Defense

February 7, 2014

Air Force to replace aviator locator beacons

SSgt. David Salanitri
Air Force News Service

The Air Force will replace thousands of unreliable aircraft personnel locator beacons across the fleet, a service official said Jan. 16.

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 Directoratedeputy 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 willreplace 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, theres a wide gamut of techniques out there that range from electronic to visual means, saidLt. 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 ëquick 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 persons frequency, further pinpointing the Airmans 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 isnt technology-based at all, Hogan explained.

Since no single piece of equipment alone will be an aviators 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 dont 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.

Id 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.


 
 

 

Headlines September 29, 2014

News: U.S. military limits warplanes used for Islamic State bombings - The U.S. is relying mostly on warplanes already positioned in the region for its air war against the Islamic State, as opposed to dispatching a major buildup of aerial forces that happened in previous campaigns.   Business: At DOD, it’s use-it-or-lose-it season - As fiscal 2014...
 
 

News Briefs September 29, 2014

Navy awards ship design grant to UNO The University of New Orleans has received a $210,000 grant from the Navy s Office of Naval Research to test information gathering and analysis techniques intended to improve warship design. The goal for warship designers is to produce a vessel that can be repurposed numerous times throughout its...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

TACP-M ties it all together

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Lealan Buehrer Tactical air control party specialists with the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron survey an enemy-controlled landing zone before calling in close-air support Aug. 14, 20...
 

 
Air Force photograph by A1C Thomas Spangler

Nellis aggressor squadron inactivated

Air Force photograph by A1C Thomas Spangler SSgt. Justin White signals to Maj. Sam Joplin to begin taxiing a 65th Aggressor Squadron F-15 Eagle to the runway Sept. 18, 2014, at Nellis Air Force Base Nev. The roles and responsib...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Mary S. Katzenberger

82nd Airborne helps commemorate 70th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden

Army photograph by SSgt. Mary S. Katzenberger A paratrooper assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, reflects near the grave of a British paratrooper at the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2014, in the Netherlands. The...
 
 

Raytheon awarded $251 million Tomahawk missile contract

The U.S. Navy has awarded Raytheon a $251 million contract to procure Tomahawk Block IV tactical cruise missiles for fiscal year 2014 with an option for 2015. The contract calls for Raytheon to build and deliver Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles to the U.S. Navy and U.K. Royal Navy. Raytheon will also conduct flight tests...
 




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=""> <strike> <strong>