Embedded Avionics, Military

How Will a New Real Time Operating System Improve US Army Helicopters?

By Kelsey Reichmann | November 24, 2020
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Army rotary-wing aircraft like the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Black Hawk are getting a new real-time operating system (RTOS). (Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman)

U.S. Army rotary-wing aircraft like the CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, and UH-60 Black Hawk are getting a new real-time operating system (RTOS). The Army has selected Green Hills Software INTEGRITY-178 Time-Variant Unified Multi-Processing (tuMP) RTOS for its Improved Data Modem (IDM-401) program.

The INTEGRITY-178 tuMP RTOS can run more applications than previous software because it is DO-178C DAL A compliant and able to utilize all of its processor cores, not just a single core, according to a Nov. 12 press release. DO-178C DAL A is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved airworthiness certification for aircraft software.

“In order to run applications on multiple processor cores simultaneously, any safety-critical system needs to show that the execution of an application running on one core cannot affect the operation of execution of another application running on a different core,” Richard Jaenicke, director of marketing for safety and security-critical products at Green Hills Software, told Avionics International. “One of the biggest challenges to that happens when an application tries to access a shared resource, such as system memory, when a second application has that resource already in use.”

The resource contention that is caused by two applications attempting to access the same resource can result in safety issues and have an impact on application execution time, Jaenicke said.

“We have seen cases where the execution time can take up to 7 times longer with an interfering application running on just one other core, and up to 12 times longer with two interfering cores,” Jaenicke said.

The IDM functions as an Internet controller and gateway to the tactical Internet and fire support Internet for Army aviation platforms. It is also capable of connecting U.S. military aviation systems to ground platforms and facilitates situational awareness, sensor, and command and control data.

“As the integrated C2 and situational awareness (SA) solution, the IDM hosts Force Battle Command Brigade and Below-Air (FBCB2-Air) and processes Air Force Applications Program Development (AFAPD), Variable Message Format (VMF), and Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) messages,” Jaenicke said.

The AFATDS is a fire support C2 system used by the Army and Marine Corps that provides planning, coordinating, controlling, and executing fires and effects, according to Raytheon, the company that manufactures the AFATDS. The AFATDS also uses sensors and situational data to prioritize targets and perform attack analysis.

The IDM-401 program supports open systems architecture (OSA) like Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) and is used to connect multiple radios and rapidly transfer data on rotary-wing aircraft, according to the release.

“The software upgrade with the INTEGRITY-178 tuMP RTOS enables a certified, open system, multicore processing operating environment,” Jaenicke said. “With that upgrade, the IDM-401 can host multiple, simultaneous safety-critical applications of mixed safety criticality. Potential applications for the additional processor cores may include increased interoperability, mission command, radio control, Aviation Survivability Equipment (ASE) training, and weather.”


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