Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quick turnaround in wartime

Posted by John McHale

Many of our stories this past year have covered how U.S. Department of Defense leaders are pushing aside funding for long-term programs to get equipment and technology into the field quickly to help the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- especially for technology to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Developing technology for mission critical applications is not typically done over night, and it taxes engineers to find a viable solution in a short time while still ensuring the reliability necessary for harsh environments

I had the opportunity last week to visit engineers at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Orlando, Fla., to learn more about a quick-turn around effort they did for electronics aboard the U.S. Army Apache helicopter.

The Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) tasked the Lockheed engineers to design the Apache Video from Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Interoperability Teaming -- Level 2 (VUIT-2) program last year. Lockheed engineers completed the system in just over 10 months.

Production engineers in the Lockheed manufacturing facility told me it was the fastest they ever had to turn around a program from start to finish, but now they know they can do it. They said that the lessons they learned will he applied to other programs they are working on to possibly speed up the production cycle.

The VUIT-2 essentially enables video to be transferred to ground units for improved situational awareness. It will also be used in conjunction with unmanned aircraft, Lockheed Martin engineers said. The VUIT-2 does not interfere with the helicopter's avionics, which helped shorten the design cycle as well, they said.

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