By John McHale
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Officials at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Palmdale, Calif., are using VenturCom's RTX real-time extension for Microsoft Windows NT in aircrew training systems and flight simulators for Special Operations Forces aircraft of the U.S. Air Force.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics engineers migrated the existing proprietary architecture for the AC-130H Gunship aircrew training system to a COTS, or commercial off-the-shelf, platform comprised of VenturCom's RTX for Windows NT running on Intel Pentium processors, VenturCom officials say. The training system is at the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center at Robins Air Force Base, Ga.
"The technical challenge was to port the aircrew training system's existing JOVIAL-language software code, which was originally deployed on legacy MIL-STD-1750 processors, and adapt it for operation using the latest off-the-shelf hardware and software technology — namely Intel Pentium processors running Microsoft Windows NT with VenturCom's RTX," says Hal Crosskno, program manager for Special Operations Forces Weapons Systems at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
"RTX provides the time-critical performance required to successfully deploy Lockheed Martin Aeronautics aircrew training systems on Windows NT," says Roy Kok, VenturCom's vice president of marketing. "Moreover, Lockheed's engineering team can now enhance system functionality easily using standard Windows-based development tools, rather than the limited development environments they previously used. This provides important benefits — the ability to add new functionality quickly, leverage readily available talent, and integrate existing off-the-shelf technology."
Software engineers wrote the JOVIAL code as part of a real-time environment, and VenturCom's RTX extensions enable that to continue when the code ports to Windows, Kok explains. Windows is a "well-known technology and Microsoft has the best development tools," he says. Also, finding engineers who know Windows is much easier than finding those who know JOVIAL, Kok adds. "You can find a Windows developer on any street corner," he quips.
The program enables Air Force and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics officials to save significantly on hardware costs, while leveraging 30 years worth of advancements in hardware and software technology since the system's initial 16-bit processor and programming language were introduced, VenturCom officials say.
The result will bring what Lockheed Martin engineers call concurrency to the aircraft and the crew trainer, says John Smith, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics technical manager for the program. In other words the trainer and the aircraft will have concurrent versions of the Operational Flight Programs, or OFPs, instead of the trainer's software being months or years behind that of the aircraft, he says.
"Having mission operational flight programs updated concurrently in the trainers and the aircraft makes the crew's tasks much easier and more efficient," Lockheed Martin's Crosskno says.
When a customer, military or other, decides he needs to upgrade his JOVIAL software — which can be anywhere from 15 to 20 years old — he has two choices, Smith says. He can rewrite and revalidate his entire JOVIAL program, which would be expensive, or he can migrate the code to COTS hardware and software, he explains.
For example if a customer has new requirements, designers can replace that area of the JOVIAL code that needs to be upgraded with C or C++ code that meets the new requirement, Smith continues. Faster processors and software development tools that were not around 10 years ago help make this possible, he adds.
Now, instead of replacing all their JOVIAL code at once, customers can replace sections of their code over time and at the end of the line have a system that consists of mostly if not all C or C++, he says.
An added benefit with using Windows and commercial desktop technology is the ability to make those changes to the code right at the desk instead of going to the lab and working on aircraft hardware boxes that are difficult to find, Crosskno says.
Lockheed Martin engineers can also use standard Microsoft Windows-based development tools to add new software features and meld this functionality with the system's existing source code, VenturCom officials say.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics experts are considering a similar migration to RTX for aircrew training systems and flight simulators designed for the MC-130E Combat Talon I weapon system, VenturCom officials say.
For more information on RTX or VenturCom contact the company by phone at 617-661-1230, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.vci.com.