Air power is key in combat. Militaries worldwide rely increasingly on combat aircraft for missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) to search and rescue, cargo and personnel transport, and precision weapons targeting.
"Combat is done with air power now," Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Billie Flynn affirmed in his talk on military fighter aircraft at the Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montreal. The key to pushing the technology envelope, to push what the aircraft itself can do, is to take the human, who has historically been the limiting factor, out of the equation, he says. Yet, to do more with less, innovation is required. Modern avionics are answering the need for increased situational awareness, greater performance, and various military-operations and peace-keeping capabilities.
Connectivity and visualization in the cockpit are critical, and that means: "big screens, touchscreens not buttons, high fidelity in front of the pilot's head so that wherever he looks he sees what's around him, and broadband connectivity to ensure everyone has the same amount of information," Flynn says.
Aerospace and defense engineers set a new standard for combat aircraft avionics with the 8-by-20-inch panoramic cockpit display on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) from Lockheed Martin in Bethesda, Md. The large, active-matrix liquid crystal display (AMLCD) is designed by L-3 Display Systems in Alpharetta, Ga., to lessen the pilot's traditional workload while increasing situational awareness.
The touchscreen "display system delivers information for all the major functions of the F-35, including flight and sensor displays, communication, radio and navigation systems, as well as an identification system which gives the pilot total situational awareness," says a representative of LynuxWorks in San Jose, Calif.
L-3 Communications Display Systems engineers selected the LynuxWorks DO-178B-certifiable LynxOS-178 real-time operating system (RTOS) to power a portion of the F-35 panoramic cockpit display subsystem. L-3 engineers chose the RTOS based on key factors, such as adherence to open standards, Linux compatibility, POSIX API interoperability, and support for the ARINC 653 specification, officials say.
"Avionics are doing a better job of providing an integrated situational awareness picture for the pilot," explains Curtis Reichenfeld, chief technology officer of the system solutions group at Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions, headquartered in Ashburn, Va. "Instead of the pilot having to look at data from the radar and infrared or electronic warfare sensors and put all the data together, the processing capability on military aircraft enables that whole process to be done automatically so the pilot is seeing the complete situational-awareness picture without having to fuse the data himself.
"Older avionics architectures had independent systems, each with its own displays; now, we are seeing integrated and network-centric systems fusing data and presenting the combined data on a single display for the pilot to access more quickly and efficiently," Reichenfeld continues. "All the formerly separate data is now presented as a single resource."
Today's combat aircraft are "much more highly integrated and have much higher levels of data fusion, all for the purpose of reducing pilot workload so they can better focus on the mission at hand and reduce the need to do the data analysis by checking three or four different sensors or instruments," Reichenfeld notes.
Pilots have long had sensors to help them, Lockheed Martin's Flynn affirms but pilots have historically had to manage sensors. "They would decide what to look at and do their best to figure out what's important while [also] busy flying the airplane. It was never going to get better as long as the human was in the loop." The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor marked a paradigm shift, he says. "With the F-22, we finessed sensor fusion-fusion of sensor data and 8.6 million lines of software code to figure out if information is relevant."
Increased situational awareness in the cockpit is a game-changer for military pilots, lending to faster and better-informed decisions. "The pilot is no longer a limiter and he's more effective," Flynn says. "Let him fly the airplane."
The F-35 is indicative of a growing trend wherein manned and unmanned military airframes sport a growing number of sensors. The prevalent and ever-increasing use of airborne sensors is driving the need for powerful embedded computing and networking systems.
The ability to fuse data into a cohesive combat picture provides pilots with a better understanding of what the threats are and how to overcome them, says Mark Grovak, avionics business development manager at Curtiss-Wright Controls Defense Solutions. "What makes this possible is putting more processing onboard the aircraft." A robust processing infrastructure, including thermally efficient, high-performance computing systems, is needed to handle the large data sets and run the advanced algorithms that provide the pilot with the desired situational awareness, he adds.
Advanced avionics on the F-35 Lightning II furnish the pilot with real-time access to comprehensive battle-space information and the ability to share sensor data and actionable information. The Lockheed Martin-led team behind the F-35's advanced avionics includes Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, and Mercury Systems.
