PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– The third and final day of the Sea-Air-Space Expo Aug. 4 featured more updates and successes from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) programs focusing on wins during the past year in unmanned aviation, innovative fleet support capabilities, and defense technologies.
NAWCAD and the Blue Water UAS
Tony Schmidt, Director of Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation, and Demonstration for Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), gave a presentation on their recent innovations in aviation, specifically highlighting the recent successful testing of the Blue Water Unmanned Air System (UAS).
Schmidt said NAWCAD was tasked with finding a way to lessen the number of helicopters needed to bring parts back and forth aboard ships due to “about 80 percent of the parts taken aboard ships weighing less than 10 pounds.” Out of that idea, NAWCAD developed a plan and eventually partnered with the industry and began developing the Blue Water UAS. Blue Water was designed specifically for ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore, and shore-to-ship resupply missions.
The Blue Water UAS was tested in February aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), and a video of the test mission was shown to the audience at SAS.
Schmidt said the Blue Water flew ship-to-ship in July from USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) to USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO-188).
“In nine months, we went from a prototype to demonstrating a ship-to-ship capability,” Schmidt said. “Pretty exciting, pretty fast.”
See Schmidt’s full presentation here.
Jerry Swift, director for NAWCAD’s AIRWorks group, described the highly specific and flexible way his group works inside NAWCAD and throughout the command.
Embedded in NAWCAD, AIRWorks is a prototyping and systems integrator established in 2014. AIRWorks is currently running 30 projects across the command, Swift said
One of the many recent AIRWorks successes Swift detailed was the replacement of the MH-60S Seahawk gunner seat, an issue that more than two years ago was identified as the Navy’s No. 1 safety concern. Due to the former gunner seat construction, aircrews using the seat were experiencing long-term health issues, including back problems from having to sit in the uncomfortable seat for long periods. The task was taken to AIRWorks, where a task force was formed. AIRWorks developed the initial prototype, performed all the testing and certification, and had the replacement seat ready within a year turnaround time. Within three years, Swift said, they were able to “reset” the entire fleet with the new seat.
Swift also pointed to the increase in additive manufacturing, and the ability where the Navy can use 3-D printers to design and “print” replacement parts that would otherwise have to be mass-produced. Some of these parts, in some cases as small as a bolt or Rubik’s Cube, could render an aircraft grounded until a replacement part is available. Now, with additive manufacturing, “those parts could be brought to bear rapidly,” Swift said.
View Swift’s full presentation here.
Advanced Tactical Aircraft Protection Systems Program Update
Col. Tamara Campbell, Advanced Tactical Aircraft Protection Systems Program manager, wrapped up the presentations Wednesday with a look inside the defensive capabilities for aircraft being developed by the team, aiming to deliver “affordable airborne defensive electronic warfare self-protection solutions to enable the global warfighter success against an evolving adversary.”
Campbell said the program office manages 20 programs on about 1,500 aircraft across 25 Navy type/model/series aircraft and 33 foreign military sales aircraft, as well as an Integrated Project Team (IPT) that supports the rotary, fixed-wing, and expendables and dispenser community.
After describing the numerous capabilities the program office is responsible for, Campbell said the team is looking to form partnerships with emerging technologies, including unmanned systems, to further develop defense technologies to keep in step with and ahead of emerging threats.
View Campbell’s entire presentation here.