New software designed to assist US Navy pilots landing combat jets on aircraft carriers will be tested in 2012, the Office of Naval Research said in a 20 October press release.
The flying skills demonstrated by naval aviators are often applauded - given that theirs is a role that demands extreme accuracy and concentration.
Bringing high performance combat aircraft like the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet into a comparatively small space, on a moving platform, is a tricky business. It requires constant speed and flight control surface adjustments to ensure the correct trajectory's being followed.
Navy Carrier Landing Software
The new naval carrier landing software aims to simplify this process, bringing an unprecedented degree of precision to the maritime arena. "The precision that we can bring to carrier landings in the future will be substantial", the deputy chief of naval research for naval air warfare and weapons, Michael Deitchman, explained in the release, adding: "The flight control algorithm has the potential to alter the next 50 years of how pilots land on carrier decks."
The algorithm is designed to work in tandem with a so-called Bedford Array lighting system positioned on the aircraft carrier and a series of symbols presented in the pilot's HUD (Heads-Up Display). It connects the control stick straight to the aircraft's trajectory with the result that, rather than have to make minute shifts, the pilot directs the aircraft so it beams a fragmented green line in the HUD.
"You're tracking a shipboard stabilized visual target with a flight path reference, and the airplane knows what it needs to do to stay there", Naval Air Systems Command representative James Denham stated, in explanation.
Naval Landing Software Trials
Live tests involving the navy carrier landing software haven't yet been performed, but the algorithm's been trialled in a Super Hornet simulator. Next year, though, the naval landing software trials will get underway and both US Navy and Royal Navy pilots will be involved. The Royal Navy no longer has a fixed-wing naval strike capability but will receive F-35C Joint Strike Fighters in around 2018.
The advent of the new carrier landing software will present several advantages. Pilot workloads will be reduced but, alongside this, carrier landing training programmes won't need to be as rigorous as they are now.
Additionally, while naval aircraft like the Super Hornet typically have strengthened undercarriages, to withstand the impact of heavy deck landings, they're not necessarily indestructible. Consequently, the potential's there for related repair and maintenance costs to reduce, too.