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Sabatini R.,RMIT University | Richardson M.A.,Cranfield University | Cantiello M.,Italian Ministry of Defense Air Staff | Toscano M.,Italian Ministry of Defense Air Staff | Fiorini P.,Italian Ministry of Defense Air Staff
Aerospace Science and Technology | Year: 2013

This paper describes the research and experimental flight test activities conducted by the Italian Air Force Official Test Centre (RSV) in collaboration with industry (Alenia Aeronautica and Litton Precision Products) and with Academia, 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 included 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 design and 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 RSV and Alenia 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 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. Other relevant issues to be accounted for in these new developments are the helmet dimensions and weight, the NVG usable FOV as a function of eye-relief distance, and helmet centre of gravity (moment arms) with and without NVG (impact on aircrew fatigue during training and real operational missions). © 2013 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

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