US Army tests avionics in effort to upgrade Black Hawk helicopters from analog to digital glass cockpit

US Army tests avionics in effort to upgrade Black Hawk helicopters from analog to digital glass cockpit

US Army officials and engineers continue work to modernize the defense organization’s fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with a more modern digital cockpit, conducting a Limited User Test with two prototype aircraft at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. They selected for a Limited User Evaluation (LUE) a Crew Mission Station (CMS) aligned with The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) technical standard that combines Core Avionics & Industrial Inc.’s (CoreAVI’s) compositor and graphics driver suite, Avalex smart display, Intel hardware, Wind River operating system, and Presagis server.
 
Soldiers from the 82d Airborne Division flew multiple air movement, air assault, and external load missions under day, night, night--vision goggle, and simulated instrument meteorological modes of flight on the Sikorsky Utility Helicopter (UH-) model 60V from Lockheed Martin during the event. The missions are designed to simulate a realistic operational environment to enable soldiers to test and provide feedback on the new capabilities, and to ensure the UH-60V lives up to Army aviators’ operational expectations.

82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Black Hawk Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Bragg and Redstone Test Center Experimental Test Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jared Thompson go through flight pre-checks prior to conducting a night vision goggle air movement sling load mission using the UH--60V digital Black Hawk helicopter during the limited user test. (Photo Credit: Mr. Tad Browning, Lead Audiovisual Production Specialist, Test Documentation Team, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Black Hawk Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Winstead and Redstone Test Center Experimental Test Pilot Capt. Nathan Klein go through flight pre-checks before going out on a night vision goggle air movement sling load mission using the UH--60V digital Black Hawk helicopter during the Hawk limited user test. (Photo courtesy Tad Browning, Lead Audiovisual Production Specialist, Test Documentation Team, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
 
The prototype CMS is running CoreAVI’s safety-critical ArgusCore OpenGL SC 1.0.1 graphics library suite and EGL_EXT_Compositor on Intel i7 hardware with embedded HD5000 graphics displayed on Avalex’s 6-by-8-inch smart display integrated with ARINC 661 server from Presagis. The CMS could be the first system evaluated by warfighters using the EGL_EXT_Compositor extension, taking advantage of its flexible graphics windowing capabilities within a multiple guest operating system (OS) architecture.
 
The system uses the Wind River VxWorks 653 Multi-core Edition on Intel and supports multiple processes within each guest OS virtual machine. The CMS is planned to be the first known implementation of the display management services as defined in Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) Technical Standard (TS) Edition 3.0.

82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Black Hawk Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Bragg and Redstone Test Center Experimental Test Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jared Thompson go through flight pre-checks prior to conducting a night vision goggle air movement sling load mission using the UH--60V digital Black Hawk helicopter during the limited user test. (Photo Credit: Mr. Tad Browning, Lead Audiovisual Production Specialist, Test Documentation Team, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)
 
The Open Group Technical Standard for the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE), called the FACE standard, defines the software computing environment and interfaces designed to support the development of portable components across general-purpose, safety, and security profiles. FACE uses industry standards for distributed communications, programming languages, graphics, operating systems, and other areas as appropriate. The goal of FACE is to reduce software development and integration costs and reduce time to field new avionics capabilities.
 
The FACE technical standard “promotes portability of software through well-defined open interfaces helping reduce the time needed to add new and enhanced applications to the CMS,” officials say.
 
The system uses a data model aligned to FACE technical standard edition 2.1 produced with the TES-SAVi AWESUM FAME FACE Data Model tool suite from Tucson Embedded Systems (TES). AWESUM FAME provides advanced data model features, data model migration to the latest FACE Technical Standard Edition 3.0, and auto-generation of software, documentation, and TSS/IDL, as well as helps streamline model development, integration, and deployment, officials say.
 