Engineers at Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) segment in El Segundo, Calif., licensed the Mercury Systems RACE++ Series multicomputers for the F-35 JSF's Integrated Core Processing (ICP) system. The ICP is the sensor processing system with an open-system architecture designed to maximize the use of standards-based, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.
"Incorporating COTS technology into an open system architecture throughout the F-35 will enable frequent technology updates at low cost," explains Bob Coultas, hardware program manager for the ICP for Lockheed Martin.
The onboard system incorporates a liquid-cooled, ruggedized multicomputer capable of performing 40 billion sustained operations per second and of multi-mission computing to process electronic warfare, electro-optical, infrared, and radar data. Mercury's multiprocessor technology is used in the signal processor (SP) and signal processor input/output (SPIO) modules of the ICP. Mercury's signal processing systems were used in the Concept Demonstration Phase (CDP) of the JSF, and its RACE++ Series PowerStream systems were selected for the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase.
The F-35 takes advantage of considerable software resources, in addition to modern avionics hardware. The fifth-generation fighter jet reportedly comprises more than 20 million lines of software code, segmented into blocks and largely written in C and C++; yet, it also uses software code in the Ada computer programming language from the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor military fighter aircraft.
The F-35 Lightning II, among the most complex military platforms to date, has suffered some production and deployment setbacks due the sheer volume of software code employed. Yet, aerospace and defense technology firms are working hard to remedy the situation.
The F-35 runs the Integrity DO-178B securely partitioned, safety-critical, certified real-time operating system (RTOS) from Green Hills Software in Santa Barbara, Calif. Datel engineers implemented the LDRA tool suite for software verification related to the F-35 engine, and developers at Parasoft Corp. in Monrovia, Calif., are working directly with Lockheed Martin engineers on static code analysis for JSF.
Engineers at Ultra Electronics Controls (formerly Datel) in West London, England, selected LDRA software verification tools for their work on the Pratt & Whitney F135, the engine of choice for the F-35 Lightning II fifth-generation tactical fighter developed by Lockheed Martin in conjunction with BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman.
Datel engineers had specific technical requirements related to their work on the Engine Ice Protection System (EIPS) for the Pratt & Whitney F135 Engine on the Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter project, and the Wing Ice Protection System (WIPS) for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. They needed a software verification tool able to integrate with their target environment, which included the Texas Instruments TMS320F2812 and TMS320F2808 digital signal processors (DSPs). Datel personnel made use of LDRA's complete structural coverage analysis solution at unit, integration, and system test levels. These tests were applied to source and object code, making use of the LDRA tool suite's red-box mode.
"It was important to Datel that it was able to develop their software to a known coding standard and, consequently, MISRA-C:1998 was selected to be applied to this code," a company representative says. The LDRA tool suite simplifies the process by enforcing various standards using drop-down menus, which proved important for Datel.
Datel staff also needed an automated, intuitive unit testing tool which would save time, free up highly qualified staff, increase test efficiency, and improve motivation to test through a repeatable, less error-prone process. They found their solution in TBrun, LDRA's tool for the automated generation and management of unit tests. In the end, Datel reduced the time needed to confirm the verification results and increased the repeatability of its internal process.
QA on JSF
Lockheed Martin officials in the Maritime Systems & Sensors (MS2) business unit selected Parasoft's Jtest, C++test, and Insure++ tools in 2004 to support quality testing for its software. (The MS2 unit became the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, or MST, unit in 2012.)
"Our systems provide critical support when lives are on the line," Martina DelRocini, software subcontract management at Lockheed Martin, explains. "Quality assurance throughout our processes ensures our systems meet their demanding requirements."
Jtest and C++test automatically verify compliance to coding rules while generating and executing unit tests to ensure quality early in the software development cycle. Insure++ detects memory errors, such as corruption, leaks, and allocation errors in C/C++ code.
This relationship with Lockheed Martin "demonstrates Parasoft's ability to help large-scale software development organizations prevent software errors in what are some of the most complex systems being developed today," adds Larry Johnsen, Parasoft director of military/aerospace solutions.
Parasoft's Software Development Compliance solution provides code analysis for compliance with the Joint Strike Fighter Air Vehicle C++ Coding standards.
