Navy considers upgrading AV-8B jump jet with small-form-factor Link 16 MIDS terminals
RIDGECREST, Calif., 22 Dec. 2014. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II jump jet has provided a substantial avionics engineering challenge since the aircraft entered service in 1985. The small aircraft's tight spaces can make avionics upgrades difficult.
One recent challenge has been equipping the AV-8B with U.S. military Link 16 tactical data exchange networking capability. The aircraft simply doesn't have the room onboard to install Link 16 Multifunction Information Distribution System (MIDS) terminals ... that is, until now.
Navy avionics experts have acknowledged that electronics miniaturization has yielded promising small-form-factor Link 16 terminal products, and it's time to find out any of them is suitable for the venerable AV-8B vertical- and short-takeoff jet fighter-bomber.
Officials of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake Naval Weapons Station in Ridgecrest, Calif., issued a presolicitation to authorize a study to determine if today's small-form-factor Link 16 MIDS terminals can fit on the AV-8B.
The AV-8B is a vertical- and short-takeoff fighter-bomber designed to operate from aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, and undeveloped land bases. It provides the Marine Corps with extra ground-attack air power during amphibious operations.
The presolicitation issued on 26 Nov. (N6893615R0049) would authorize the AV-8B's original manufacturer, the Boeing Co., to conduct a technical demonstration to confirm if at least one of the available small-form-factor Link-16 products can be installed in the AV-8B using existing aircraft electrical power, antennas, and computer processing.
The AV-8B was designed original by McDonnell Douglas Corp. in St. Louis. The Boeing Co. acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997, and now the Boeing Aerospace Operations Inc. subsidiary in Oklahoma City, Okla., is responsible for the AV-8B and its avionics.
The upcoming contract to Boeing to demonstrate Link 16 MIDS capability on the AV-8B is part of the AV-8B Joint Systems Support Activity (JSSA). The expected $11.4 million contract with Boeing will be for two years, and also will involve modifications to the AV-8B's interference blanker unit and identification-friend-or-foe avionics.
Until recently the AV-8B has been constrained by internal volume from implementing Link-16, Navy officials say, explaining there has been no place in the aircraft to put a Link-16 MIDS terminal. The hardware technology for Link-16, however, now has now produced several small form factor Link-16 terminal product lines that can be accommodated inside the AV-8B aircraft.
The upcoming contract with Boeing will be awarded sole-source, Navy officials say. Contract award is expected sometime this fall.
More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DON/NAVAIR/N68936D1/N6893615R0049/listing.html.