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 March 4, 2015

News: Pentagon: Another BRAC will save money - Pentagon planners have a new pitch to lawmakers skeptical of a fresh round of base closings: We promise we’ll save money this time.   Business: China’s new C919 will begin test flights this year - China’s new superjet will take to the skies for the first time later this...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham

World War II pilot reunited with P-47

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jensen Stidham Retired Air National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Hertel, laughs while under the wing of a P-47 Thunderbolt during the Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course Feb. 2...
 
 

News Briefs March 4, 2015

General: 8,500 Islamic State fighters killed in Iraq so far The U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq has killed more than 8,500 Islamic State fighters since its bombing campaign began in August, the top general overseeing the coalition said March 3. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said the Islamic State, which...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Turning up the heat

Lockheed Martin photograph Lockheed Martin ATHENA laser weapon system defeats a truck target by disabling the engine, demonstrating its military effectiveness against enemy ground vehicles. Latest evolution of Lockheed Martin l...
 
 

USO Visit

Air Force photograph by Jet Fabara Actor Vince Vaughn speaks with Edwards Airmen and 412th Security Forces Squadron members at the base library before introducing an advance screening of his new movie, “Unfinished Business,” at the base theater Feb. 28.
 
 

Sikorsky S-97 RAIDERô team begins final assembly of second aircraft

Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp., announced March 4 the start of final assembly of the second S-97 RAIDERô helicopter at the company’s Development Flight Center. Along with a team of industry suppliers, Sikorsky is developing two RAIDERô prototypes to demonstrate the revolutionary new capabilities in improved maneuverability and flight speed. The...
 




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>