Without ground support, there is no air support. Maintenance technicians are an important part of the equation, as are the various electronics and mechanical tools they employ.
In the U.S., every time a sailor or marine has flown a mission over the past 20 years, the Consolidated Automated Support System (CASS) has validated that the aircraft is combat ready, a Lockheed Martin representative says. U.S. Navy officials are now replacing CASS with a new version, the electronic CASS (eCASS), designed to simplify testing and accommodate new weapons systems over the next 30 years. Aircraft maintenance personnel will use eCASS to troubleshoot and repair aircraft assemblies at sea and ashore to return equipment to readiness status quickly and efficiently.
CASS is credited with saving the Navy more than $2 billion through standardized training and test programs. Yet, it was designed more than two decades ago and would be more costly to maintain than to replace with an open-architecture system.
"eCASS will be the workhorse for avionics repair across the Naval Aviation Enterprise," explains Chris Giggey, deputy program manager for Automatic Test Systems, of the U.S. Navy's Naval Air Systems Command's Aviation Support Equipment Program Office (PMA-260). "This system provides us with capabilities critical to support of naval aircraft and gives us the ability to launch combat-ready aircraft from carriers anytime and anywhere in support of the nation."
"eCASS runs 20 percent faster, is even more reliable, and is highly compatible with legacy CASS stations," says Randy Core, director of enterprise test solutions at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training. "This speed and reliability will ultimately help the Navy increase aircraft availability."
eCASS is based on the LM- STAR commercial automated testing system, featuring open software and hardware architectures to provide eCASS with long-range upgrade capabilities. LM-STAR is being called "the cornerstone of the F-35 harmonization plan," enabling avionics manufacturers to develop tests that will seamlessly transition from the factory floor to fleet maintenance depots.
Lockheed Martin is producing 36 eCASS stations and associated support equipment under a $103 million U.S. Navy contract. Lockheed Martin engineers have completed development of the eCASS architecture, paving the way for initial production to begin. The first station will be delivered in November 2014. Naval Air Systems Command officials plan to deploy eCASS on every aircraft carrier and at many Fleet Readiness Centers.
The Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, currently the largest military procurement program in Europe with 719 aircraft under contract and 571 on order, was designed to accommodate avionics upgrade packages to ensure its longevity.
"Eurofighter Typhoon was designed, from the outset, for capability growth. It is something we firmly believe sets us apart from the competition," says NATO Eurofighter and Tornado Management Agency (NETMA) General Manager Jesus Pinillos Prieto.
The latest Typhoon, known as a Tranche 3, includes provisions that future-proof the combat aircraft, enabling it to take on additional capability in the future, including a high-speed data network. Taken together, there have been hundreds of modifications, changes, and additions, which effectively means Typhoon has now taken a massive step forward, says a BAE Systems representative.
"For casual observers, the aircraft is little changed from its sleek predecessor but it has a number of provisions that will allow it to take on additional capability in the future," says Mark Kane, BAE Systems managing director-combat air. "At the nose, a new internal structure has been built and work has been carried out on power, cooling, and electronics so a new E-Scan radar could easily be accommodated."
Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH manages the Eurofighter Typhoon program on behalf of partner companies Alenia Aermacchi/Finmeccanica, BAE Systems, and Airbus Defence and Space (formerly Cassidian, the defense division of EADS).
Northrop Grumman Italia in Rome, Italy, provides the Eurofighter Fiber-optical Gyro Inertial Navigation System and a global positioning system (GPS) receiver for Tranche 3 of the Eurofighter Typhoon multirole combat aircraft Eurofighter aircraft in all participating nations (United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Spain).
Northrop Grumman's inertial navigation system and GPS receiver are based on fiber-optic gyro technology and feature an anti-jam antenna system and selective availability/anti-spoofing module architecture. The GPS unit also supports such future enhancements as digital maps and direct drive display, which employ a graphics processor capable of controlling the aircraft's multifunctional displays for improved viewing and integration in the aircraft's avionics.
The F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon, representing modern airframes with novel avionics, have set the bar by which militaries will judge future combat aircraft. At the same time, avionics innovations of the future will continue this trend of enabling military personnel to do more with less, predicts Lockheed Martin's Flynn.