Ian Sheppard/LONDON

Smiths Industries is preparing to deliver the first equipment for an open systems avionics demonstration programme. This will place it at the leading edge of developments in commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology, where the military is set to benefit from the latest advances in computing.

Under the $14 million contract, awarded by Boeing last October as part of the US Marine Corps' Open Systems Core Avionics Requirements (OSCAR) programme, the UK company is updating the weapons management and control system of the US Marine Corps' Boeing/British Aerospace AV-8B Harrier IIs, replacing the previous "Mil-Spec" equipment.

The main advantage of COTS is the ability to update systems easily, with "technology insertions" costing around one-tenth of that of new proprietary components. Under COTS, integrators take a more central role - a trend which has attracted commercial vendors.

Smiths says that, in July, the focus of the work will move to the US Naval Air Warfare Centre at China Lake, California, from Boeing's St Louis plant. Flight testing is to start in August on an in-service AV-8B, says Smiths.

Glen Logan of the US Department of Defense's Open Systems Joint Task Force says that OSCAR development work will bring attributes such as "lethality, survivability, safety, and real-time battle management" to the US Department of Defense's initiative to develop a new Joint Technical Architecture (JTA), covering command and control and airborne systems.

Another JTA-related project, which uses a TAV-8 training aircraft, also at China Lake, is the Open System Ada Technology (OSAT) demonstrator. OSAT is part of Boeing's Bold Stroke programme, which in March 1997 saw the first flight with a flight control system using a commercial processor and the latest version of the Ada programming language, Ada95.

The OSAT II programme, which started in January, aims to incorporate features such as the Java network computing language and the use of multiple processors. Don Winter, software manager for Bold Stroke, says that he hopes a demonstration flight will "-be pulled off in mid-1998".

COTS progress to date has seen Northrop Grumman begin to install its new symmetric multiprocessing computer on the US Navy's Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, while the General Atomics Predator unmanned air vehicle was also an early COTS-based system.

Source: Flight International