Integration lab to support C-5 software, hardware upgrades

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
The C-5 System Integration Lab at Robins Air Force Base has been preparing to accommodate upcoming changes to the weapon system's color weather radar capabilities for the last several months.

Full-scale development is now underway by Lockheed Martin to update to a new version of the color weather radar, as well as its core mission computer, which is the heart of mission planning while a C-5 Galaxy is in flight. It allows the crew to see where danger spots are such as thunderstorms, tornadoes and high winds.

The C-5’s current robust testing environment at Robins AFB includes a facility that uses a salvaged cockpit section from a C-5 that crashed at Dover AFB, Delaware, in 2006.

The existing flight deck allows 578th Software Maintenance Squadron electronics engineers, technicians and computer scientists the ability to simulate and test software, perform preflight tests and eliminate issues before it's used on live aircraft.

"If we can eliminate issues through testing in the SIL, we don't tie up people and resources down the line," said Robert Hermann, the 578th SMXS director.

But in order to accommodate the pending workload associated with the new color weather radar, several hardware modifications to the existing lab had to be worked.

That included designing, fabricating and installing an electronics cabinet/enclosure; fabricating and installing cables from the lab's cockpit to the cabinet/enclosure; and designing an antenna fixture and pedestal that allows for proper antenna rotation during testing.

An air conditioning and heating unit that maintains temperature and humidity inside the enclosure was also installed. Along with the color weather radar's receiver/transmitter, the enclosure, located on the building's roof, will support the antenna fixture/pedestal assembly and the radome. The radome, which took about a week and a half to fabricate, simulates the functionality of an actual C-5 nose radome.

A team got together in advance of testing to build the radome here which will ensure the C-5 SIL will be ready by the fall. Eliminating the major constraint of building the radome at Robins AFB demonstrated taking initiative and applying ingenuity to provide a solution which is part of key concepts outlined in the Air Force Sustainment Center's Art of the Possible.

According to the Art of the Possible, it "creates a culture that is focused daily on identifying and urgently eliminating process constraints affecting the process critical path during execution."

Once complete, the C-5 SIL will have the capability to receive live data from the antenna, picking up weather patterns that can be transmitted back to engineers working inside the C-5 simulator.

"We had to design and implement this modification to the SIL so that the radar would function just as it does in a fielded C-5 aircraft," said Warner Paris, the 578th SMXS Flight B director, who oversees the C-5 SIL. "For high fidelity testing capabilities, we want to simulate the aircraft and its environment."

Advantages over the older weather radar include the addition of wind shear and turbulence detection; a digital output signal that will reduce electronics required to interface with digital displays and equipment; a lower power pulse with comparable range; and mitigation of obsolescence, supportability and sustainment issues.

"The new color weather radar is a functional upgrade over the old radar, detecting more weather feature details," Paris said. "It will have additional capabilities but with less drain on the aircraft, less power but with a comparable range due to the technology in use."

Designed to support sustainment of the C-5, the SIL can perform independent verification and validation testing of operational flight program changes.

Miles of cables and wiring that run from the lab's ground floor to the roof are part of the bench that supports two configurations of the C-5 in the field: the Avionics Modernization Program and the C-5M Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining Program.

Through these capabilities, actual on-board systems in the SIL flight deck work in conjunction with simulations for other systems that exist on the actual aircraft, as well as conditions that exist within and external to the aircraft.

That is, simulating systems that are not present, such as engines, landing gear, control surfaces and fuel; simulating external conditions such as wind, temperature, barometric pressure and air traffic; and simulating aircraft conditions and responses such as cabin pressurization.

The 402nd Software Maintenance Group develops, engineers, tests and maintains software for a wide range of aircraft and other weapons systems.

Engineering and manufacturing development testing of the color weather radar is scheduled to begin here in mid-November.