U.S.

February 13, 2014

AF to replace aviator locator beacons

Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operating Location - P

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force will replace thousands of unreliable aircraft personnel locator beacons across the fleet, a service official said Jan. 16, here.

Locator beacons are an automated method used to locate an aviator should he or she eject or egress in peacetime flights, said Col. Aaron Clark, the Global Power Programs Directorate deputy director for Air Force acquisitions.

During the past three years, a steady trend of increasing failures in the URT-44 personnel locator beacon occurred during ejections. The beacons were purchased between January 2009 and August 2010, in order to communicate with a new satellite operating frequency.

According to Clark, when the beacon turns on, it sends a signal to a satellite. That signal is then used by rescue crews to locate the downed aviator.  Since the beacon broadcasts a signal, it is normally not used during wartime operations.

In 2011, a small number of ejections took place with service aircraft, Clark said. When beacon failures happened during those ejections, the cause was mainly attributed to human error and a manufacturer defect.

“We issued additional maintenance instructions to inspect and repair a couple possible problems to make sure the system was installed and prepared to operate properly,” Clark said.

In 2012, more ejections occurred, with the failure rate rising higher.

Problems included antenna issues, battery reliability and other electrical component problems, he said.

“The beacon is not as reliable as we need it to be,” he said.  “Right now, we are seeing an observed reliability of about 55 percent.”

A series of beacon tests were performed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio last year. The test, called a highly accelerated lifecycle test, runs the entire URT-44 system through the most extreme scenarios and environments it could see during an ejection sequence.

The results of this test confirmed the beacon needs to be replaced fleetwide.

“They had a 100 percent failure rate,” Clark said. “That showed us the system is not what we want to have in our aircraft.”

The plan to replace the beacon has two phases, he said.

Phase one has begun and will replace 3,900 beacons on all aircraft with ejection seats by 2015, costing the Air Force approximately $15 million, of which $6 million is in place. The Air Force is currently working to identify funding sources for the remaining $9 million, Clark said. The second phase will complete a fleetwide replacement and cost approximately $40 million.

Though the beacon is one way personnel recovery teams find aircrew members, it is by no means the only way.

“As far as locating the isolated personnel, there’s a wide gamut of techniques out there that range from electronic to visual means,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Hogan, the 23rd Wing director of staff and an A-10C Thunderbolt II combat search and rescue pilot. “We have a device called a ‘quick draw,’ which, with certain survival radios, we can actually send text messages (to an isolated crew member).”

Some aircraft are equipped with direction finding capabilities that tune to the isolated person’s frequency, further pinpointing the Airman’s exact location.

Additionally, aviators have satellite communication radios on hand, which send their coordinates directly to the combined air and space operations center, but sometimes the most effective method for locating a downed aircrew isn’t technology-based at all, Hogan explained.

Since no single piece of equipment alone will be an aviator’s saving grace, survival kits are packed with redundancies and multi-use tools for worst-case scenarios. For instance, a kit may be equipped with more than one radio with similar capabilities or multiple flares.

While all of these mechanisms and tools are important, they don’t trump the most important, according to one aircrew member — the wingman.

“I know there are lots of alternate means that could be used to find where I was,” said Maj. Robert Volesky, who served as a flight test engineer on 31 different types of aircraft.

Though the beacon is not working properly, he said it would not keep him from doing his job.

“I’d have no problem flying right now,” Volesky said. “Our search and rescue teams are true professionals. I know if something were to happen, they could find me anywhere.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
FoodBank_pict

Commissary food bank donations top 4 million pounds

FORT LEE, Va. – In a classic case of a crisis creating an opportunity, the government shutdown of 2013 served as a catalyst to revive donations from military commissaries to local food banks, with the stores donating more tha...
 
 
DoD
Equality_pict

Women’s Equality Day commemorates history, bridges future leaders

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, not only commemorates the ratification of the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — which solidified women’s voting rights — but it also coincides with...
 
 
DoD
ArmyDepot

Army Depot explosion in Japan remains under investigation

WASHINGTON — The cause of an explosion and the resulting large fire at a storage building early today at the Army’s Sagami General Depot in Sagamihara City, Japan, remains under investigation, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt....
 

 
AAFES_pict

Shopping the Exchange pays $224 million in dividends

DALLAS – The Army & Air Force Exchange Service paid a dividend of $224 million in 2014 to morale, welfare and recreation efforts for the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy. In the past 10 years, the Exchange has prov...
 
 
3D_pict

To print a missile: Raytheon research points to 3-D printing for tomorrow’s technology

The day is coming when missiles can be printed.  Researchers at Raytheon Missile Systems say they have already created nearly every component of a guided weapon using additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D printing...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash

AF Senior leaders give State of the Air Force address

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III held a State of the Air Force address at the Pentagon, Aug. 24. The first topic of discussion w...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>