Like the secret handshake of an elite club, coordination between air traffic control and airborne aircraft involves precise, sometimes complex series of movements.
After scheduled avionics upgrades, Navy C-130Ts will know the handshake and be part of the club.
To preserve preferred routing in the evolving Air Traffic Control environment, mitigate obsolescence, improve safety and simplify integration of future systems, the U.S. Navy established the Avionics Obsolescence Upgrade program, also known as AOU, to modernize its aging fleet of 20 C-130T Hercules during the next few years.
Currently, C-130Ts perform worldwide missions providing rapid logistics support to Navy operating forces and transportation of personnel or cargo for delivery.
“As these aircraft have aged, the reliability of avionics, such as flight instruments, has significantly decreased,” said Stephen Madden, AOU integrated product team lead, Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Aircraft program (PMA-207), which manages the AOU program. “To complicate things further, there are more aircraft flying in today’s skies than ever before, which makes avionics upgrades for our Navy Hercs critical to the continued mission of our aircraft.”
Due to high traffic congestion of the airways, the air traffic control environment has changed both domestically and internationally, making it necessary for aircraft to comply with current and future Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management mandates.
The AOU program will address obsolescence issues and provide navigation safety enhancements by replacing the aircraft’s Tactical Air Navigation System, incorporating a Terrain Avoidance Warning and Traffic Collision Avoidance System, updating five communications radios and adding Electronic Situation Indicators and Electronic Flight Instruments, to name a few.
“AOU is changing how we address obsolescence challenges in aging aircraft,” said Capt. Michelle Guidry, program manager for PMA-207. “This program not only provides the most cost- and operationally effective solutions to keeping our aircraft flying worldwide by updating antiquated hardware and software systems, it also incorporates an integrated open-system approach to all modifications allowing for easy incorporation of future requirements.”
AOU is one of the first systems to comply with the Future Airborne Capability Environment, or FACE, standard. In collaboration with the Air Combat Electronics Program Office (PMA-209), the AOU team will ensure C-130T aircraft are FACE compliance, which reduces development and integration costs and shortens time to field new systems.
FACE establishes a common computing architecture that supports portable, capability-specific software applications across DoD avionics systems.
“[FACE] is quite possibly the most important innovation in naval aviation since computers were first incorporated into airplanes,” said Capt. Tracy Barkhimer, program manager for PMA-209. “This will truly pave the way for the future.”
The proposed AOU system architecture is designed to allow for future capabilities, such as Department of the Navy Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures, updates to comply with the Next Generation Air Transportation System, Defensive Electronic Counter Measures and the Joint Tactical Radio System.
Before the Navy can begin incorporating the AOU modification on fleet C-130T aircraft, the first aircraft will be modified by the Air Vehicle Modification and Instrumentation branch at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Upon completion of this AOU validation installation, scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, the system will be tested and evaluated to ensure it meets program requirements and specifications.
Once approved for fielding to the fleet, planning will ensue for upgrade installation at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, concurrent with planned depot maintenance intervals.
The fleet will begin receiving modified aircraft in fiscal 2017 and should realize full operational capability in fiscal 2021.