Air Force chooses rugged network switches from Crystal Group for AC-130U Special Operations aircraft gunship

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla., 30 Jan. 2014. U.S. Air Force avionics experts needed ruggedized Cisco network switches for the AC-130U Spooky gunship. They found their solution from Crystal Group Inc. in Hiawatha, Iowa.

Officials of the Air Force 1st Special Operations Contracting Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., announced their intention this week to award a contract to Crystal Group for the company's ruggedized Cisco switch for the AC-130 gunship, which is based on the Lockheed Martin C-130 four-engine turboprop aircraft.

Squadron members say they plan to execute a purchase order with Crystal for the network switches on behalf of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOCOM) at Hurlburt Field in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Related: L-3 to develop imaging radar prototype to give AC-130 gunship more punch in bad weather

The ruggedized Cisco switch from Crystal group is an integral part of the AC-130U SOF Air Mission Suite Enhanced Situational Awareness (SAMS ESA) system, which provides the gunship with improved display and utility of mapping and intelligence data inputs to the aircraft cockpit.

The Air Force's fleet of 17 AC-130U gunships are based at Hurlburt Field. All of the weaponry aboard is mounted to fire from the left side of the aircraft. During an attack the gunship flies in a large counter-clockwise circle around the target to fire for sustained periods.

The AC-130U Spooky has one Bofors 40-millimeter autocannon, one 105-millimeter cannon, and one 25-millimeter GAU-12 Equalizer five-barrel 25-millimeter Gatling-type rotary cannon, an improved fire control system, and increased ammunition capacity over earlier models of the AC-130.

Related: Lockheed Martin to upgrade multispectral electro-optical sensor for AC-130U Special Operations gunship

The AC-130U has the AN/APQ-180 synthetic aperture radar for long-range target detection and identification. The gunship also has inertial navigation systems, a GPS, and can attack two targets simultaneously. The heavy attack aircraft is designed to operate primarily at night.

Air Force officials say they consider Crystal Group to be the only responsible source for the kind of rugged Cisco switch they need for the AC-130U SAMS-ESA system. Air Force officials conducted a market survey to determine if the program could be competed, and no other sources came forward as interested, Air Force officials say.

The switch has reached its end of life, and no other companies are available that ruggedize this version to withstand the military airborne environment, Air Force officials say. Choosing a different switch would require additional re-engineering work, which would cost too much money. The switch provides the network connectivity necessary for the aircraft's SAMS-ESA system to operate.

Related: Rugged thin clients for virtualizing desktop computers introduced by Crystal Group

Crystal is ruggedizing the switch to operate in harsh military aircraft environments. The Crystal switches will offer basic RIP and static routing; four SFP-based gigabit ports; stackability to enable as many as nine switches to operate in one unit with one IP address; and will packaged in 1U 19-inch air transport racks or transit case EIA form factors.

The switches also will have Delrin glides or fixed mounts; will operate in temperatures from -15 55 degrees Celsius per MIL-STD-810F; and will operate at altitudes to 40,000 feet. The unit measures 17.75 inches wide by 14.7 inches deep, by 1.75 inches high, Air Force officials say.

For more information contact Crystal Group online at www.crystalrugged.com, or the 1st Special Operations Contracting Squadron at www.hurlburt.af.mil.

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