Creative simulations help test new weather radar

As part of their efforts to upgrade the weather radar for the C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft, the Air Force and contractor Lockheed Martin are using the cockpit from a downed C-5 as a simulator.

The revisions will accommodate upcoming changes to weapon systems’ color weather radar and core mission computer, which are the heart of mission planning during C-5 flights, the Air Force said in a release.

The upgrade will allow crews to see danger spots and locate hazardous weather patterns such as severe thunderstorms, tornados and high winds. And running the simulations lets them test the software and eliminate bugs before it gets put into actual use.

"If we can eliminate issues through testing in the SIL, we don't tie up people and resources down the line," said Robert Hermann, the 578th SMXS director.

Part of the testing for the new system took place in the cockpit of an old C-5 that went down at Dover, Del., in 2006 and was salvaged to become a simulator. Engineers can test and simulate software, perform preflight tests and eliminate issues prior to integration in live aircraft. 

A radome, the enclosure for the radar (the word is a portmanteau of “radar” and “dome”), was constructed to simulate the actual C-5 nose radome and includes and antenna fixture located on the roof of the testing facility. The C-5 SIL will have the capability of receiving live data from the antenna and picking up weather patterns to be transmitted back to those working in the C-5 simulator. 

“The new color weather radar is a functional upgrade over the old radar, detecting more weather feature details,” Warner Paris, the 578th SMXS Flight B director, who oversees the C-5 SIL stated. “It will have additional capabilities but with less drain on the aircraft, less power but with a comparable range due to the technology in use.”

Some advantages of the new radar compared to the previous are “the addition of wind shear and turbulence detection; a digital output signal that will reduce electronics required to interface with digital displays and equipment; a lower power pulse with comparable range; and mitigation of obsolescence, supportability and sustainment issues,” the release stated. 

The release also stated that engineering and manufacturing development testing will begin in mid-November for the color weather radar.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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