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Solutions for Aviation Survivability

Tech Talk / By Mrs. Sammie M. Smith: Other than completing the mission at hand, warfighters strive to return home to family and friends, and the U.S. Army wants safe soldiers and equipment.

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk assigned to Task Force Flying Dragons, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division departs for a mission in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, July 6, 2017. / .S. ARMY PHOTO BY CPT BRIAN HARRIS, 16TH CAB

Surviving without the properly qualified equipment makes those goals more difficult to attain. This is the area that the employees at the Aviation Engineering Directorate (AED) are able to use their expertise to help the warfighter. Qualified and reliable equipment is the goal. The U.S. Army has the most survivable equipment in the world due to the diligence of the AED.
The AED’s mission is to deliver responsive airworthiness throughout the system life cycle and sustain the leadership and engineering expertise necessary to provide valued products to aviation customers. With 15 divisions working together, the AED can assure that Army aircraft and assets, including the equipment on those aircraft, are safe to fly and survivable against all known threats.

Army Aviation is continually upgrading their aircraft to ensure that the men and women in the field have the best and most technically competent equipment possible. Engineers and subject matter experts (SMEs) at AED work closely with the program offices throughout the platform’s lifecycle to deliver a product that is airworthy. The AED has legacy knowledge which is maintained through SME experience and databases reflecting the appropriate input into the development of survivable and airworthy systems for all applicable divisions.

Similar to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the AED determines airworthiness through qualification testing as determined by various military and aviation standards and compiles requirements in an Airworthiness Qualification Plan, specifiying all testing that should be conducted and requirements that should be met to declare the aircraft and all components installed are safe to operate.

New hardware becomes available on a daily basis as technology advances and obsolescence becomes an issue. Once it is determined that the equipment could be useful in the field for mission completion, that system undergoes qualification testing before being installed on any aircraft. The testing covers many aspects, including safety, environmental, electromagnetic environmental effects, software, structural analyses, thermal analyses, human factors, crash hazard, and handling qualities. All of these tests have the specific function of ensuring that everyone from the maintainer to the pilot have a safe and survivable aircraft that functions as intended and meets all required roles.

It’s difficult to talk about aircraft survivability without mentioning the Program Office for Aircraft Survivability Equipment (PM ASE), which is part of the Program Executive Office for Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S). PM ASE is charged with fielding world class systems to maximize the survivability of Army aircraft and crew members against evolving threats. These systems include countermeasures (Advance Threat Infrared Countermeasure (ATIRCM) and Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM)) and sensors (Common Missile Warning System (CMWS), Laser Detecting Set (LDS), and Radar Warning Receiver (RWR)). These systems safeguard the aircraft from numerous threats including a variety of missiles and laser and radar guided threats.

Another project office that is important to aircraft survivability is the Project Management Office for Aviation Systems (PM AS). This office is responsible for Aviation Ground Support Equipment (AGSE), Aviation Mission Equipment (AME), Aviation Network & Mission Planning (ANMP), and Air Traffic Control (ATC). These efforts provide critical communication and situational awareness capabilities. One of the most recent efforts to increase survivability comes from PM AS. Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) is currently in development and will enhance the crew’s ability to land the aircraft in brownout situations.
There is a continual effort in the Army to continue to increase survivability on the ground and in the air. The AED is an invaluable part of the many organizations that play a role in ensuring that the warfighter has the safest aircraft available. The US Army relies on the AED to have aircraft that are ready to fight the mission, and the soldier fighting relies on the AED to ensure they can return home safely.

Mrs. Sammie M. Smith is an engineer for the Aviation Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

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