B5 Systems

Archive for the ‘Aviation’ Category

HENSOLDT Integrates NH90 and TIGER Helicopters into Modern Data Link Network for “Timber Express 2023”

Tuesday, November 14th, 2023

Digital multi-domain communication put to the test

Immenstaad, 13 November 2023 – As part of the German Armed Forces’ “Timber Express 2023” exercise, sensor solution provider HENSOLDT has connected several flying platforms via data link and networked them with modern information systems. Using the EUA OPTARION mission support system, situational information could be reliably communicated between the NH90 and TIGER helicopters and other platforms such as the Tornado multi-role combat aircraft and the 2000 self-propelled howitzer without any changes to the aircraft. For the first time, the data was also continuously synchronised with the Bundeswehr’s new command information system.

“With the mission support system, we are able to integrate both existing and new platforms into the armed forces’ digital command and control network without any changes to the aircraft,” says Alex Irmscher, programme manager for ground stations at HENSOLDT. “We are working continuously with the Army Air Corps and the German Air Force to further advance command and control capabilities in the area of airborne systems and anchor them operationally alongside exercises.”

The advantages that the EUA OPTARION offers its users were successfully demonstrated for the third time as part of “Timber Express 2023”. As a link between reconnaissance and operational elements, relevant data could be communicated digitally along the sensor-to-effector chain. This interaction forms the basis for efficient command and control and the deployment of armed forces in an interoperable information and communication network.

Human-Factors Engineering Modernizes Army Aviation Platforms

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — If a technology isn’t intuitive, chances are, it won’t be used.

True in everyday life and especially true in aviation when creating technology to support Army aviators. Partnering with Program Executive Office – Aviation’s project offices, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center conducts government-executed Crew Station Working Groups to assess the avionics requirements through human-factors engineering, utilizing early Soldier evaluations.

The key mission of the DEVCOM AvMC Aviation Crew Stations Branch is conducting CSWGs comprising Army and industry partner stakeholders, all with a vested interest in ensuring that Army aviators have the best solution at their fingertips.

“We support the end user,” said Jena Salvetti, lead human factors engineer for the Crew Stations branch. “We evaluate prototype interfaces, with users-in-the-loop, while addressing human factors principles, aviation mission tasks, and sub-system conventions to ensure that final designs are intuitive. The CSWG process was designed to ensure aviators have a say in their interfaces rather than pushing an interface to the field and saying, ‘You’ll figure it out.’ One of the things we hear from the field is that systems are not being used because they’re too hard to use. The CSWG was created to mitigate this issue.”

For more than 25 years, AvMC has partnered with the Utility and Cargo Helicopter Project Offices leading the working group activities. With the demonstrated success of more than 115 CSWG activities across 13 project offices and seven airframes, the Apache Helicopter Project Office joined the partnership with the fielding of the AH-64E.

One of the ways that the Aviation Crew Stations Branch ensures that they are designing with the user — or pilot — in mind is utilizing former Army pilots to lead the process. They have seven.

“This is a really unique branch in the number of users we have in the group,” said Kevin Bieri, aerospace engineer. The Aviation Crew Stations Branch, totaling 10 civilians with contracting support, is divided into three teams: platform leads, human factors and engineering.

“There’s a lot of experience in the room,” Ross Lewallen, AH-64E Crew Station Working Group lead, said.

Of course, anyone familiar with Army aviation knows that pilots won’t hold back when it comes to talking shop — or how to make the aircraft better.

“You have two pilots in a room and get three opinions,” Bieri said with a laugh.

The team agreed the reason why the CSWG works so well is due to the rapid prototyping that takes place during those Soldier evaluations. When the pilots give their evaluation, often the engineers will immediately make the adjustments to the technology. In the world of engineering, to have that instant impact is immensely rewarding, they said.

The challenge is that sometimes they work too fast, Lewallen said, evaluating technology for the CSWG that is not yet mature. It’s a unique challenge but one that they accept, to continue to bring the best capabilities to the Soldiers.

