Electronics & Computers

Textile Capacitor

The Air Force (AF) is evolving from a Cold War-era force with a large, containment- focused infrastructure to a smaller, more responsive and affordable Air and Space Expeditionary Force. In support of this transformation, AFRL is developing affordable, sustainable, and scalable force applications, including directed energy weapons, kinetic energy weapons, electromagnetic guns and launchers, and high-power microwaves.

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Adaptable Miniature Initiation System Technology

The ever-changing nature of warfare presents constant challenges to weapon system designers, who must carefully consider various perspectives of mutual importance. Specifically, designers must address constraints associated with newly developed aircraft, such as the F-22 and F-35, which carry their stores internally and thus have size limitations on their payloads. Weapons designers must also recognize the weight of political pressures that fuel concerns about a given weapon's potential to cause collateral damage to civilian populations. At the same time, they must respond adequately to warfighter demand for the flexibility to employ the most effective weapon against a given target.

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Collapsing and Closing Unmanned Air Vehicle Swarms

AFRL researchers are exploring an adaptive and reconfigurable unmanned air vehicle (UAV) swarm configuration known as "collapsing and closing UAV swarms." This approach to developing UAV swarms is suitable for a number of multifunction radio frequency (RF) applications in challenging environments such as urban and mountainous regions. Figures 1a-1c illustrate the basic approach. In Figure 1a, a long-range search UAV swarm collectively forms a scanning RF aperture. The swarm's scanning RF aperture interrogates a region of interest to detect high-clutter, discrete objects such as buildings or mountains. As depicted in Figure 1b, once the swarm detects these large, obscuring objects, it "collapses and closes" in on the region between the objects. This allows the swarm configuration to interrogate the embedded channels between the buildings or mountains to look for signal leakage points within these large objects, and once detected, these leakage points facilitate cavity interrogation.1 After the swarm has finished interrogating the embedded channels and cavities, it reconfigures itself for RF long-range remote sensing with regard to the next region of interest, as illustrated by Figure 1c.

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Eddy Current Inspection System

AFRL manufacturing technology engineers, working with personnel from the 76th Maintenance Wing's Software and Propulsion Maintenance Groups at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center (OC-ALC) and Wyle Laboratories (formerly Veridian Engineering), delivered a major configuration upgrade and improved the inspection process for the Air Force (AF) Eddy Current Inspection System (ECIS) at OC-ALC, Tinker Air Force Base (AFB), Oklahoma. These ECIS improvements are part of AFRL's Engine Rotor Life Extension program. With investments exceeding $80 million, the ECIS program addresses an AFRL initiative to extend the useful life of turbine engine components and reduce the cost of replacing aging engine components in the AF's fighter and bomber fleets.

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Low-Cost Transmit/Receive Module for Satellite Control and Communications

A multidisciplinary team led by AFRL scientists is developing a geodesic dome phased-array antenna (GDPAA) for a proposed future Air Force (AF) technology demonstration.1 AFRL is also developing a second-generation S-band electronic scanning array (ESA) proof-of-concept (POC) panel to support the demonstration efforts.

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The Next Frontier of Networking—The Airborne Network

It is the next frontier of networking—a frontier where communication nodes may move at Mach speeds, wireless line of sight covers hundreds of miles, and weather affects communications capabilities such as chat and e-mail. It is the airborne network (AN). In the coming years, the military services and commercial aviation enterprises will internetwork their respective fleets of airborne assets. For the military, these assets range from unmanned aircraft, smart munitions, and fast-moving fighter aircraft to "air stationary" tankers and slow-moving cargo planes. This fast-paced, ever-changing environment presents challenges across all network layers—from basic connectivity and linking/routing challenges to management of the proposed global network. Accordingly, military entities define the AN as the sum total of all capabilities required for conducting airborne network-centric operations to shorten the kill chain and facilitate the synchronized flow of relevant information by extending the Global Information Grid (GIG) to the airborne domain (see figure).

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Weapon Data Link Demonstration

One of the US Air Force's goals is to reduce the time needed to strike timesensitive targets, thus minimizing the adversary's perceived mobility advantage and leaving concealment as that enemy's primary defensive measure. One potential way to meet this challenge relies on a capability to redirect and update weapons with new target coordinates while they are in flight—a solution that requires weapons developers to outfit weapons with a data link enabling communications between warfighters operating in the air and on the ground. This Weapon Data Link (WDL) approach would allow the warfighter to directly communicate with and control air-launched weapons to strike moving or otherwise time-sensitive targets, while continually gathering information about the weapon's performance against those targets. The scenario could involve something as simple as a weapon communicating its position and system status back to the release aircraft, or something as complex as a weapon operating in the Global Information Grid (GIG), wherein a secondary ground/air controller assumes the weapon's control after a positive handoff from the release platform, with the weapon's sensor and video information autonomously distributed throughout the GIG.

