How many times have the grunts on the ground had problems talking an A-10 pilot onto a target?
Scientists at the Air Force Research Laboratory say they are working on a solution called the Electronic Kneeboard.
The kneeboard is a computer display that service officials hope to tuck into the console of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, said Vince Parisi, chief technical lead for the lab's helmet-mounted sensory technology office. With it, A-10 pilots would be able to receive digital pictures from the ground-pounders who need those pilots to take out enemy fighters. "We're trying to get the information [to the A-10] quickly and efficiently," said Parisi, who is an electrical engineer by trade.
Now, A-10 pilots must communicate verbally with the troops they are flying support missions for, Parisi said. When the guys on the ground come under fire, they send nine-line messages to the pilots to describe enemy forces' location.
The electronic kneeboard will give the pilots a visual, close-up look at what the ground troops want them to see, providing the pilots with better situation awareness. AFRL officials began working on the kneeboard in June to give the A-10 community an interim digital communication capability while it waits for the data link upgrades expected toward the end of this decade, lab officials said.
The design hasn't been finalized, but the display in the A-10 will probably be something like a 5-inch-by-7-inch touch screen that weighs about two or three pounds, Parisi said.
With this system, troops on the ground will use their existing computer and radio transmitters to send the pictures, which will be received by the existing radios and antennas on the jet.
Initial testing has proven successful. Lab results show that the pictures can be passed through the system, Parisi said.
Flight tests conducted by Air Combat Command will begin next summer. However, engineers will have to integrate the computer and find a place for the kneeboard in the cockpit. They have ruled out strapping the device to the pilots' legs because it could get in the way during ejection.
The kneeboard concept grew out of two programs -- Lil Hal and PACMAN, or pilot aircrew management. Both are attempts to take all of a pilot's paper flight documents such as flight plans, instrument approach plates and checklists and condense them onto a digital assistant.
Those documents, plus any other digital information -- such as maps, satellite imagery and charts -- could be stored on the kneeboard because it's a computer.
One of the program's goals is to have a "John Madden pencil," referring to the NFL commentator who uses a telestrator to draw lines and diagrams on the television screen. This would allow both ground forces and pilots to mark the pictures to indicate where the good and bad guys are.
This technology enjoys the support of several high-ranking Air Force officers, and AFRL officials say it could one day spread to the rest of the Air Force's fleets. http://www.isrjournal.com/story.php?F=378779