U.S. Navy program to upgrade the avionics of C/KC-130T Hercules logistics support and aerial refueling aircraft successfully completed a crucial developmental test and evaluation event last month thanks to the ingenuity of the program team who overcame challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tactical Airlift Program Office completed a remote assessment of the latest build of the Navy’s C/KC-130T Avionics Obsolescence Upgrade (AOU) software configuration over the course of two eight-hour days of testing on April 7 and 8. The tests took place using the 2F-152 AOU Operational Flight Trainer (OFT) located at the Air Logistics Training Center at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas.
The U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps C/KC-130 program consists of three variants of a medium-sized transport aircraft capable of intra-theater and inter-theater airlift operations.Naval Reserve C/KC-130T aircraft fulfill the Navy Unique Fleet Essential Airlift mission to provide the last logistic mile in support operations to forward deployed Naval Forces. Navy Test Wing KC-130Ts provide airborne flight test support for test and evaluation programs and Naval Land/Sea Test Range surveillance and clearance missions. Marine Corps KC-130T aircraft provide tactical aerial re-fueling for fixed-wing, rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft as well as transportation of personnel and cargo.
To allow the software tests to be observed by engineers in three other locations around the country — all of whom were unable to travel to NAS Fort Worth due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions — the Air Logistics Training Center contracting officer’s representative, with the help of Engineering Support Personnel, Inc. and OFT operators and technicians, set up two GoPro cameras in the simulator cockpit to provide live feeds of the cockpit multifunction displays and the control display units.The two feeds transmitted live to NAVAIR system and test engineers at Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland; Lockheed Martin engineers in Oswego, New York; and Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division engineers in North Carolina, providing the participants with a full understanding of the system’s response.
Using the live feeds, the engineering and test teams were able to direct Fleet Logistics Support Wing C-130 pilot Cmdr. Patrick Foreman in the execution of test cards prepared by VX-20. Although Cmdr. Foreman had only limited experience with the AOU program, the real-time guidance from the test team allowed him to easily complete the test points and provide thorough feedback on the results. The presence of the Lockheed Martin engineers enabled the team to troubleshoot and discuss test results as they happened, saving many hours that would have otherwise been spent documenting and conveying test results to the contractor.
Accomplishment of the two-day remote assessment was critical for determining if the software fixes a number of high-priority deficiencies that affected certifications required by the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration. The proactive identification of content problems prior to the delivery of the final software in June and flight tests during the summer decreases the risk of program delays down the line.
The remote assessment was so successful, in fact, that the team intends to use the same method with the next engineering build in early May, incorporating the lessons learned from the April tests. AOU is an aircraft modification program that involves upgrading the avionics in 25 C/KC-130T aircraft, replacing obsolete flight control displays, radios, and transmitters, with digital multi-function displays and navigation, surveillance, and cockpit voice/data recorder equipment that will allow the aircraft to continue operating safely in the modern air traffic control environment. Test completion of the AOU system is expected in fall 2021.