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Super Stallions Get COTS Solution for PFDs

Removable Do-All Tablet Comes to the Super Stallion

The Navy just got a new cost-effective panel upgrade for their CH-53E Super Stallions in the form of the Mission Data Extender, the "first ever fully integrated, hard-mounted commercial off-the-shelf tablet functioning as a primary mission display on a naval aircraft".

The H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office found a way to integrate a pair of panel-mounted multi-function color displays for use as a replacement to legacy Smart Multi-Function Color Displays, or SMFCDs. The displays present hover cueing, ownship position, threat reports, route/waypoint information, moving maps, and real-time Forward Looking Infrared. The PMA-261 Avionics Integrated Project Team worked with a collection of partners including the Tactical Mobility IPT at Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD), fleet, and industry partners, to ensure the Mission Data Extender is a sufficiently hardened, reliable package to replace the older SMFCD. The end result? A program that meets spec - without the crazy price tags associated with ad-hoc procurement for a niche system.

“This is a huge step toward open architecture, innovative solutions to mission-data presentation,” said LCDR Neil Whitesell, PMA-261 In-Service Avionics Systems project officer. “We did it at low cost, fast, and we provided a major capability improvement to the warfighter.” 

Developers used a "novel mix" components from around the service, drawing from commercial and government equipment. The system starts with a Governmental Off-The-Shelf avionics bus reader developed by the China Lake TacMo IPT, and a Commercial OTS Miniature Encrypted Wireless Link and Marine Air-Ground Tablet (MAGTAB) provided by Kranze Technology Solutions. In order to use the MAGTAB, a cockpit instrument panel was sourced from industry partner Integrated Consultants Incorporated. With them, the MDE team developed the first-ever permanent primary instrument panel mount for a COTS tablet in the naval aviation enterprise. The resulting Informant Mount provides for continuous tablet charging, quick mount and dismount of the pilots's MAGTABs, and swap-in/swap-out interchangeability with legacy SMFCDs. Much like a civilian EFB, the Tablet can be taken out of the aircraft for use in mission planning, assault package briefing, mission execution, and section debrief without the need for removable media.

“The CH-53E now has an aircraft-powered, WiFi-based mission display capable of seamless interoperability with several carry-on data terminals, and capable of walk-on/walk-off expeditionary mission planning,” LCDR Whitesell said. In addition, the integration allows for rapid capability insertion through Modular Open Systems Approach concepts, he added.



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