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 December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




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>