Paris Air Show

Raytheon Shows Off Aware Technology

 - June 18, 2013, 7:15 AM
The well-dressed JTAC of the near future could soon be using Raytheon’s Aware technology, including helmet-mounted monocle for viewing marked targets and for designating new ones, and a wrist-worn display and control panel. The full ensemble also includes a compact, chest-worn computer.

Raytheon has developed a range of products under the Aware (advanced warfighter awareness for real-time engagement) label that provide enhanced situational awareness and intuitive networking for both aircrew and soldiers on the ground. Some of the capabilities are on display here in Raytheon’s pavilion, where key elements of an F-16 cockpit upgrade are on show, linked with a new proof-of-concept demonstrator of a system that could significantly aid JTACs (joint tactical air controllers) working in the field.

Working with the U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command, which between them field a sizeable fleet of older Block 30/32 versions of the Lockheed Martin F-16C/D tactical fighter, Raytheon has developed a new center display unit (CDU) for the center pedestal. The new CDU takes around two days to fit to an F-16 and requires no specialized modification of the aircraft.

This high-definition screen is open to any inputs and can typically be used to present moving maps, tactical displays and mission information, as well as messaging functions and aircraft and navigation information. The CDU has been tested in the laboratory with synthetic aperture radar imagery generated by the RACR AESA radar that Raytheon is offering as an F-16 retrofit option. Split-screen and picture-in-picture capability makes the display highly versatile, and it was qualified last December as a primary flight reference for the F-16.

Cockpit display technology has lagged behind that of the sensors, so the benefits that high-definition imagery from new-generation sensors provide are difficult to present in the cockpit. However, the new screen answers that by displaying imagery of exceptional quality. In tactical terms, that allows identification of targets to be undertaken at greater distance than with older displays, resulting in an extension of decision time and greater mission safety through increased standoff.

Partnering the new CDU is the HMIT (helmet-mounted integrated targeting) sight, which was developed in conjunction with Thales (formerly Gentex) Visionix. This monocle display, developed by Gentex as the Scorpion, provides a cost-effective means of displaying tactical information such as target locations, even in a night-vision goggle environment.

HMIT has been chosen to equip F-16s and Fairchild A-10s, and more than 300 units have been delivered. The CDU has been ordered to re-equip the entire ANG/AFRC F-16 Block 30/32 fleet, and the first five units have already been delivered. In the meantime, the first export customer has been signed up in the form of South Korea, which has chosen both CDU and HMIT as part of a major upgrade program led by BAE Systems that also includes RACR radar.

Early experience of the CDU and HMIT in the F-16 is generating a lot of interest, from overseas and in the U.S. The ANG/AFRC is studying extending the fielding of the system in other F-16 versions, such as the Block 40/42, and the active-duty U.S. Air Force is also closely examining the upgrades.

Aware for forward controllers

As part of the Aware product line Raytheon has been selected to supply two items for the U.S. Army’s Air Soldier program that equips rotary-wing crews for operations away from their helicopters. These are a compact, lightweight soldier-worn computer that handles the input and output of several systems, such as communications, and a wrist-worn personal display.

Leveraging that technology, Raytheon has schemed a system that uses these components in conjunction with other technology, including the HMIT sight, for application to the JTAC role. With the combined system the JTAC can see marked targets in the monocular sight and is also able to designate new targets by aligning crosshairs in the sight with the target. The system automatically generates targeting-quality coordinates on command. Using the touch-screen wrist display the JTAC can add other information and then send the information and coordinates digitally to close-support aircraft in the form of a nine-line brief.

Under the current process the JTAC has to radio through the nine-line using voice comms, with all the attendant difficulties that might incur, such as the transposing of digits. Furthermore, in some situations the JTAC may be in a covert position and not wish to give away their position by talking. Raytheon’s voiceless JTAC proposal has obvious applications to special forces operations. Another benefit is that the JTAC’s position will automatically show up on the aircraft’s tactical display, greatly reducing the chance of inadvertent fratricide. Later in 2013 Raytheon will demonstrate the JTAC system to the U.S. Air Force and is expecting an RFP before the end of the year.

Here at the Paris Air Show Raytheon is displaying the Aware technologies in a connected environment, with a half-dome simulator that demonstrates the JTAC solution. Targets that are designated by the JTAC system can be seen on an example of the F-16 center pedestal screen. Also on show is a larger vehicle-mounted tablet display that can be removed for dismounted operations.