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 Ć«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 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.


 
 

 
Army photograph by Sgt. Thomas Duval

Air Force, Army Aviation come together to complete vital mission in Egypt

Army photograph by Sgt. Thomas Duval Soldiers and airmen load a UH-60 Black Hawk into an Air Force C17 Globemaster III Aug. 19, 2104, at an old Israeli airstrip in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. The airstrip is now used by the M...
 
 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Terri Praden

Joint effort validates ability to move Stryker vehicles via air

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Terri Praden An Army Stryker combat vehicle is guided into a C-17 Globemaster III during a 25th Infantry Division training exercise Aug. 13, 2014, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The Str...
 
 

AF funds small business participation in research and development programs

The Air Force is searching for innovative, technology-based small businesses to compete for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer, or SBIR and STTR, research and development contracts. “We’re trying to foster innovative technology solutions for the warfighter and the U.S. Air Force SBIR and STTR programs ( by providing) more than $300...
 

 
Air Force photograph by Michele Eaton

AFRL gaming lab provides real-world training

Air Force photograph by Michele Eaton Air Force Research Laboratory Gaming Research Integration for Learning Lab interns Macy Fraylick and Lizzie Adams demonstrate the Full Throttle Karting simulation tool Aug. 7 at the Wright ...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

Air Force, Creare develop technology

Courtesy photograph CREARE engineers test the 10 K cryocooler in a thermal vacuum chamber. The Air Force and the New Hampshire-based business developed a two-stage turbo-Brayton cryocooler that is expected to enhance operation ...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Sean Martin

Bomber crews showcase take-off talents

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_8qr7ojpWg&feature=player_embedded Air Force photograph by SSgt. Sean Martin A B-52H Stratofortress starts its engines during a Minimum Interval Takeoff on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Au...
 




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>