Case Studies

Pre-integrated, Rugged COTS Computers Reduce AEW&C Program Costs and Time to Market

June 03, 2019

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The technological advancements over the last three decades have outdated aerospace and defense systems built in the 1980’s. As such, many of these systems need to be upgraded to remain effective and competitive in modern applications. When 30 year old airborne surveillance and control equipment mounted on the underside of an aging helicopter required replacement, the manufacturer needed a trusted, proven leader they could rely on to provide mission critical processing technology in harsh environments.

Having engaged with Curtiss-Wright in 2013, the customer identified the need for both a mission and radar processor with demanding power dissipation requirements, due to the heavy amount of signal processing required. Relatively large systems, the radar processor would directly interface with the radar system and the mission processor would provide a user interface to the radar system. Due to both the physical space available and environmental conditions, a custom enclosure developed around COTS boards provided the most cost effective solution while guaranteeing reliability in the challenging thermal environment the high power dissipation produced. Without suitable thermal management design, component temperatures could rise to levels that cause failure. The rate of failure increases as the operating temperatures increase, and early on in the program the top temperature that the systems needed to reliably operate in, increased, thus increasing the difficulty of the thermal design.

As with most programs of this size with numerous stakeholders tracking its milestones and achievements, keen attention to program management and effective customer support was important to keep it on time and within budget.

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