“We are three to five years ahead of the product line,” said Lewallen. “Which is good because some of the things that we’re working on, we’re given a blank slate. They ask, ‘How do you think this will work?’ And that’s when we use the experience we have in the lab — former pilots, engineers, aerospace guys, all of our talents — to come up with something. Then we fly and make some modifications to it to fit with the users want. We know a long time ahead of the airframe what it’s going to look like. I think that is that is a unique part of our job. I love it. It’s one of my favorite parts — getting out ahead of the conception line.”

By Katie Davis Skelley, DEVCOM Aviation & Missile Center Public Affairs

OSI Takes Aim at Laser Pointers, Aircraft Safety

Monday, October 16th, 2023


As the Office of Special Investigations safeguards the Department of the Air Force, they are confronting a surge in incidents involving laser pointers, which pose significant threats to Air Force aircraft, especially at night. 

These seemingly harmless beams, often used for classroom presentations or amusing a house cat, can also disrupt flight operations and create challenges for pilots. 

“We refer to these as lazing incidents. It’s crucial for the public to understand that aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is not only dangerous but a felony,” said an official from the OSI Center. 

Officials added the importance of real-time reporting and response by all agencies and law enforcement, both stateside and overseas, as a key strategy in addressing these incidents. 

In addition, individuals may incur fines up to $250,000 and face imprisonment for up to five years. 

Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration has the authority to impose civil penalties, with fines escalating to $11,000 per violation and $30,800 for multiple incidents. 

Officials said the necessity of ensuring smooth information lanes, emphasizing that efficient communication between pilots, command posts, OSI and local law enforcement is crucial for rapid responses to incidents. 

“The challenge is not just in reporting the incident. What makes it actionable is the pilot’s ability to specify, with a degree of certainty, a geo-coordinate from which the laser originated,” officials said. 

The effect of a laser beam on pilots is like a camera flash in a pitch-black car at night, resulting in sudden disorientation and temporary blindness. This risk is worse during critical phases of flight, potentially leading to the loss of aircraft and crew, thereby imperiling lives on the ground. 

“These are not harmless pranks. There’s a risk of causing permanent visual impairment. From the public’s standpoint, misusing lasers can severely impact a person’s ability to see and function,” said an OSI Center official. 

According to the FAA, the United States has experienced a notable surge in reported laser incidents, with 2021 marking a 41% increase in aircraft laser strikes compared to the previous year. Since 2010, a total of 244 injuries have been reported, underscoring the escalating and pervasive threat. The nearly 9,500 laser strikes reported to the FAA in 2022 highlight the severity of this growing concern. 

The OSI Center officials underscored the significance of public awareness and reporting. They encourage individuals who witness such incidents to describe the individual, location and event, and report it to both local law enforcement and OSI, regardless of whether the aircraft is military or civilian. 

If you or anyone you know witnessed an individual directing a laser towards an aircraft, report the incident to [email protected] or contact OSI here.

By Thomas Brading, OSI Public Affairs

SOFWERX x Program Executive Office-Rotary Wing (PEO-RW) Collaboration Event (CE)

Friday, October 6th, 2023

SOFWERX, in collaboration with USSOCOM Program Executive Office – Rotary Wing (PEO-RW) and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) will host a Collaboration Event on 04 December, 2023, to explore how technology can be leveraged to achieve improved maintenance outcomes by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of maintenance personnel.

The 160th SOAR currently provides its maintenance personnel a technical manual that is, at its core, a legacy paper maintenance manual converted to a PDF. The manual is inflexible, difficult to change, and often lags months or years behind the “current operational truth.” Soldiers currently can only access the technical manual through heavy, cumbersome laptop computers or are forced to print work packages for work on the aircraft. As the Regiment emerges from 20 years of sustained combat operations, the well of combat experience has begun to run dry. As the average experience level of the organization decreases, the complexity faced by the maintenance enterprise continues to increase. New technology, rapid fielding, and diverging fleet configuration present a robust challenge to the enterprise. Maintenance, in accordance with the technical manual, is the cornerstone of a successful maintenance program. As the Regiment’s maintenance apparatus negotiates these dual challenges of decreasing experience and increasing complexity, the need to re-examine this foundational technology becomes readily apparent.

