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GA-ASI completes design review for USAF Block 50 GCS

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) has successfully completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for its next-generation Advanced Cockpit Block 50 Ground Control Station (GCS) at the company's Poway, California, facilities. Completing the CDR was a key milestone toward fielding advanced capabilities for the US Air Force (USAF) that will enhance combat effectiveness of its entire Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) fleet.

"Our Block 50 team is proud of the development effort that addressed more than 700 customer requirements covering all areas of GCS performance," said David R Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. "The Block 50 GCS CDR marks the successful completion of requirements established by our Air Force customer."

The Cockpit Evaluation Team, comprising USAF pilots and sensor operators, designed the Block 50's human machine interface (HMI) to reduce pilot and operator workload. The overall layout, along with the cockpit's HMI, was based on human-factors in collaboration with the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, Kansas.

Block 50 is designed for single seat operations that can reduce manpower at the user's discretion. With complete hands on throttle and stick' for flight, weapons, payload, and sensor system control, aircrew situational awareness is greatly enhanced with a Common Operational Picture on a single display. Additionally, synthetic video is displayed with 3D graphics and moving maps on a touchscreen.

The Block 50 architecture has full physical and functional payload separation from the safety critical Operational Flight Program, allowing for quicker integration, testing, and fielding of new payloads. The open architecture lends itself to replace different components without disturbing the overall design and will help the Air Force avoid costs of Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages.

Through the support of the USAF Maintenance Evaluation Team, the requirements were developed to specifically improve the maintainability and reliability of the GCS design.

Under GA-ASI's current development contract with the US Air Force, three Block 50 GCS have been completed and are in initial developmental testing, with four additional ground stations in work to include mobile shelter and fixed facility configurations. MQ-9 Reaper ground and flight tests are scheduled for next year following successful conclusion of the systems integration and ground test phase.

July 5, 2017

Written by Michael Jones


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