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RDAS: Next-Generation Protection for the F-35 and Beyond

Raytheon Distributed Aperture System (RDAS)

Asian Military Review interviews Michelle Moholt, director of technology and chief architect at Raytheon radar system and Common Open Secure Mission Computing (COSMC).

Raytheon is using technology it developed for the F-35’s Electro-Optic Distributed Aperture System (EO-DAS) system to develop a versatile and modular derivative to bring similar capabilities to a wider range of platforms.

When Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter first appeared, some of its technology was unique and seemed almost impossibly futuristic. Northrop Grumman’s AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System provides missile detection and tracking (including launch point detection) and high-definition infrared search and track (IRST) capabilities around the aircraft, using six sensors to provide complete The spherical overlay. The resulting image is projected on the pilot’s helmet visor, enabling him to “see” the cockpit floor or in any direction, even though it may be “obscured” by the fuselage.

John P. ‘Bama’ Montgomery, Northrop Grumman’s fifth-generation improved derivatives manager, former F-16 pilot and wing commander, likens it to “sitting in Wonder Woman’s stealth jet, be able to see in every direction.” But behind the “stunningly bizarre” implied in that statement, DAS shoulders the key responsibility of providing F-35 pilots with spherical 360° missile warning and situational awareness.

But while impressive and critical, Northrop Grumman’s system is now obsolete, and Raytheon’s replacement EO-DAS promises to deliver “next-generation capabilities” whose reliability will be 5 times the capacity of the existing system and 2 times the capacity. Older AN/AAQ-37. This will reduce operating and maintenance costs by more than 50%, reduce unit recurring costs by 45%, and save more than $3 billion in life-cycle costs.

In addition, progress is fast, and service entry is imminent, says Michelle Moholt: “We’ve completed qualification testing, we’ve delivered several test and evaluation centers to Lockheed Martin, and we’ll have our first test in the first quarter of 2023. deliver.”

But EO-DAS is more than a simple modern one-to-one replacement for the AN/AAQ-37 on the F-35, and promises to bring this once “F-35-exclusive” capability to the entire platform, while also inside the system Added laser warning and inertial measurement unit.

This Raytheon Distributed Aperture System or RDAS is an airframe-independent sensor suite that can be customized for multiple platforms. Michelle Moreholt said the RDAS uses the same next-generation technology as the EO-DAS used on the F-35. “We took a lot of the hardware and technology from EO-DAS and brought it up to an air-cooled configuration,” Moholt said.

Air cooling means the aircraft does not have to provide additional cooling and allows Raytheon to reduce size, weight and power (SWaP) requirements, reducing costs and expanding the range of platforms on which the system can be installed.

This versatility is further facilitated by the open-architecture, platform-independent COSMC (Common Open Safety Mission Computer) processing element that hosts the RDAS software and firmware.

“This mission computer acts as the connective tissue for all the different sensors hosted on a given platform,” explained Moholt. “It was developed using model-based systems engineering, allowing us to adapt the design. It has Sensor Open Systems Architecture (SOSA) so we can quickly escalate outdated issues and deploy different configurations quickly using different platforms. It’s all about Provide capability to crew and operators.”

RDAS offers multiple resolutions, and the number of sensors can be scaled up and down depending on the platform to provide 360° imaging around the aircraft, ranging from four to eight sensors. “We’ve invested a lot in developing the next generation of these sensors so that we can see in those cluttered environments and detection ranges.”

RDAS utilizes a state-of-the-art large focal plane array for best-in-class detection range and resolution even in cluttered environments, and uses multiple high-resolution infrared sensors mounted around the platform to produce a continuous 360-degree spherical image allowing pilots and The crew effectively “sees through” the parts of the fuselage that would obstruct their view.

RDAS effectively turns night into day and provides unparalleled 360-degree situational awareness, significantly reducing and lightening crew workload. It can provide passive missile detection capabilities, autonomously detect, locate, track and warn of any incoming threat with infrared signatures. Even in the most controversial environments, the system’s high vision can help pilots by avoiding obstacles, improving the platform’s survivability.

After winning a contract from Lockheed Martin in June 2018 to develop the next-generation optoelectronic distributed aperture system (DAS) for the F-35, Raytheon said it wanted to install the technology on helicopters, and reported in February that 2019 In 2008, the system, then known as the Advanced Distributed Aperture System, was flight-tested for 200 hours on a U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.

Moreholt Customs Asian Military Review Rotation and future vertical lifts are potential applications for RDAS, and the system will provide a “technical advantage” for such platforms.

“We’re working on reducing our size, weight and power so we can mount on rotating platforms as well as unmanned aerial systems,” she said. “We’ve actually invested some money over the past year to get a lower profile, and with our COSMC safety mission computer platform, we’ve been able to significantly reduce size, weight and power, so it looks like we’re actually going to It’s very viable for these markets.”

Another potentially particularly strong potential market for RDAS is the fast jet fighter segment. Platform-agnostic RDAS do not require platform cooling and require less power, thus offering an easy upgrade to fourth-generation fighter types with F-35-like capabilities. potential.

Raytheon hopes to have a capability available to customers by 2024, and is also considering integrating RDAS with the company’s electronic warfare systems, radar and situational awareness tools to give aircrews and operators a greater battlefield advantage.

Jon Lake

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