Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

FINLAND HAS BOUGHT several TEAC cockpit video-recorders to allow training to begin on the McDonnell Douglas (MDC) F-18, after its first aircraft were delivered without recorders because of numerous failures experienced with the planned Precision Echo (PE) equipment.

Failure rates of 75-90% have been experienced with, PE's WR-818 8mm video-cassette recorder, part of the F-18 cockpit video-recorder system (CVRS). Two videos in each aircraft store images from Loral Fairchild cameras on the F-18's head-up and multi-function displays.

Santa Clara, California-based PE was awarded the $13 million recorder contract in December 1994, with deliveries to begin by the end of May 1995 to support training for the deployment of Navy F-18s in September for operations over Bosnia.

An USN document obtained by Flight International states that systems delivered to fleet squadrons in September "...experienced numerous recorder failures shortly after installation". An improved recorder developed by PE was delivered to MDC in late October and failed on the first flight of a Finnish F-18D, forcing the USN to suspend deliveries of the redesigned unit, the document says. Four F-18Ds were delivered to Finland in early November without recorders installed.

A USN/MDC/PE "Tiger Team" was formed in November to investigate the failures and come up with a sixth redesign of the recorder. No details are available on the progress of the redesign. PE, meanwhile, is believed to have delivered few of the 490 recorders scheduled for hand-over by the end of October. Despite this, the USN exercised its option for a second batch of 490 recorders early in December.

The USN has said that the lack of a CVRS would have a "significant adverse impact" on the F-18's mission capability. The system is used for training, reconnaissance and battle-damage assessment. In January, the USN invoked the threat of "reduced mission capability" over Bosnia, to over-ride a requirement that PE stop work on the contract, while the US General Accounting Office considered a protest from losing bidder TEAC.

Montebello, California-based TEAC lost the protest, but has continued to lobby the USN to be appointed a second source of F-18 recorders. Its V-80AB-F recorder is fitted to US Marine Corps F-18s on Bosnia operations. The company loaned recorders to a USN F-18 squadron scheduled to deploy on the aircraft-carrier USS Nimitz, and affected by failures with the PE equipment, but in late November the USN ordered the units to be removed.

TEAC admits that its recorder, at almost $9,900, is more expensive than PE's $5,150 unit, which uses consumer video-recorder components, but says that the lower price per repair quoted to the Navy, $695 compared with PE's $2,050, would result in significant life-cycle-cost savings.

TEAC claims that Finland and Switzerland want to cancel their PE recorders, but are concerned about termination penalties.

Source: Flight International