Military EFBs take on rugged, tactical form

MILWAUKEE, 5 May 2010. Military pilots and commercial pilots want avionics technology that improves their decision-making and enables greater situational awareness. However, military avionics systems must be more rugged and more secure than commercial technology to survive the harsh environment of combat.


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Pennwell web 120 185Posted by John McHale

MILWAUKEE, 5 May 2010. Military pilots and commercial pilots want avionics technology that improves their decision-making and enables greater situational awareness. However, military avionics systems must be more rugged and more secure than commercial technology to survive the harsh environment of combat.

"The main difference with military applications compared to commercial EFB systems is that for some applications the military requires their data be secure," says Bill Ruhl, director of marketing at Astronautics Corporation of America in Milwaukee, Wis. "In the long run they eventually would like to have an EFB that can handle secure and non secure technology," he adds.

"The primary goal for the military users is to increase mission effectiveness by enhancing situational awareness shared among the whole crew, and among the aircraft operating in the theater" says Scott Powell, enterprise manager, for cockpit solutions, Aviation at Jeppesen in Englewood, Colo. EFBs in the cockpit provide a tactical advantage, he adds.

"The military market is driven less by the recession and more by global conflicts and humanitarian relief missions," says Rick Ellerbrock, strategist at Jeppesen.

"The special mission versions of transport aircraft such as the C-130s will require secure information and those are the aircraft we’re interested in," Ruhl says.

Astronautics makes an electronic flight bag product for the military called the Tactical Flight Bag or TFB, Ruhl says. "TFBs could also help cut down on the number of computers that military pilots have to carry on board," he adds.

Ruhl's company offers two types of TFB solutions -- single processor and dual processor, he says. The dual processor is more expensive but it partitions and protects flight critical applications in the hardware -- running two separate operating systems on two separate processors, he explains. One processor runs a secure DO-178B Linux operating system the other has the Windows, Ruhl says.

The Airbus A400M transport aircraft is using the dual processor device but with PowerPC processors as it is running Green Hills Integrity operating system, which can only be hosted on the PowerPC, Ruhl notes.

The Astronautics TFBs are also night vision compatible, he adds.

"We've also talked to the military about using our dual processor system to do Blue Force tracking or red/black data, but right now the dual solution is too expensive," he continues. "We're looking at developing a single processor solution that performs this function, which would be more cost-effective," Ruhl adds.

For the map data, the military uses National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) data because it is free and it can include the classified information, Ruhl says.

Astronautics is also the system integrator for the Brazilian air force C-130 Avionics Modernization Program. They are integrating the next-generation cockpit with systems from Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, and others, he says. "We're proposing to retrofit existing aircraft with EFB single processor TFB," he adds.

The A-330 aircraft also uses Astronautics single processor TFB, Ruhl says. This is a "unique version using a 12.1 inch display mounted on a table," he adds. "The typical single processor display is 10.4 inches."

"There is a great deal of interest in the Jeppesen EFB for the C-17, C-130, and VIP fleets, and Jeppesen has already fielded Class 2 solutions on several C-130 and VIP aircraft," Ellerbrock says.

Esterline CMC Electronics in Montreal, Quebec, offers a military version of the PilotView EFB called the TacView, which they refer to as a portable mission display (PMD) rather than an EFB, says Loring MacKenzie, senior marketing and sales manager at Esterline CMC Electronics.

The TacView has the same features as the PilotView but is ruggedized, can interface with MIL-STD 1553 and ARINC 429 databuses, is night-vision compatible, and has a keyboard designed so gloved fighter and military transport pilots can easily use the device, he adds.

Other TacView features include a tactical data link display for network-centric communications, portable mission planning, digital moving map, real-time weather imagery, electronic aeronautical charts, and sensor imaging, according to a CMC release.

MacKenzie says the different name -- TacView -- came about because EFB is a civilian term used by business and commercial aviation. TacView speaks more to the mission characteristics of a military application, he adds

BAE Systems uses the TacView for U.S. Navy C-130T aircraft, MacKenzie says. The Navy intends to employ two TacView systems per cockpit installation to transition to a paperless cockpit, by integrating aircraft data, procedure manuals, and interactive electronic charts into the device, according to a CMC release.

Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is also using the TacView for the U.S. Air Force C-130J Mobile Display System (MDS), MacKenzie adds.

The military market is positive for EFB integrators as well.

"For Carlisle the outlook for the military market is quite positive," says Merritte DeBuhr, product line manager for integrated systems at Carlisle Interconnect Technologies in Franklin, Wis. "The company has supported several on site surveys and has demonstrated EFB-type installations" on U.S. military aircraft such as the KC 135, C-130, C17, C27J, Blackhawk helicopter, Chinook helicopter, and others, he adds.

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