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Proceedings Paper

Night vision imaging systems design, integration, and verification in military fighter aircraft
Author(s): Roberto Sabatini; Mark A. Richardson; Maurizio Cantiello; Mario Toscano; Pietro Fiorini; Huamin Jia; David Zammit-Mangion
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Paper Abstract

This paper describes the developmental and testing activities conducted by the Italian Air Force Official Test Centre (RSV) in collaboration with Alenia Aerospace, Litton Precision Products and Cranfiled University, in order to confer the Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS) capability to the Italian TORNADO IDS (Interdiction and Strike) and ECR (Electronic Combat and Reconnaissance) aircraft. The activities consisted of various Design, Development, Test and Evaluation (DDT&E) activities, including Night Vision Goggles (NVG) integration, cockpit instruments and external lighting modifications, as well as various ground test sessions and a total of eighteen flight test sorties. RSV and Litton Precision Products were responsible of coordinating and conducting the installation activities of the internal and external lights. Particularly, an iterative process was established, allowing an in-site rapid correction of the major deficiencies encountered during the ground and flight test sessions. Both single-ship (day/night) and formation (night) flights were performed, shared between the Test Crews involved in the activities, allowing for a redundant examination of the various test items by all participants. An innovative test matrix was developed and implemented by RSV for assessing the operational suitability and effectiveness of the various modifications implemented. Also important was definition of test criteria for Pilot and Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) workload assessment during the accomplishment of various operational tasks during NVG missions. Furthermore, the specific technical and operational elements required for evaluating the modified helmets were identified, allowing an exhaustive comparative evaluation of the two proposed solutions (i.e., HGU-55P and HGU-55G modified helmets). The results of the activities were very satisfactory. The initial compatibility problems encountered were progressively mitigated by incorporating modifications both in the front and rear cockpits at the various stages of the test campaign. This process allowed a considerable enhancement of the TORNADO NVIS configuration, giving a good medium-high level NVG operational capability to the aircraft. Further developments also include the design, integration and test of internal/external lighting for the Italian TORNADO "Mid Life Update" (MLU) and other programs, such as the AM-X aircraft internal/external lights modification/testing and the activities addressing low-altitude NVG operations with fast jets (e.g., TORNADO, AM-X, MB-339CD), a major issue being the safe ejection of aircrew with NVG and NVG modified helmets. Two options have been identified for solving this problem: namely the modification of the current Gentex HGU-55 helmets and the design of a new helmet incorporating a reliable NVG connection/disconnection device (i.e., a mechanical system fully integrated in the helmet frame), with embedded automatic disconnection capability in case of ejection.

Paper Details

Date Published: 9 May 2012
PDF: 26 pages
Proc. SPIE 8439, Optical Sensing and Detection II, 84390R (9 May 2012); doi: 10.1117/12.915720
Show Author Affiliations
Roberto Sabatini, Cranfield Univ. (United Kingdom)
Mark A. Richardson, Cranfield Univ. (United Kingdom)
Maurizio Cantiello, Italian Ministry of Defense (Italy)
Mario Toscano, Italian Ministry of Defense (Italy)
Pietro Fiorini, Italian Ministry of Defense (Italy)
Huamin Jia, Cranfield Univ. (United Kingdom)
David Zammit-Mangion, Cranfield Univ. (United Kingdom)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8439:
Optical Sensing and Detection II
Francis Berghmans; Anna Grazia Mignani; Piet De Moor, Editor(s)

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