Lockheed Martin has "cloned" a circuit card in the F-16 stores-management system to demonstrate a method of solving the problem of out-of-production parts in military avionics. The technique involves developing a software model of the card's behaviour, then programming a current-technology replacement board.

The US Air Force awarded a contract for the work to Lockheed Martin, which estimates that cloning could reduce operating and support costs by 10-15% by reducing stocks of out-of-production parts and avoiding expensive redesigns of long-service-life weapon systems.

The process begins with a simulation model of the obsolete card, developed using the industry-standard VHSIC Hardware Description Language, says project manager Jim Houston. This model is refined and tested against the original board, to produce an "executable specification", which is provided to the avionics supplier tasked with programming the replacement card.

The demonstration involves a circuit card responsible for 1553B-databus communications in the F-16 stores-management system, which has obsolete components whose replacement normally requires an expensive rewrite of the aircraft's operational flight-program (OFP). "We can't afford to rework the OFP," says Houston.

The process will allow the military to stock software descriptions of circuit cards, rather than components, says Houston, and employ them to create replacement boards as required, using the latest-available electronics technology. The US Department of Defense already has a large database of similar test models which could be used in the clone replacement of other obsolete avionics.

Lockheed Martin plans to make the cloning process available to its avionics suppliers, while a similar design environment will be used for its Joint Strike Fighter.

Source: Flight International