Robins lab to support C-5 software, hardware upgrades

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — The C-5 System Integration Lab here has been prepping 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 Corp. 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 is in flight. It allows the crew to see where danger spots such as thunderstorms, tornadoes and high winds are.

The C-5 Galaxy’s current robust testing environment at Robins includes a facility that uses a salvaged cockpit section from a C-5 that crashed at Dover Air Force Base, 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 is 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, 578 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.

That radome, which took about a week and a half to fabricate, simulates the functionality of an actual C-5 nose radome. The radome’s shape was formed using a wood mold, sealed with joint compound, covered and sanded, painted and applied with fiberglass epoxy.

The radome was designed and built in-house by a team led by Chris Causey, C-5 SIL tech lead, along with electronics engineers Andy Adams, John Crutchfield, Brandy Herrmann, Tony Kirksey, David Ogden and Emile Sumner, and computer scientist Todd Morris. Also assisting was painter Jason Blount with the 402nd Maintenance Support Group.

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

A team got together in advance of testing to build the radome, which will ensure the C-5 SIL will be ready by the fall.

Eliminating the major constraint of building the radome at Robins 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.

The AoP “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, 578 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 windshear 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,” said Paris. “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 onboard 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.

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