Figure 1. Depiction of WDLAFRL engineers recently accomplished a critical step in demonstrating the WDL approach. Held at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia, the demonstration's primary objective was to show that two WDL terminals, connected to Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) laptop computers, could successfully transmit and receive J-series messages within a Link-16 network (see Figures 1 and 2). The network included a legacy Fighter Data Link (FDL) terminal provided by the 46th Test Squadron (Eglin AFB, Florida), two WDL terminals, and local aircraft equipped with Link-16 radios.

Engineers from AFRL and Rockwell Collins partnered to develop the 50 in3, software-defined WDL radio used in the demonstration. This radio provides multiple operators with the flexibility to port and upload communication waveforms. The device has three software waveforms loaded into its memory; the operator can switch between these waveforms as required. Although the test team limited this demonstration to Link-16 operation, future demonstrations will highlight the radio's capacity to receive and transmit ultra-high-frequency satellite communications and line-of-sight waveforms as well. The TACP Modernization program supplied the TACPCASS (Close Air Support System) software, laptop computers, and a trained operator. During the first part of the demonstration, one TACP computer generated target coordinates and transmitted them as J-series messages from one WDL terminal to the other. The TACP-CASS software on the second TACP computer interpreted and displayed the transmitted messages as target tracks. This test showed that messages generated by the TACP-CASS software could be correctly interpreted by the two networked WDL terminals and that this information could be shared between them. In the second phase of the demonstration, test engineers integrated the FDL terminal into the network. One of the TACP computers transmitted target information via Link-16 network protocol to the FDL terminal, which correctly interpreted and displayed the information on the Improved Multilink Translator and Display System (IMTDS). In the next phase, both computers correctly received, interpreted, and displayed target messages transmitted by the FDL terminal. In a final demonstration of system capability, several aircraft from Langley AFB joined the network for short periods of time, transmitting information that was subsequently displayed on both the TACP and IMTDS computers.

Figure 2. Setup of WDL demonstration equipmentAll demonstration participants gained valuable insight into using Link-16 networks for passing J-series messages between aircraft, weapons, and ground troops. The test team did not intend for the demonstration to provide an in-depth look at integrating weapons into battlefield networks. Rather, its purpose was to provide a rudimentary understanding of how an aircraft, weapon, and TACP could join and operate in an existing Link-16 network, while specifically demonstrating the capability of a software-defined WDL radio to transmit and receive J-series messages. The demonstration achieved its twofold purpose, both providing overall insight regarding the system and establishing the flexibility of a softwaredefined WDL radio in processing J-series messages within a representative network.

Ms. Michelle White, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at http://www.afrl.af.mil/techconn/index.htm. Reference document MN-H-05-14.

Reference

1 "China-America: The Great Game." Interview With Lt Gen Liu Yazhou. Eurasian Review of Geopolitics, Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso/Cassan Press-HK, Jan 05.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Data acquisition and handling, Personnel, Military aircraft
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RASCAL Facility

AFRL's Radiation and Scattering Compact Antenna Laboratory (RASCAL) enables researchers to develop and evaluate advanced aperture technologies that support electronic warfare, radar, communication, and navigation— technologies supplementing a variety of applications as the "eyes and ears" of the warfighter. Current research efforts are concentrated on developing relatively small and inexpensive broadband, multifunctional antennas, as well as conformal and structurally integrated antennas for manned and unmanned air vehicles. Using the RASCAL facility, researchers can perform the necessary fabrication, simulation, testing, and measurement of aperture technologies.

Posted in: Briefs, Electronics & Computers, Antennas, Test facilities, Military aircraft
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Switching Chassis Enables Ethernet Control of 3U Modules in LXI Environment

Designed to enable the use of PXI test modules in a LAN extensions for Instrumentation (LXI) environment, Pickering Interfaces' (Woburn, MA) 60-100 and 60-101 chassis are fully compliant with Functional Class C of the LXI standard. They allow 3U PXI switching modules to be supported in a LXI-compliant environment. The 60- 100 is suitable for modules occupying 7 or fewer slots, and the 60-101 can support up to 13 slots.

Posted in: Products, Products, Electronics & Computers
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A Software Development Process for Small-Scale Embedded Systems

Developing software for small-scale embedded applications is different from developing large-scale software applications. Large-scale applications use commercially available ‘one fits all’ software development solutions that are difficult to scale downward and usually miss the desired process goals. In many cases, developing a small-scale software application development process within an existing corporate environment is quicker, less expensive, and results in superior developer productivity and product quality.

Posted in: Articles, Articles, Electronics & Computers, Software, Embedded software, Product development
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