Farnborough Air Show

Micro flyer draws attention here and in war

 - November 15, 2006, 10:40 AM

Among the defense products on display at Honeywell’s Farnborough International exhibit one that is likely to catch the eye is the new micro air vehicle (MAV) that the company has developed for the U.S. Army’s future combat systems program. The MAV has undergone extensive field testing, including some service with active military units (presumably in Iraq and/or Afghanistan). By the end of this year, low-rate production of the unit will begin, advancing to full-rate output next year.

A soldier can carry the MAV in a backpack and operate it–either autonomously or by remote control–with eight hours of training. It is made of rugged composites and can be readily repaired in the event of a crash.

The vehicle can cruise for about an hour at 40 to 50 knots. It has vertical takeoff and landing capability in 20-knot winds and can reach altitudes above 10,000 feet. Honeywell (Hall 1 Stand A9) is marketing the MAV to law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies.

The need to miniaturize components and systems for the MAV has tested Honeywell’s engineering skills in both its powerplant and avionics divisions. Also on display here this week are examples of its microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), including those that provide guidance for the MAV in tandem with a global positioning system. Among these is the HG1930 inertial measurement unit which has entered low-rate production for various munitions and rockets. Through a joint venture with its rival Rockwell Collins, Honeywell has come up with a way to combine inertial navigation systems and GPS together on one microchip.

The Honeywell exhibit also includes  military engines, namely the F124 turbofan that powers the Aermacchi M-346. The Italian jet trainer is on display here in support of its current bids for a number of European and Middle Eastern requirements.

The U.S. group is also showing the T-800 turboshaft engine developed by its LHTEC joint venture with Rolls-Royce for Agusta-Westland’s Future Lynx helicopter, which has just won a 70-ship order from the UK Ministry of Defence. According to Dean Flatt, president of Honeywell’s defense and space division, the T-800, originally developed for the now-scrapped Comanche program, is being considered as possible powerplant for several new rotorcraft designs that are under active discussion.

Flatt told Aviation International News that with defense budgets expected to be flat or decline over the next few years, Honeywell is aiming to help its clients make ends meet by offering more flexible and cost effective logistics support. He said the performance-based logistics contracts the UK government has pioneered are increasingly finding favor at the U.S. Pentagon.

Honeywell is talking to the U.S. Air Force about providing it with the same prepositioning forces program it provides for the Marine Corps. With the program, the company takes full responsibility for purchasing parts and munitions, managing inventory and maintaining equipment before, during and after missions. Through reliability and manufacturing engineering efforts, Honeywell teaches military personnel proprietary techniques such as knowing when to change parts according to their condition and when to do it in the course of other maintenance work.

The avionics suite of Honeywell’s exhibit features the RDR4000M weather radar, which has been selected for Boeing C-17 large military transport, as well as for Japan’s next-generation transport program and for Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 777 airliners. The three-dimensional radar warns of bad weather up to 300 nm away and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet, allowing crews to reroute around storms. With its flexible antenna size and digital functions, Honeywell believes the unit will be suitable for a wide variety of aircraft.