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NAVAIR Today: Aviation Systems Programs

 

 

Aviation Systems is one of NAVAIR’s five primary products. Organized in 13 areas of activity, 10 program offices (PMA) support the development, acquisition, and life cycle management of a diverse array of aviation systems and programs across the Naval Aviation Enterprise.

Here’s a look at each of the 13 aviation systems activities with examples of ongoing development or support highlighted.

Air Combat Electronics

With customers across the Navy’s diverse collection of aviation platforms, NAVAIR’s Air Combat Electronics Program Office, PMA-209, oversees development, integration, and cradle-to-grave support for common avionics solutions in safety, connectivity, mission computing, and interoperability.

A major area of development for MS has been the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) – a set of standards and processes for airborne computer systems to establish an open, modular, partitioned environment resulting in a more flexible and cost-effective airborne computing environment.

It’s a complex undertaking, requiring the program office to balance the unique requirements of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters while striving to leverage prior investments in these platforms, common architectures and interfaces, and coordinate opportunities across the enterprise when platforms require new capabilities. The goal is to arrive at common or “family of systems” solutions to support “tomorrow’s capabilities within today’s budget.”

PMA-209 breaks down its development and management of cutting-edge Air Combat Electronics systems into four areas.

Communication & Airborne Networking (CAN) – The CAN Team provides innovative communications solutions, from concept and technology development of new systems to full life cycle support of all its products. Examples include two-channel radios capable of simultaneously supporting Link-16 tactical data exchange and Very High Frequency (VHF)/Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Line of Site (VULOS), Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), and Integrated Waveform (IW) for aircraft, boats, ground vehicles, and ships.

Safety & Flight Operations (SFO) – The SFO Team develops and implements open architecture network and data-centric environment Ground & Airborne Collision Avoidance Systems, data collection and analysis capabilities, and crash recorders to maximize current as well as future fleet readiness.

Military Flight Operations Quality Assurance – or MFOQA – software is an example. Now being fielded by fixed-wing and helicopter squadrons, MFOQA is employed in post-flight analysis for naval aviators, maintenance personnel, and squadron leadership with the purpose of “alerting fleet leadership to aircrew behaviors that, in the aggregate, could lead to unsafe situations of which they may not be aware.”

Mission Systems (MS) – Mission Systems team members deliver and support common hardware and software solutions, for example internal aircraft networks, information processing, displays, and digital map systems.

A major area of development for MS has been the Future Airborne Capability Environment (FACE) – a set of standards and processes for airborne computer systems to establish an open, modular, partitioned environment resulting in a more flexible and cost-effective airborne computing environment.

Navigation & Sensors Team (NAST) – NAST focuses on areas of navigation, compliance with worldwide aviation mandates, and air traffic management, providing avionics and instruments/systems adept at operating in a network and data-centric environment. The NAST team recently demonstrated an RNP-RNAV flight management system aligned with the FACE standard that enables multiple tactical aircraft types to safely interoperate within civil airspace.

 

Airborne Electronic Attack

NAVAIR’s PMA-234 is the Navy’s go-to organization for acquiring, delivering, and sustaining Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) systems for a wide range of manned and unmanned Navy and Marine Corps platforms.

The program office oversees AEA systems including:

  • ALE-43 (V) Bulk Chaff Pod
  • ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System
  • ALQ-231 Intrepid Tiger Pod
  • Electronic Warfare Services Architecture
  • Jammer Technique Optimization Group
  • Low Band Transmitter
  • Next Generation Jammer (NGJ)

Two of the primary AEA systems PMA-234 is focused on are the ALQ-99 and the NGJ. First fielded in the early 1970s, the ALQ-99 was designed to provide vital jamming capability against radar and communications targets in the suppression of enemy air defenses.

Upgraded several times over their four-decade-plus history, ALQ-99 jamming pods currently equip USMC EA-6B Prowlers and USN EA-18G Growlers, but the aged system is due for replacement. PMA-234 works in tandem on ALQ-99 sustainment and development of the NGJ, an external jamming pod using the latest digital, software-based, and Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technologies.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet is launched during a test of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) at Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, N.J., Dec. 18, 2010. The Navy has used steam catapults for more than 50 years to launch aircraft from aircraft carriers. EMALS is a complete carrier-based launch system designed for Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and future Ford-class carriers. Newer, heavier, and faster aircraft will result in launch energy requirements approaching the limits of the steam catapult, increasing maintenance on that system. EMALs allows for a smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier's ability to launch aircraft in support of the warfighter, and will provide the capability for launching all current and future carrier air wing platforms, from lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles to heavy strike fighters. The first ship components are on schedule to be delivered to CVN 78 in 2011. U.S. Navy photo

An F/A-18E Super Hornet is launched during a test of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) at Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, N.J., Dec. 18, 2010. The Navy has used steam catapults for more than 50 years to launch aircraft from aircraft carriers. EMALS is a complete carrier-based launch system designed for Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and future Ford-class carriers. Newer, heavier, and faster aircraft will result in launch energy requirements approaching the limits of the steam catapult, increasing maintenance on that system. EMALs allows for a smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier’s ability to launch aircraft in support of the warfighter, and will provide the capability for launching all current and future carrier air wing platforms, from lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles to heavy strike fighters. U.S. Navy photo

In late 2015, the NGJ successfully completed a preliminary design review (PDR). PMA-234 is now working with Raytheon on detailed design of the system, which is expected to be operational by 2021.

 

Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment

PMA-251 provides life cycle acquisition management for Navy and Marine Corps systems and equipment utilized for the launch and recovery of current and future fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment encompasses systems ranging from catapult and arresting gear to visual landing aids and aircraft firefighting equipment.

Programs under PMA-251 management include:

  • Advanced Arresting Gear
  • Compact Swaging Machine
  • Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)
  • Expeditionary Airfields
  • Information Systems
  • Launching Systems
  • Recovery Systems
  • Visual Landing Aids

EMALS has been one of PMA-251’s prime focuses in recent years. The new launch system is more efficient than traditional steam catapults. Employing stored kinetic energy and solid-state electrical power conversion, EMALS can launch a wider variety of platforms – from lightweight unmanned vehicles to heavy strike fighters – functioning with a high degree of automation and lower maintenance requirements. Still under development, the system has been incorporated in the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and will equip future Ford-class carriers.

 

Aircrew Systems

PMA-202 manages and sustains all systems that directly support aircrew and troops or passengers in the performance of their missions. These include programs and equipment that optimize human performance, protection, and sustainment in aviation operations.

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Jan Tegler is a writer/broadcaster from Severna Park, Md. His work appears in a variety...