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Battlelab brings data recorders into digital age

by Maj. Bob Thompson
366th Wing Public Affairs

02/06/02 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (AFPN) -- Saving time, money and space, the Air Force is starting to scrap its old 8 mm videotape recorders in favor of new digital systems thanks to the Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab here.

The new digital system will give pilots in the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and possibly other aircraft, a new tool for recording and debriefing their missions.

"Our initiative showed that a new solid-state digital system can be added to the F-15 and F-16 weapon systems with minimal aircraft hardware and software modifications," said Maj. Scott Lamb, director of AEF special operations at the battlelab. "The system demonstrated that over the course of the system's life, the Air Force can expect a savings of nearly $64 million between the F-15 and F-16 fleets because of reduced maintenance costs."

Called the Common AEF Solid State Video Record/Review System, or CASS-VR, the system was first suggested to Air Force officials by Smiths Industries, located in Germantown, Md.

"We communicate the Air Force's need to commercial industry," said Col. Stephen Duresky, AEF battlelab commander. "We welcome their ideas and work to come up with new solutions using existing government and commercial off-the-shelf technology."

Duresky's unit is one of seven battle labs across the Air Force that prove the worth of innovative ideas to improve Air Force capabilities.

"Air Combat Command authorized flight demonstrations of the digital recorders by the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis (Air Force Base), Nev.," said Lamb. "Flights aboard F-16 Block 40, F-15C and F-15E [Strike Eagle] aircraft proved a common solid-state digital recorder can give us better quality and capability than videotape and is easier for our folks to work with.

"The 8 mm videotape recorders are cumbersome and have a history of poor reliability and maintainability," he said. "Some of these 8 mm recorders aren't even manufactured any more, and none of them can be repaired by squadron maintenance shops beyond simple head cleanings."

Battlelab officials estimate that by using a new solid-state digital system, the Air Force will save more than 610 man-hours of maintenance during a typical 90-day deployment. Also, the support equipment and supplies required for the digital recorder is half-a-pallet less than the space needed by the 8 mm videotape systems.

"This is a great success story for the Air Force," Duresky said. "Chief Master Sergeant Chuck Kochel of Air Combat Command's resources directorate first identified the Air Force's need for a common digital system. Now, thanks to the battlelab process, the Air Force is not only going to use this system for several fighter aircraft, but is also studying how these systems could be used aboard cargo, refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft as well."

ACC officials are planning to fund modifications for F-16 aircraft in fiscal 2003 and the F-15s in fiscal 2005. (Courtesy of ACC News Service)

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