Having weathered and emerging mostly intact from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, Collins Aerospace Systems, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp., is focused on moving forward across a number of S&T competencies.
Two New Products
Delegates arrived at this vIITSEC to learn of two new product offerings from Collins Aerospace.
The company first announced that its new Griffin-2 visual display system is set to launch with two undisclosed fast-jet programs in the Asia-Pacific region. The company has received orders for 20 systems over the next five years, and continued support through 2030. Nick Gibbs, vice president and general manager, Simulation Solutions and Services for Collins Aerospace, pointed out his team “learned a lot with Griffin-1 in more than 100 F-35 installations, in terms of maintainability, sustainability and then just what is needed for the pilot.” From the company’s in-depth conversations with its industry team members and F-35 customers, significant, often subtle, changes have been made to Griffin-2. The corporate executive explained that the new system is a one-for-one trade out with existing Griffin-1 devices, with the “2” version offering vast improvements in maintainability and sustainability, “and the low cost of ownership goes way, way down.” Additionally, Griffin-2’s new COTS projectors will inject enhanced capabilities in F-35 pilot training systems. Gibbs noted that while he was unable to reveal the new product’s launch customers, “we’re well into the program and things are going well.”
Additionally, Collins Aerospace announced the launch of Panorama HiLite, a new solid mirror display system that brings world-class accuracy, lightweight design and an extended 300-degree Field of View (FOV) for side-by-side crew training. The accompanying press release provided to MS&T noted, “Modular and motion capable, Panorama HiLite offers operators the flexibility to select the right configuration for their particular training needs that leads to reduced setup time and minimal maintenance.”
Enhancing the LVC Environment
This vIITSEC convenes as programs and requirements converge across the defense market space. While the live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training environment continues to mature, there is a quickening convergence of training and operations – encouraged by the introduction of the 5th generation F-35 into military services in the US and beyond. Indeed, at recent I/ITSECs, MS&T has observed demonstrations at the Collins Aerospace corporate booth which integrated live air assets equipped with the company’s Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS)-based open architecture system, and ground simulators – allowing participants to complete LVC scenarios in different domains.
Another key Collins Aerospace “L” piece of LVC architecture, the US Navy’s Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS Inc. II), is also rapidly evolving, according to Chip Gilkison, corporate director for Integrated Solutions, at the company. “We’re on track for Milestone C in April of next year, which will lead to our production order, and which, in turn, will lead us to field an IOC [initial operational capability] site at Cherry Point, North Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station in 2022,” the corporate director said. He further noted the program’s next major milestone, formal development test, will begin this month. “This will be at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland and will lead up to Milestone C in April.” Earlier this year TCTS II became part of the US Air Force’s P-6 program of record. Beyond the increased jointness of TCTS II, Gilkison reported “a lot of international interest as well. We’re targeting F-35 international customers, since we have an F-35 internal mount and they are going to have TCTS II on their F-35s, at some point. It makes sense they will want to train with those same F-35s.” And as an attention getter, he added, “We’re very close – sometime soon – to disclosing our first international customer.”
This year’s vIITSEC has further validated the imperative to train to operate in an expanded battlefield, which increasingly includes space and cyber. Gibbs recalled Collins Aerospace’s “deep roots in space, with Collins’ radios that went to the moon and were active” and added, one of the companies his firm acquired along the way, Evans & Sutherland, worked with NASA over the years for simulation of spaceflight. “We have a long legacy of activity in space. We have created databases of the moon, Mars – we have done a lot of work there and we anticipate even more.” While noting the Mars missions and similar activities are going to require advanced simulation, some of it will be “the switchology we all know about, but there will be the requirement for visuals and high-end simulation & training. We have energy going into all of that and we’ve been there from the very beginning.”
The company’s TCTSII/P-6 portfolio was also observed to support training for the space and cyber warfare domains. Gilkison pointed out “space and cyber effects can also be simulated inside the system, and bring those effects to bear on the warfighter and have him or her take action on that in a training environment – before they get to an operational theatre.” The corporate director further offered that TCTSII/P-6 “has the building blocks to be a battle lab for the Pentagon’s evolving JADC2 [Joint All Domain C2 environment], as it has MILS, software- defined radio, open architecture and processing, and other capabilities.”
Covid-19 and Beyond
MS&T offered the observation that the sum total of these representative activities was quite impressive, given much of the S&T industry and government continues to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. Gibbs initially noted, “Covid-19 has affected everybody. Nobody has escaped that.” Yet, Collins Aerospace’s defense businesses was reported to be “very robust worldwide.” While this S&T company reported challenges specifically on international installations with regard to supported defense-related programs, Gibbs said those “are going forward and we are able to accomplish with our allies what we need to do.” Two datum points on the company’s defense business included it being, “ahead of schedule on an E-2D training system installation in Japan. And we have had international F-35 installations ongoing throughout.”
Collins Aerospace also reported some downturn for its S&T offerings in the commercial aviation market, but with the company’s current and near-term business evaluated as “robust”. Gibbs explained that outcome “is from high demand in Asia, particularly China, as well as our domestic partners who have had requirements we have been able to satisfy,” and noted, while there is a bit of a mixed message on the commercial side, he added, “We haven’t seen the same impact as perhaps the training centers have.” Indeed, Gibbs called attention to the launch at this vIITSEC of Panorama HiLite, for which the company “has a lot of expectation on the commercial side, as well as rotary wing on the military side.”
Products and Thought Leadership
Gibbs concluded Collins Aerospace is “very excited about its future,” and in fact, called attention to this outlook being bolstered by the wide-ranging competencies offered by parent company Raytheon Technologies Corp. “We know we have solutions that meet immediate needs and those that are being anticipated, whether it be AI, Cloud computing, learning effectivity and Big Data – we’re engaged in all of these and other activities, and we’re providing thought leadership in all of them.”