US Army officials and engineers continue work to modernize the defense organization’s fleet of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with a more modern digital cockpit, conducting a Limited User Test with two prototype aircraft at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. They selected for a Limited User Evaluation (LUE) a Crew Mission Station (CMS) aligned with The Open Group Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) technical standard that combines Core Avionics & Industrial Inc.’s (CoreAVI’s) compositor and graphics suite, Avalex smart display, Intel hardware, Wind River operating system, and Presagis server.
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Black Hawk Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Bragg and Redstone Test Center Experimental Test Pilot Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jared Thompson go through flight pre-checks prior to conducting a night vision goggle air movement sling load mission using the UH--60V digital Black Hawk helicopter during the limited user test. (Photo courtesy Tad Browning, Lead Audiovisual Production Specialist, Test Documentation Team, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs)

“Adding capabilities into our legacy platforms has been costly in both time and money,” explains Joe Carter, U.S. Army PEO Aviation Acting CIO/G6 and The Open Group FACE Consortium Steering Committee Chairman. “Utilizing the FACE Approach, PM Utility and AMRDEC collaborated with CoreAVI and Wind River to develop and rapidly integrate a graphics compositor solution enabled by software aligned to the FACE Technical Standard.  We are excited that this new capability will be put in warfighters’ hands as part of the CMS LUE and we view this as additional evidence the FACE Approach is working to help us prevent vendor lock, increase innovation and reduce cost.”
 
“The CMS could be the inaugural utilization by warfighters of CoreAVI’s EGL_EXT_Compositor extension,” says CoreAVI CEO Damian Fozard. “CoreAVI is happy to work together with the US Army to assist in realizing a system that supports more rapid integration of future advanced capabilities.”
 
“Wind River is proud to be the virtualization foundation of this revolutionary avionics capability,” adds Chip Downing, senior director of aerospace and defense at Wind River. “This solution proves that new military platforms based upon open architecture platforms, such as those aligned to the FACE Technical Standard, can rapidly compress the time of reaching the warfighters for new avionics capabilities.”
 
An engineering development model UH-60V Black Hawk hovers above the runway as part of its successful initial test flight Jan. 19, 2017 in Meridianville, Alabama. The UH-60V is being designed to update existing UH-60L analog architecture with a digital infrastructure to address evolving interoperability and survivability requirements. (Photo courtesy Shannon L Kirkpatrick, PEO Aviation)
An engineering development model UH-60V Black Hawk hovers above the runway as part of its successful initial test flight Jan. 19, 2017 in Meridianville, Alabama. The UH-60V is being designed to update existing UH-60L analog architecture with a digital infrastructure to address evolving interoperability and survivability requirements. (Photo courtesy Shannon L Kirkpatrick, PEO Aviation)

Army officials intend to upgrade the Black Hawk utility tactical transport helicopter from a UH-60L to a UH-60V by incorporating a modern, digital cockpit with such key capabilities as: an integrated global positioning system (GPS) navigation receiver and open system, as well as FACE-aligned software to enable the Army to implement new capabilities cheaper and faster. 

"Compared to the UH-60L, the UH-60V will provide a significant operation upgrade to our Army Aviators," PEO Aviation's UH-60V product manager, Lt. Col. Andrew Duus. "The UH-60V replaces the analog gauges with multi-functional displays which allow for a moving map, improved situational awareness and reduced pilot workload.”

The modernization program has the potential to reduce obsolescence and increase commonality and interoperability, Army officials say.
 
Data was collected throughout the LUT, corroborated with onboard video and audio instrumentation, and subsequently used by an aviation test team from the U.S. Army Operational Test Command (USAOTC), which applied post-mission surveys and after-action reviews. The data supports an independent evaluation by the U.S. Army Evaluation Center, and informs a low-rate initial production decision by the Utility Helicopter Program Office.

USAOTC officials plan the initial operational test and evaluation for the UH-60V in late 2019.

AMRDEC, part of the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, develops technology and engineering solutions for America’s warfighters and employs nearly 11,000 civilian scientists, researchers, and engineers.
 
RDECOM, a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, is the Army’s premier providers of materiel readiness – technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment – to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations.

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Courtney E. Howard is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group. Contact her by e-mail at courtney.howard@sae.org
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