Euro Hawk Heads for Germany
Despite the demands of Operation Enduring Freedom, Northrop Grumman and its German partner the European Aeronautic, Defence and Space (EADS) Company Deutschland confidently expect to deploy a testbed Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Germany no later than April 2003. Forming part of the Euro Hawk pre-development programme, the testbed will be equipped with an EADS sourced signals intelligence (SIGINT) payload and will be operated from the Marineflieger (German Naval Air Arm) base at Nordholz in north western Germany. Here, Marineflieger SIGINT operators will evaluate the payload/UAV package as to its suitability as a replacement for the service's existing Peace Peek manned SIGINT aircraft. To this end, EADS has already delivered a space model of its SIGINT payload to Northrop Grumman for compatibility trials with the UAV's airframe and that an operational prototype will begin engineering validation flight testing (from Edwards Air Force Base, California) during the third or fourth quarter of 2002. If successful, the overall test effort could result in the signature of a formal Euro Hawk development contract by late 2003, with development proper starting during the following year.
Aurora Contract Rumpus
Canadian contractors DRS Flight Safety and CMC Electronics have filed protests with Canada's International Trade Tribunal over the recommendation that Thales Systems should be awarded a C$60 million contract for the procurement of a new communications management system for the countries CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. While the precise nature of the protests remain undisclosed, released Trade Tribunal papers suggest a bid evaluation process that was not conducted according to the issued Request for Proposals. Forming part of Canada's Aurora Incremental Modernisation Project (AIMP), the present difficulty has resulted in a stop work notice on the procurement until the tribunal's adjudication. As originally scheduled, introduction of the new communications management system was to form part of the AIMP's Communications and Navigation Replacement Group (CNRG) that was to have been completed by May 2004. Other identified CNRG elements include new navigation and flight instrumentation, new radios and a satellite communications system. Other AIMP elements comprise computer and sensor replacement and a follow-on upgrade package.
Chile Selects ITT AIDEWS
The Chilean Air Force has selected US contractor ITT to supply it with its Advanced Integrated Defensive Electronic Warfare Suite (AIDEWS) for installation aboard the F-16 Block 50 combat aircraft it has ordered. As such, AIDEWS will provide the new aircraft with an internally mounted, fully integrated radar warning and wide spectrum radio frequency countermeasures capability. Additionally, the architecture will provide control and management facilities for other onboard systems such as expendable, offboard countermeasures dispensers. ITT Avionics President Steve Gaffney characterises AIDEWS as representing an affordable, advanced technology fast-jet countermeasures solution that is derived from the company's scalable, modular family of electronic warfare modules. While not confirmed, this suggests that AIDEWS leverages technology from the AN/ALQ-211 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC) that ITT is currently supplying into the US Special Forces helicopter community. As with AIDEWS, SIRFC is designed to provide its host platform with advanced radar warning, situational awareness and an electronic countermeasures capability. At the time of going to press, AIDEWS deliveries to Chile were scheduled to begin during 2005 and will, according to Gaffney, provide ITT an entrŽe into a potential market involving some 500 fast-jet platforms around the world.
Type 996 Gets Facelift
Pan-European contractor Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS) has completed delivery of Availability Improvement Programme (AVIMP) upgrade kits for use in UK Royal Navy (RN) Type 996 surveillance and target indication radar. Used both to provide target data for the service's Seawolf and Sea Dart surface-to-air missile systems and command system surveillance data for RN Invincible class aircraft carriers, Type 42 air defence destroyers, Duke class frigates and Albion class amphibious transport docks, Type 996 is an E/F-band (2 to 4 GHz) 3-D equipment that was introduced into service during 1991 and is expected to remain operational until circa 2032. Work on the AVIMP programme began during April 1999 when the then BAE Systems Newport, Isle of Wight facility (now a part of AMS) was awarded a then £27 million contract aimed at the design and development of a Type 996 upgrade package that would replace unreliable components within the system and make the radar maintainable by ship's staff. In its final form, the AVIMP package includes quick-release components for use in the above decks element of the radar and an enhanced built-in test routine for the below decks part of the system. Sources suggest that the first AVIMP configured Type 996 radars were commissioned during February 2002 aboard the destroyer HMS Nottingham and at the RN's Naval Training Establishment HMS Collingwood, respectively. Informed sources suggest that over time, the RN has procured at least 37 Type 996 radars.
ATC Display Mis-read Concerns
The UK trouble prone Swanwick air traffic control (ATC) centre is encountering display illegibility problems. Difficulties said to have been experienced include a controller plotting a route to Cardiff (Wales) airport before realising that it should have been to Glasgow (Scotland) due to the difficulty of distinguish between the code EGFF (Cardiff) and EGPF (Glasgow) on the centre's displays. In another incident, the flight level (FL) code for 36,000 ft (FL360) was confused with that for 30,000 ft (FL300). Again, staff are understood to have reported great difficulty in distinguishing between the figures 0, 6 and 8. Costing approximately £623 million, Swanwick (which is located in Hampshire, England) controls air traffic over the whole of Southern England and has been dogged by problems since it came on line in January 2002. Chief amongst these have been software failures that have closed down the centre, causing high levels of disruption amongst commercial flights into and out of the UK on at least three occasions. Following on from the events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent down turn in world air traffic, the UK's partially privatised National Air Traffic Service (NATS) that runs Swanwick has been forced to take up an emergency £30 million loan from the UK government in order to continue operations and was attempting to put together a £100 million re-financing package. With regard to the specific display problems, the UK's Health and Safety Executive is understood to have begun investigating the situation during May 2002 and at the time of going to press, Swanwick's management had reported that improvements had already been made to the centre's controller displays and that a potential replacement unit was scheduled to begin tests shortly. It was also stressed that despite any problems encountered, controllers had been able to maintain safe distances between aircraft flying within the facilities control envelope.