Base, Navy collaborate on weapons system software

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
For the last several years, software engineers at Robins have collaborated with the U.S. Navy on various projects, including one that involves a familiar weapons system.

One unique ongoing partnership capitalizes on radar system similarities between the Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle and Navy F/A-18 Hornet, the aircraft also used by the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron.

It all started when teams of software engineers from the 402nd Software Maintenance Group would travel to the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., to work extended temporary duty as part of its F/A-18 APG-73 Radar Operational Flight Program workload.

"In order to meet radar OFP development and testing requirements and continue the level of support for future joint software development efforts, the Navy agreed on the need for a Radar Test Bench at Robins," said Jon Wright, the 577th Software Maintenance Squadron F/A-18 radar project manager.

This testing capability was delivered here in October 2010. Raytheon was originally responsible for creating the radar system. The APG-73 radar offers many capabilities, including an all-weather, search-and-track sensor that provides the flexibility needed for air-to-air and air-to-surface missions.

"Its arrival increased the overall radar OFP development and testing capability of Robins, further strengthening the successful partnership between the Air Force and Navy," added Wright.

Basically, the radar testing bench is a series of instrumentation systems which enable the software development team to generate radar target simulation, perform troubleshooting and technical investigations, and provide overall radar software engineering development and support.

The similar radar systems on the F-15 and F/A-18 use the JOVIAL programming language, which can generate high resolution and ground maps, making use of image-correlation algorithms to enhance accuracy for the pilot. Signal processors are similar as well.

Multiple on-screen displays inside one lab allow users to recreate what a pilot sees while inside an aircraft. The software has the capability to do such things as identify aircraft, with this information sent from various radar dishes located outside the building complex.

The test bench allows for the development of code, the capability to load and test it, and essentially allows its users to ensure the software is performing as it should. It is here where the process simulates what occurs during a real-world mission.

"Working with the Navy is a mutual benefit for us," explained Chris Overcash, 577th SMXS Radar OFP Flight director. "Overall, what we're trying to do is protect pilots and aircraft from enemy threats and ensure mission success. We need to be able to interpret and relay accurate information to them."

"It's a mutual benefit by doing the work here where everybody is a winner. You are not only able to develop better quality software, but it's also a benefit to the warfighter and taxpayer," he said.