Naval Aviation Focuses on Information Technology

February 11, 2015
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Software is vying with hardware for upgrade priorities.

Information technology systems, elements and methodologies are becoming more of a factor in U.S. naval aviation. Virtual capabilities are supplanting physical training, and new architectures may allow faster incorporation of new technologies.

Some of these approaches were outlined in a panel discussion at West 2015, being held in San Diego, February 10-12. Vice Adm. David A. Dunaway, USN, commander, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), was blunt in his assessment of the current NAVAIR budget environment.

“The current cost profile is prohibitive,” he declared. “It’s a going-out-of-business profile.”

He called for an open architecture, which he described as the key to NAVAIR modernization. When it is achieved—in both a hardware and software perspective—NAVAIR will be able to modernize more quickly. Having an open architecture processor will allow information technology companies to plug into it and demonstrate their products.

NAVAIR already has incorporated an automated carrier landing system that simplifies the process for pilots. As a result, they do not need to practice carrier landings ashore as much as they used to. And, NAVAIR is working to introduce simulated enemy aircraft into a cockpit situational awareness system, so pilots could train for air combat without having to face actual aggressor aircraft.

Above all, NAVAIR must not develop its systems using a stovepipe mentality. The admiral noted that it builds platforms along the lines of program silos. But the Navy does not fight like an F-18, he said, offering instead that it fights like a carrier strike force. It needs to proceed along those lines, and he said his office is hard at work writing technical standards for warfighting capabilities.


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