Airbus Defence and Space, part of the Europe-based global major aerospace group Airbus, has announced that it has successfully completed a flight test programme which has proven a new capability for its C295 FITS mission system. This new development is the ability for ground-based personnel to remotely control the aircraft’s mission system. (Note that the aircraft itself is not remotely-controlled; it is flown by an onboard human crew.)
The C295 is a high-wing twin-turboprop multirole aircraft, built in Spain, mainly used as a light/medium transport aircraft. But it is also employed, by various users, in a range of surveillance missions. For these missions, the aircraft can be fitted with Airbus’ Fully Integrated Tactical System – FITS for short.
The flight test programme used a company C295 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) testbed aircraft, equipped with an avionics package from Collins Aerospace (a famous name in avionics and part of the US-based Raytheon Corporation). The programme involved a series of four flights, carried out over southern Spain during last month.
During the flight test campaign, the aircraft flew standard maritime patrol mission profiles, but its sensors were controlled in near real time from a ground control station. Two-way communication was by means of the aeroplane’s Ka-band satellite communications system.
After assuming control of the sensors, the ground-based crew were able to undertake various tasks such as managing the C295’s radar and controlling the pointing of its electro-optical/infrared sensor. The ground-based system operators enjoyed complete situational awareness during the missions, using the same apps and tools installed in the FITS on the aircraft.
Airbus has designated this remote-controlled C295 FITS system as COMMOMISS. According to the company, COMMOMISS will provide four main benefits to users. It will allow a greater number of operator’s stations in the ‘mission support centre’ on the ground, unconstrained by the limited volume of the aircraft’s fuselage; integration with the user’s command and control network, helping create a common operational picture; allow real time analysis of all the data collected by the aircraft’s sensors, using the enormously greater resources available on the ground; and the option of reducing the number of workstations and operators on the aircraft itself.
“COMMOMISS will pave the future of airborne tactical mission systems, allowing a harmonised mission system architecture, human-machine interface and concept of operations for both manned and unmanned air vehicles, as well as fixed-wing and rotary wing aircraft,” affirmed Airbus in its statement. “It supports a seamless integration into the overall system-of-systems, providing global situational awareness to operators and the contributing to the generation of the Common Operational Picture in the context of ISR missions.”