The US Army is upgrading a fleet of Sikorsky UH-60Ls with a glass cockpit layout similar to the UH-60M, but the newly-minted UH-60V fleet's mission computers are still restricted to a single-core processor.
Northrop Grumman, in conjunction with Redstone Defense Systems, is delivering the digital cockpit upgrade to create the UH-60V variant. The company advertised its multi-core processor FlightPro Gen III mission computers as part of the UH-60V's new avionics suite, which promised excess processing power for future growth. FlightPro Gen's multi-core processors would enable a significant leap in computing power, but the army is taking a cautious approach. While processing growth capability exists, the army is restricting the UH-60V to a single-core processing standard.
"Because not all software functionality has been completed, we do not know the amount of excess processing power that we will have,” the army tells FlightGlobal. “However we do not anticipate any processing power issues under the current design."
The army is working with the US Federal Aviation Administration to understand how the service can use multi-core formats for flight critical information, Jeff Langhout, acting director of the army's Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, said last week during the annual Army Aviation Association of America mission systems solutions summit. Rockwell Collins is far along that process with the FAA on some of the company’s commercial opportunities, Langhout says.
“The trick there, when you’re processing flight critical information, it has to be a deterministic environment, meaning we know exactly where a piece of data is going to be exactly when we need to — no room for error,” Langhout says. “On a multi-core processor there’s a lot of sharing going on across the cores, so right now we’re not able to do that.”
“Can the Victor model with the current multi-core processor, is it going to be able to use all the cores to process all the flight critical information? The answer is no,” he adds. “Is it always going to be that way? No.”
Restricting the UH-60V to a single-core processor does not limit the helicopter’s ability to perform, but a technical glitch with a multi-core processor could cause disastrous effects. Flight critical information coming through the processor tells the helicopter how to manoeuvre and controls rotor blade functions, Langhout says.
“All of those things need extra attention to make sure they’re robustly designed,” he says. “We want to make sure the software is robustly designed and so we’re trying to keep it as simple.”