PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – The Navy Unmanned Aviation Program Office (PMA-268) held its first lab integration event June 28-30 at Patuxent River to demonstrate how the ground control station of the MQ-25 will command the unmanned aircraft in the carrier environment, the Naval Air Systems Command said June 30.
The government team and its two key industry partners led efforts at the System Test and Integration Lab, where Lockheed Martin’s GCS first checked the hardware-in-the-loop air vehicle from Boeing. Hardware-in-the-loop uses aircraft hardware and software to provide a realistic substitute for the aerial vehicle.
“This achievement is the result of weeks of preparation and dedication by highly skilled teams,” said TJ Maday, MQ-25 Labs and Integration Manager. “Bringing multiple systems together is never easy, but the joint government-industry team that came together, understood the issues and found solutions made this event a success. We learned how the system as a whole works and that early learning and discovery are key to moving the program forward. »
Maday said the team set out to send a basic command between the ground control station and the hardware-in-the-loop system. To achieve this goal, Boeing and Lockheed Martin needed to provide the government with working software to exercise the GCS, the hardware system, and the network components that enable connectivity between the systems.
“The team reached the initial goal ahead of schedule and used the remaining time to exercise more functionality, such as sending taxi orders,” Maday said. “They also simulated a lost link that checked for the proper GCS display flags, which is a critical feature for ensuring network connectivity between development environments.”
This fall, the team plans to simulate a full flight using the hardware-in-the-loop air vehicle and will also demonstrate switching “link” connections to the aircraft as well as adding ‘other aircraft hardware and software into the mix.
“It’s great to see the combined team working side-by-side, learning and ultimately demonstrating success,” said PMA-268 program manager Captain Sam Messer. “This is how we get to the IOC [initial operational capability] — we integrate, test and learn early and at pace.
The MD-5 GCS is part of the Unmanned Aviation Mission Control System, the system of systems required for command and control of the MQ-25A. The UMCS also includes changes to carrier and shore site infrastructure, Navy-produced ancillary equipment, and integration with command, control, communications, computer and intelligence systems.
The MQ-25 will be the world’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft to provide aerial refueling capability to the fleet.