Germany’s new transports to fly hands-free at 500ft using passive navigation system

EADS is to demonstrate an advanced low-level autopilot for the Airbus Military A400M tactical transport to Germany early next year, and hopes to attract additional nations to select the system, which will enable hands-free operation at an altitude of 500ft (150m).

To be showcased in Toulouse, France, using a newly installed cockpit mock-up, the terrain-masking low-level flight (TMLLF) system is being developed by EADS Military Air Systems to equip all 60 A400Ms on order for the German air force. Once operational, it will enable the aircraft to be flown down to 500ft with no input from its pilots, including at night and in bad weather. The design also incorporates an automatic route-planning capability, which the company says employs energy management techniques to optimise the platform’s terrain-masking characteristics.

energy management 
The system uses energy management to optimise terrain masking

The passive terrain-masking system is also scheduled for integration across Europe’s wider A400m fleet for use as low as 150ft without an autopilot function. A safe navigation route will be shown in the aircraft’s head-up displays, with its position and advisory cues illustrated using a 3D “tunnel” graphic.

Once operated in automatic mode for Germany, an aircraft will follow a “snaked” mission path calculated to steer it around known surface-to-air missile sites and probable locations for man-portable air-defence systems. The TMLLF system will also be able to replan a mission in flight if the A400M receives updated threat information via a multifunctional information distribution system datalink, says EADS project leader Frank Schindler.

The 2007 demonstration will be conducted using a Class Two cockpit mock-up, which is to support cockpit avionics, ergonomics, lighting and other mission equipment tests before the first flight of an A400M in January 2008.

The TMLLF system is to undergo flight testing in 2010, with service entry for Germany set for March 2012 under a production order worth €120 million ($154 million). Preliminary and critical design reviews have already been completed “with no action outstanding”, says Schindler, who believes the technology could also be integrated with other transport types or unmanned air vehicles.

■ EADS expects to receive a contract soon for the A400M’s mission planning and restitution system from Europe’s OCCAR procurement agency, potentially on behalf of all launch nations, bar the UK.

Source: Flight International