WASHINGTON — The first Victor mannequin of the UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter produced at Corpus Christi Army Depot rolled off the road final month forward of a 2021 fielding, in response to the U.S. Army’s program govt officer for aviation.
The Victor mannequin converts a Lima-model Black Hawk from an analogue cockpit with a brand new digital one. This alternative higher matches the potential of the UH-60 Mike mannequin, the most recent variant of the helicopter. But its success may function a springboard for the Army’s future vertical elevate spine, which is able to permit mission methods to seamlessly plug into the structure of the plane.
The Army partnered with Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, to transform “L” fashions into new “V” fashions at a charge of 48 plane per yr, which has been known as too gradual, as it might take 15 years for the service to supply all 760 plane. The Army has been methods to hurry that up.
Redstone Defense Systems received an Army contract to take Northrop Grumman’s cockpit design and combine the expertise into V-model prototypes within the spring of 2014. Three prototypes spent greater than two years within the Prototype Integration Facility at Redstone present process integration.
The plane’s first flight was in January 2017. The Army ran the V mannequin by means of its first preliminary operational take a look at and analysis, or IOT&E, in September 2019.
“Coming out of that we had some things to fix, and so we’re doing another drop of software to address those issues,” Brig. Gen. Robert Barrie, the service’s lead on aviation capabilities, advised Defense News in an interview forward of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual convention.
In a report earlier this yr, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester mentioned the plane “encountered numerous software and communications problems throughout the IOT&E that degraded suitability.”
Two of the plane additionally retained the previous L-model wiring harness, which had chaffing indicators, the report famous. “These older systems may have contributed to reliability testing results,” it added.
“There were some latency issues,” Barrie mentioned. “In other words, things weren’t happening as rapidly as we’d like. So what we’re trying to do is make sure we have those fully understood and address them. I’m confident that we will do so, but we will still have some work to do there.”
Success with the Victor mannequin is a component of a bigger push that drives home a modular open-system method wanted for future vertical elevate expertise, Barrie mentioned.
“It’s absolutely essential for no other reason than affordability,” he mentioned. “But the reality is, we’ve got other objectives: their adaptability, our ability to deliver in a timely fashion and then to enhance competition over time, affordability through competition.”
In the case of the Black Hawk, the CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopter and the AH-64 Apache assault helicopter, “in order for us to make modifications to the aircraft, we have to go back to our original equipment manufacturer and then open up the operational flight program and then make the changes in collaboration with changes that are in the entirety of the aircraft system,” Barrie mentioned.
With the Victor mannequin, “we are going to carry forward across the fleet, to whatever extent we can, and certainly in the case of FVL, we will incorporate it from the get-go; [it] is more of an open-system approach,” he mentioned.
The Army acknowledges that parts of the plane, primarily within the flight controls and significant security gadgets, will stay with the unique tools producer “and they will, really, in perpetuity,” Barrie mentioned.
“What we’re really trying to do is bifurcate the aircraft architecturally and everything that is a mission system, sensor, a piece of communication equipment, a weapon system, could potentially be integrated through an open interface that would allow the government significantly more flexibility and adaptability in delivering that capability,” he added.
The Victor-model does that for an current platform, he defined.
“AMCS from a hardware perspective and software perspective is essentially our first foray into: Can we bifurcate the aircraft? Can we have the front end of the aircraft with the flight control? Then can we use AMCS as the integration mechanism by which we add sensors?” Barrie mentioned. “Can we feed that to the cockpit without cracking open the cockpit architecture software?”
The Army nonetheless should decide easy methods to deal with mission system structure on the FVL fleet. “In other words, are we going to dictate they’re going to use AMCS? Are we going to go with a different path? And we’re still working that out,” Barried mentioned.
There is “work to go on Victor,” he added. “It’s a tough nut to crack,” however “when we get this right, it’s going to be a benefit in the long term for the Army.”