved the plan, but will issue its final rule this year following a comment period, which ended in February.

At the hearing, Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari said FAA tests show LightSquared’s proposed terrestrial network is “not compatible” with numerous GPS-enabled aviation safety operations and “there appears to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS.”

The questions of GPS interference of LightSquared brings up larger questions about the vulnerability and integrity of the GPS signal in general, panelists said. The system is open for use by the international public and military, and at the same time, there is no reliable backup to GPS in case of failure, intentional or otherwise. “While recognizing that the FAA is studying the possible alternate options for position, navigation and timing, with no formal backup in place at present, GPS users are vulnerable in the event of a system shutdown or interference,” said Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “The designation of an official backup would allow equipment manufacturers to begin creating products that incorporate whatever technology might be needed to asses that backup.”

John M. Foley, director of GNSS technology at Garmin, said LightSquared investigation that has unfolded during the last 12 months has provided a “trial run” to determine the GPS network’s weaknesses. “Garmin encourages government decision makers to take the lessons of this ‘trial run’ to heart, so that we put in place enforcement and coordination mechanisms to ensure that the unthinkable does not occur in the future.” — Emily Feliz


CIRCM Contracts

BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman have been selected to develop Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) systems for the Army, Navy and Marine rotary-wing aircraft.

Under terms of the $38 million, 21-month technology demonstration contract, BAE will provide its Boldstroke laser countermeasure system. The system is compatible with BAE Systems’ Common Missile Warning System, already deployed on most of the Army’s rotary-wing fleet. The Boldstroke system uses a Modular Open System Approach (MOSA) and non-proprietary interfaces that can support interchangeability and technology insertion, according to the company.

“This decision is a validation of our technology and commitment, and of our 30 years’ experience pioneering and delivering this type of technology and the exacting work behind it all, including threat exploitation, jam code development, hardware-in-the-loop simulations, flight tests and live fire tests,” said Bill Staib, director of BAE Systems’ Survivability & Targeting Solutions business.

Under the terms of the program, Northrop Grumman and its industry partners, SELEX Galileo and Daylight Solutions, will deliver eight sets of test hardware in addition to three full ship sets for the Army’s research, development, test and evaluation program that will include reliability testing, missile jamming tests and flight tests on an Army platform.

“We are delighted to have been selected to partner with the U.S. Army on the Technical Demonstration phase of the Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) program. We look forward to applying Northrop Grumman’s world-leading infrared countermeasures experience and expertise in addressing the man-portable air-defense system (MANPADS) threat faced by rotary-wing aircraft,” the company said in a statement.


Air Force Unveils X-56A

The U.S. Air Force Test Laboratory in February unveiled its new unmanned test aircraft, designated the X-56A, to test active flutter suppression and gust load alleviation.

Flutter occurs when aerodynamic forces of an aircraft combine with the natural vibration, often resulting in catastrophic failure in aircraft, particularly at high altitudes. “As we demand more and more of our future aircraft, they become inherently more flexible. We need to control the flexibility,” without adding weight or making the wing thicker, which would impact the aircraft’s aerodynamics, according to Pete Flick, Air Force Laboratory program manager. The better approach is to actively control the deflections using 10 control surfaces along the aft edge of the aircraft and changing the aerodynamic forces that are acting on the structure, Flick said.

Lockheed Martin designed two aircraft bodies, with four sets of wings, to be tested up to 150 knots. The aircraft will enter an “aggressive,” 25-hour flight test program, conducting flights this summer with the Air Force, before the aircraft is transferred to NASA at the end of the year. NASA will then embark on its own research program.

The 28-foot aircraft is a follow-on to the Air Force’s SensorCraft high-altitude, long-endurance reconnaissance UAS. — Emily Feliz


ATC Global Seminars

Workshops and conference sessions at this year’s ATC Global Exhibition and Conference will bring together leaders in the international air traffic management community, discussing the regulatory and technological issues facing the future of the global airspace.

Speakers at the event, held March 6-8 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, include Matthew Baldwin, director, Aviation and International Affairs, European Commission; David McMillan, director general, EUROCONTROL; Daniel Azema, head of the Cabinet of the Secretary General, ICAO; Rick Ducharme, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, FAA; and Patrick Ky, executive director, SESAR JU.

Visitors to the show will have a choice of more than 40 sessions to attend free of charge. The event will also include the SESAR JU annual forum, chaired by Ky; an ICAO 12th air navigation conference preparatory event and the European Regional Runway Safety Seminar. Other topics covered by the event’s in-depth workshops include Remote Towers; Use of Open Standards in the Modernization of ATM; and FABEC.

In addition, the event will host more than 200 exhibitors.

U.S. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin will also be the keynote speaker at the inaugural ATC Global VIP Networking dinner on March 6.


➤ Boeing was awarded a $132.8 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy for 12 EA-18G Lot 36 full rate production airborne electronic attack kits and the associated non-recurring engineering. Work will be performed in Baltimore, (41.1 percent); St. Louis, Mo. (36.3 percent); Bethpage, N.Y. (19 percent); and Fort Wayne, Ind. (3.6 percent). The project is expected to be completed in 2014.

➤ The U.S. Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $47.2 million contract for the purchase and integration of two more Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) payloads on two existing Block 20 Global Hawk UASs.

BACN is a high-altitude, airborne communications and information gateway system that maintains operational communications support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The persistent connectivity that BACN provides improves situational awareness and enables better coordination between forward-edge warfighters and commanders. BACN bridges and extends voice communications and battlespace awareness information from numerous sources using a suite of computers and radio systems. After the BACN payloads have been integrated on the Block 20 Global Hawks, the aircraft will be designated as USAF EQ-4B unmanned systems.

➤ Boeing subsidiary Insitu, based in Bingen, Wash., was awarded a $41.1 million contract modification from the U.S. Navy to exercise an option for operational and maintenance services in support of the ScanEagle unmanned aerial systems (UAS). These services will provide electro-optical/infrared and mid-wave infrared imagery in support of land-based operations in Operation Enduring Freedom to provide real-time imagery and data, according to the Navy. Work will be performed in Bingen, Wash., and is expected to be completed in February 2013.

➤ Rockwell Collins was awarded a $17.2 million contract from U.S. Special Operations Command for life cycle contractor support on the Common Avionics Architecture System and Cockpit Management System currently installed on the A/MH-6, MH-47, and MH-60 aircraft. The work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is expected to be completed by 2017.

➤ Trig Avionics, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, was awarded FAA technical standard order (TSO) C166b certification for its TT31 and TT22 1090ES automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) Out transponders. The certification makes equipping for ADS-B more practical and affordable for general aviation pilots, the company said. Underlining Trig’s commitment to existing customers, the TT31 and TT22 ADS-B transponders can both be updated with new software which is due to be released in spring 2012, via Trig’s Approved Dealer network. This update will bring all existing TT31 and TT22 hardware up to the new C166b standard.

➤ The DVCS6100 Digital Audio System from Becker Avionics, of Miramar, Fla., was selected by OSF Aviation, a part of OSF HealthCare in Peoria, Ill., for its new EC145 Air Medical Helicopter fleet. The four EC145s are part of a fleet replacement program for OSF’s operations.

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