Marine Corps helicopters to get next-gen mission computer

Marines AH-1Z Helicopter

The Navy has awarded a low-rate initial production contract to Northrop Grumman to deliver the company’s FlightPro Gen III mission computers for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y Marine Corps helicopters, according to a company announcement.

The $10.6 million contract will provide the Navy with mission computers for H-1 helicopter flight tests, system integration laboratories and training.

Originally started in 1995, the H-1 upgrade program is the Marine Corps’ plan to upgrade the UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters into the new and improved UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper, according to Defense Industry Daily. The program changed out the two-bladed rotor system with a modern four-bladed rotor improvement, added improved engines and weapons, and redid the electronics. The program seeks to resolve safety deficiencies, improve operational capabilities, and reduce life-cycle costs.

Northrop FlightPro mission computer

Northrop Grumman has been supplying Gen II mission computers to the H-1 upgrade program as a part of a January 2013 contract. The Marine Corps is planning to incorporate Gen III computers in all future aircraft.

The FlightPro Gen III mission computer is used to integrate advanced mission, weapons and video processing capabilities into a conduction cooled, high-performance computer. Using as open systems architecture, the computer will be equipped with twin multi-core processors and advanced graphics and video capabilities. The processors represent the latest computing technology in multiple partitioned, eight-core PowerPC-based processors.

The mission computer is the central flight avionics collection point for all of the electronics on the aircraft. The computer manages the helicopter’s incoming warning and caution advisories, communications systems, navigational data, controls and displays, multiple sources of simultaneous video, and keyset selection data. 

In addition to the AH-1Z and the UH-1Y, the FlightPro Gen III mission computer can be installed in other rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft as well as unmanned aerial systems.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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