COTS equipment to spearhead F-14B upgrade

LINTHICUM, Md. - Officials from the Northrop Grumman Military Aircraft Systems division chose the Sparrow Hawk heads-up display (HUD) and FV-3000 modular mission display processor system from Flight Visions Inc. in Sugar Grove, Ill., to replace 30-year-old equipment in the U.S. Navy`s F-14B Tomcat fighter aircraft.

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By John McHale

LINTHICUM, Md. - Officials from the Northrop Grumman Military Aircraft Systems division chose the Sparrow Hawk heads-up display (HUD) and FV-3000 modular mission display processor system from Flight Visions Inc. in Sugar Grove, Ill., to replace 30-year-old equipment in the U.S. Navy`s F-14B Tomcat fighter aircraft.

The two subsystems are strong examples of "tailored commercial-off-the-shelf [COTS] technology utilized to solve a critical maintenance challenge for the Navy," says Frank Wagner, Northrop Grumman F-14 program manager in Linthicum, Md. "Mission readiness and war fighting capability will be enhanced at lower cost. That`s a great combination of benefits."

The program resulted from a Navy/Northrop Grumman team that was searching a solution to the poor reliability and obsolescence of the current pilot`s vertical display indicator group, says Hank Janiesch, F-14 program vice president for Northrop Grumman Military Aircraft.

"High reliability and return on investment mandated a tailored commercial-off-the-shelf approach. The team successfully coupled COTS with a novel design for the mechanical installation that uses structural components from the old system."

The new system does not require a change to the existing mission computer software. It will provide new capabilities in a new pilot`s display, improved weapon delivery, and night-vision capability at approximately one-third the cost of maintaining and supporting the old system, Northrop Grumman officials say.

"Northrop Grumman can show the Navy an almost three to one return on their investment," says Robert Atac, president at Flight Visions. "In making the replacement, we use the existing mounting and wiring. Most importantly there is no change to the mission computer software. This translates into an overall cost savings to the Navy."

The Flight Vision equipment will enable Navy personnel to avoid maintenance- verification flights following replacement of critical flight display components, Flight Vision officials claim. The Sparrow Hawk has an integral combiner; the display view is combined with the HUD instead of being shown on the windshield. This enables Navy technicians to replace the F-14B windscreen with a night-vision-compatible version used on the F-14D.

The symbology on the F-14B head-up and head-down displays will also be similar to the F-14D. Functionally, the new HUD has doubled the field-of-view, created more accurate symbol placement, and designed a working velocity vector and the flexibility to change functions and symbology, Flight Vision officials claim.

With the current equipment the Navy had to repair the F-14B`s HUD 300 to 360 times within one squadron in one year, Atac says. The shock of taking off from an aircraft carrier would cause the display system to fail because the equipment is so old, he adds.

Flight Visions experts will start delivering 82 units in mid-1999. Their HUD is also set for the Joint Strike Fighter Concept Demonstration Aircraft by the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif.

Navy leaders plan to upgrade the other F-14 aircraft, but the current contract is just for the F-14Bs, Atac says.

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The Sparrow Hawk heads-up display from Flight Visions Inc. was chosen by experts at Northrop Grumman Military Aircraft Systems division to upgrade 30-year-old equipment in the U.S. Navy`s F-14B Tomcat fighter aircraft.

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