The command seeks to identify software and hardware solutions to provide maintenance personnel increased access to technical information. Potential solutions may include augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML), and Natural Language Processing (NLP) knowledge management tools to achieve improved maintenance outcomes at the user level.

Request to Attend NLT 25 October 2023 11:59 PM ET at events.sofwerx.org/rotary.

Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force Takes Delivery of First eVTOL aircraft

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023


Joby Aviation, Inc. officially delivered its first experimental electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft to the Air Force during a ceremony held at Edwards Air Force Base, Sept. 25. The ceremony showcased the unique multi-party collaboration between private industry, AFWERX, the 412th Test Wing and NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

The Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force, part of the recently structured Airpower Foundations Combined Test Force, is the lead element tasked with testing and evaluating the technology for future national defense applications. The ET-ITF will work alongside a team from Joby Aviation as part of a unique collaboration between private industry and the Air Force.

“This partnership between AFWERX, Agility Prime and the ITF is a new, direct, agile path to progress technology through the Acquisition Valley of Death,” said Maj. Phillip Woodhull, ET-ITF director.

The test campaign is part of a larger program known as Agility Prime, an AFWERX led initiative that seeks to harness commercial offerings with military applications through investment in emerging technologies such as transformative vertical lift, distributed electric propulsion, electric, hybrid-electric, hydrogen, and other novel power generation sources, increased autonomy, advanced manufacturing, and agile combat employment support.

The Agility Prime Program was stood up because we believe that there is a future with vehicles like the one you see behind me here. There’s a transformative vertical lift industry that’s emerging and we need to be partners in it.

-Col. Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director

Edwards AFB presents an ideal location to conduct developmental flight testing of experimental aircraft due to an abundance of space and consistent ideal weather conditions. The ET ITF will utilize the 412th Test Wing’s world-renowned risk management process to ensure both manned and remotely piloted operations of the eVTOL aircraft are conducted safely.

Ahead of the first delivery, ET-ITF test pilots spent time with the eVTOL aircraft and systems at Joby’s Marina, California facility. This has allowed for a swift transition into developmental flight test operations at Edwards AFB. Test sorties are anticipated to begin eminently.

“As we forge forward and embrace the future of advanced air mobility, our legacy is a testament to the enduring spirit of exploration,” said Col. Douglas Wickert, 412th Test Wing commander. “Through the work of this test team, the electric dreams of today are going to become the aviation realities of tomorrow.”

By Harlan Huntington

412th Test Wing Public Affairs

USSOCOM Awards Contract to Final Forge for Rotary Wing Advanced Tactical Helmets

Sunday, October 1st, 2023

Last week USSOCOM awarded an IDIQ contract to Final Forge for the Rotary Wing Advanced Tactical Helmets we wrote about awhile back which were adopted by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment ‘Night Stalkers.’

Final Forge, Blountville, Tennessee, has been awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (H92403-23-D-0004) with a maximum ceiling of $49,000,000 and a $5,000 minimum ordering guarantee for a new generation of rotary wing advanced tactical helmets with spare parts and accessories. The helmets provide operationally relevant characteristics and performance including but not limited to excellent comfort, stability, field of view, and head mobility. This contract will fulfill the full operational capability requirements for all U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) rotary wing aviation components. Fiscal 2023 procurement funds in the amount of $874,970 are being obligated at time of award on the first delivery order. This contract is a follow-on production contract stemming from a competitive prototype agreement and is being awarded in accordance with10 U.S. Code 4022(f). USSOCOM, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity.

The RATH was developed and is manufactured by Final Forge, a company founded by David Rogers who coincidentally also founded Ops-Core before selling it to Gentex in 2012.

SOFWERX – Air-Launched Loiter Munition Collaboration Event

Tuesday, September 26th, 2023

SOFWERX, in collaboration with USSOCOM Program Executive Office – Fixed Wing (PEO-FW), Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGM) Program, will host a Collaboration Event (CE) on 2 November 2023 to demonstrate and integrate Air-launched Loiter Munition (ALM) capabilities.

