News From Washington
IDECM RFCM Acceptance Testing Completed
Sanders, a Lockheed Martin company based in Nashua, NH, has successfully completed acceptance testing for the Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDECM) Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) program and delivered the first four onboard engineering and manufacturing development systems to the US Navy. The IDECM RFCM system is a joint Navy and US Air Force effort to develop cost-effective solutions to radar-guided missile threats.
Sanders, teamed with ITT Avionics, is producing the system for initial deployment on the Navy's F/A-18E/F and on the Air Force's B-1B aircraft. The system comprises an integrated RFCM suite that includes an onboard techniques generator and offboard fiber-optic towed decoy. Acceptance testing was conducted at Sanders' IDECM Electronic Warfare Integration Lab and included checking the techniques generator (receiver, modulator and processor), signal conditioning assembly and equipment rack.
GAO Reviews Army's WRAP/FAA's Free Flight Initiatives
In a recent review entitled "Army Modernization: The Warfighting Rapid Acquisition Program Needs More Specific Guidance" (GAO/NSIAD-99-11), the General Accounting Office (GAO) has found that the US Army's criteria for selecting candidates for its Warfighting Rapid Acquisition Program (WRAP) are open-ended and allow room for different interpretations. While WRAP funding was justified on the basis of the urgent need to field technologies associated with the first digitized division, not all of them support that division. In addition, some of the initiatives do not even meet all of the Army's criteria for WRAP funding.
WRAP was designed in 1996 after funds were requested to create a program that would speed the fielding of new technologies and make them available to Army soldiers. The new technologies were tested in Army Force XXI experiments, which embodied the Army's vision of military operations in the 21st century. The program relies heavily on fielding the first Army digitized division, the 4th Infantry Division, by 2000. Technologies tested in the Army Force XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment that were completed in 1997 were selected for WRAP funding and the $50 M that were added to the Army's fiscal year 1997 budget funded the first 11 WRAP initiatives. Concern that some of the funds might be used for limited fielding of unbudgeted items that may not be affordable in future budgets prompted a requirement that the Army notify congressional defense committees before WRAP funds were obligated and stipulated that these funds could not be used for interim Land Warrior prototypes.
Planning to request $100 M per year from 1998 to 2003 for the program, the Army issued guidelines specifying that funds could not be used for technologies that require indefinite experimentation and that WRAP candidates must be a compelling experimental success, needed urgently, ready for production in two years and funded in the out-years. Technologies needing additional experimentation but that were expected to start production within two years were also acceptable.
In addition to the GAO's findings that the Army's selection criteria are not being met, it also found that the Army is reducing testing of new technologies through large-scale warfighting experiments and may need to change its criteria for evaluating and rating WRAP candidates, a situation that may affect the quality of future candidates. The Army has been unable to select its WRAP candidates early enough to receive timely congressional approval and start-ups have been delayed. Finally, the GAO determined that substantial changes that have been made to some of the original 11 WRAP initiatives have affected their implementation. Since there is no requirement for the Army to report changes, Congress has not been informed of any.
In support of its findings, the GAO cites instances of WRAP fundings that have no prospect of field deployment by 2000. The report discusses the open disagreement within the Army about whether WRAP initiatives should be reserved for deployment with the first digitized division. Initiatives exist that clearly will not be ready for production in two years and WRAP funds have been used to purchase some production items in quantities that are larger than the first digitized division might need. To help put WRAP on track, the GAO recommends that the Army require specific deadlines for WRAP candidate identification and selection to assure timely availability of funds, call for minimum testing and experimentation requirements for candidates and report periodically on the status of WRAP initiatives.
In related news, the GAO has released another report, "National Airspace System: FAA Has Implemented Some Free Flight Initiatives, but Challenges Remain" (GAO/RCED-98-246), in which it reviews the status of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to implement free flight. The report focuses on the Free Flight Operational Enhancement Program (formerly known as Flight 2000) and the views of the aviation community and the FAA on the challenges that must be met to implement free flight in a cost-effective manner.
Free flight is a new air traffic management system developed to provide controllers and pilots with the new technologies and procedures that will increase the safety, capacity and efficiency of air traffic throughout the National Airspace System (NAS). These technologies will provide precise information on the location of aircraft and permit a more efficient exchange of information between them. With the improved information, pilots will have more flexibility to change their flight plans with fewer restrictions. Free flight is expected to affect users as diverse as part-time pilots and major airlines and allow all of them to take advantage of increased operating flexibility. However, controllers will retain the ultimate authority over air traffic operations.
In 1995, the FAA and stakeholders defined free flight and outlined 44 recommendations for consideration for its implementation. Of 35 recommendations scheduled for implementation by the end of 1997, only one (for the incorporation of airline schedule changes into the FAA's Traffic Flow Management system) had been implemented.
Uncertainty remains regarding how best to implement the Free Flight Operational Enhancement Program. The FAA proposed Alaska and Hawaii as test sites, but many users questioned the value of lessons learned in such remote sites. To address these concerns, the RTCA (formerly the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) has developed a road map for reconstructing the program, recommended the Ohio Valley and Alaska as test sites and suggested that nine operational capabilities be implemented. The demonstration schedule is still to be established.
Aside from the FAA's concern with maintaining the safety of the NAS as it selects equipment that will make free flight a reality, users have expressed several concerns: technological advances soon may make any equipment selected for the program obsolete, economic benefits may not offset the cost of the new equipment, equipment may not be standardized on a worldwide basis and the supply of airport gates may not be increased sufficiently to support the increased traffic expected from the implementation of free flight. The report notes that since tasks extending beyond 2001 to implement free flight have been defined and only one of the 35 originally scheduled for completion by 1997 has been completed, changes in the NAS and worldwide air traffic control are likely to extend into the next century.
C-141s to be Equipped with TCAS
The US Air Force has awarded an $8.9 M contract to Raytheon Co. for the integration of the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) and the Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS) on 63 C-141C and 33 C-141B aircraft. (The 63 C-141Cs, originally designated C-141Bs, were renamed after Raytheon completed an earlier contract to install new digital autopilots and Global Positioning System navigation systems.) The program, awarded by the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia, includes the design and development of trial kits, trial installation, testing, kit proof kits, support for kit proof installations and production kits. In addition to supplementing the safety systems of the C-141s, the equipment will support operations under the free flight initiatives being implemented by the FAA.