The SOPGM Program Office currently supports Special Operations Forces (SOF) aircrews with short range munitions that are employed directly to known targets, visually identified by the shooter aircraft before launch, and utilize Global Positioning System (GPS) or Semi-Active Laser (SAL) for terminal guidance. The dependencies for this employment method will place SOF Operators at an unacceptable risk during engagements in highly contested areas. New solutions are required to provide identification, tracking, and engagement of moving or mobile targets in a time compressed environment. SOF aircraft must be prepared to efficiently engage moving targets on the time scale it would face during any potential conflict with a well-resourced peer or near-peer adversary attempting an act of aggression. Traditional airborne moving target intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors currently employed by SOF will be inadequate for such a scenario due to deficiencies in survivability, speed, range, or sensor performance. Considering these capability gaps, USSOCOM is looking for ALMs to decrease the engagement time from minutes to seconds, improve targeting solutions, and increase the survivability of SOF.

Event Objectives
1) Explore potential ALM solutions with Industry, Academia, and Labs based upon an understanding of current SOCOM use cases and operational landscapes for future conflicts. Recent conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere have demonstrated mature ground-launched loiter munition capabilities. This, combined with the emergence of Air Launched Effects (ALE), should provide a shorter path to viable and mature ALMs.

2) Investigate the trade-space, to include:

a) Endurance, Range, Cruise and Max Airspeeds
b) Payload Capacity
c) Sensors/Seekers, Semi-Active Laser (SAL), Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR), Radio Frequency (RF), Automatic Target Recognition (ATR), Automatic Target Detection (ATD)
d) Command and Control (C2) Data-Link, Telemetry, Transponder, Flight Termination System
e) Counter Detection
f) Warhead and Fusing
g) Employment from various SOCOM aircraft (ex: AC-130J, MQ-9, MQ-1, MH-60, and others)
h) Aircraft Integration standards such as MIL-STD-1760/1553, Universal Armament Interface (UAI), Battle Management System (BMS), Common Launch Tube (CLT), and 14-inch lug racks.

3) Future proof the system for technology upgrades, with considerations for Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), Weapons Open Systems Architecture (WOSA), and Weapons Government Reference Architecture (GRA), as well as producibility concerns.

4) Identify Risks, Issues, and Opportunities.

Request to Attend NLT 12 October 2023 11:59 PM ET.


DAF Unveils Art Commemorating 75 Years of Air and Space Power

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023


Department of the Air Force senior leaders presided over a ceremony unveiling commemorative wall art titled, “A Shared Foundation; Celebrating 75 Years of Air and Space Power,” at the Pentagon Aug. 29.

DAF celebrated the 75th Anniversary of Air and Space heritage in September 2022 and commissioned the art to help tell the stories of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force, which required nearly 18 months to complete due to the artist’s extensive research into each of its numerous elements.

The artist, Warren F. Neary, focused the content of the piece on the contributions of Airmen and Guardians throughout the eras. Beginning with the earliest airpower innovators in the Army Air Corps, the art highlights significant milestones and achievements.

“[Neary] met with DAF leadership and visited bases around the country to capture the range of the missions and the people that compose our Air and Space Forces,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall remarked. “The people you see in the painting are depictions of real Airmen, real Guardians; both are part of our heritage and those who are currently serving … [This artwork shows] people who helped build our organization, the aircraft and equipment that shaped our experiences and the missions that drove it all.”

In addition to depicting Airmen and Guardians, the artwork features various Air Force and Space Force platforms and systems. In total, 114 unique visual elements are incorporated into the piece.

Each group of elements in the artwork is designed to form the shape of the delta or infinity symbols. The delta symbol carries a deep, historic meaning for both the Air Force and Space Force and signifies upward trajectory and rapid advancement. The infinity symbol represents the ever-present requirements for adaptation, improvement, innovation and vigilance.

“Our heritage is incredibly important — it tells our story. It reminds us of who we are and where we have come from, and why it all matters. The images that surround this piece are powerful. They shape our culture, our sense of purpose and our warfighter mindset.”

-Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall

Neary has created many works of art throughout his career depicting subjects of air and space power. He has received national-level recognition, and his artwork has been exhibited in the National Museum of the Air Force, the Museum of Aviation, the U.S. Air Force Art Collection and the U.S. Army Center for Military History, in addition to private collections.

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force photos by Eric Dietrich