New cable harness saves money
A 78-pound MRT Cable Harness descends below the floorboards of the research lab at Camber Corporation in Research Park, snaking between the two sections of the test machine. The test setup will eventually be on-board the Army's Apache attack

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- For Army pilots, telling the difference between people and the environment is vital to saving lives and accomplishing the mission. A high-tech device will soon give enhanced capabilities to differentiate the temperatures of different objects, such as the ground or water, and to show heat signatures.

The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's aviation and missile center has had a team of technicians working on a new device that will also save nearly a half a million dollars.

The team, members of the Prototype Integration Facility, are known for quick action and unique problem-solving capabilities. The PIF is an integral part of the Aviation & Missle Research and Development Center at Redstone Arsenal. The new Apache cable harness interfaces with the complicated hardware on-board the attack helicopter.

"Our team, with the assistance and guidance of Apache PM and Camber Engineering, was asked to build a full aircraft cable harness to interface with every piece of Line Replaceable Unit hardware normally on Apache aircraft," said government project lead TJ Lapointe.

The harness connects all of the MTADS/PNVS equipment but not actually everything on an Apache. "They asked us to also include the test equipment needed to verify software upgrades to the Modernized Target Acquisition and Designation System."

The cable was designed for use in a system level test lab at Camber in Research Park.

"We have an entire Modernized Pilot Night Vision Sensor nose on a test stand in the lab that is being used to conduct a study on minimum resolvable temperatures with the system to include software upgrade testing," said Maj. Patrick Baker. "The nose refers to the entire system which is the MTADS and MPNVS on the front of the aircraft."

It was built from reutilized crash-damaged connectors and backshells off an Apache with major battle damage.

Lapointe elaborated on the damage on the Apache that had its parts recycled: "One connector and backshell even had bullet-hole and shrapnel damage and had to be replaced."

The cable was over 78 pounds once completed, and had over 54 transitions, hundreds of splices, and thousands of contacts. Once connected, it was so large that a good portion of it had to be placed under the floorboards of the lab.

"We're only hooking up about half of it, currently," explained Ron McBride, the lead of the MRT effort at Camber. "It's a big, huge, ugly mess of a cable. But it's the backbone of the whole program. Without it, none of this would be possible, and it works perfectly."

The PIF Quality Assurance Group oversaw the technical team and verified and checked each of those connections, transitions, and contact placements, reviewing the entire cable system for any signs of defects.

It was concluded by both the PIF and Camber that the cable system contained zero defects on the first inspection and ended up requiring no rework.

"We did our own check to ensure the cable was working and found no defects at all," said McBride. "That was outstanding! It saved both time and money that could be spent supporting the Soldier in other programs."

"We put crazy demands on TJ and his ladies," said McBride. "We had all of these drawings and just sort of threw them at them, saying 'here you go, we need it now,' and somehow they got the product back to us way ahead of the expected time and with no defects to go back and fix. Working with the PIF was nothing but a good experience."

Lapointe was proud to give the credit to the women in the PIF's cable lab that put all those hours in to the cable's construction. "The rapid response solutions and quality of workmanship, or should we say work-womanship, of all of the ladies in the PIF and the 5400 A-Wing Cable Lab is a testament to their professionalism, hard work, and can-do attitude that reflects on all of us," he said.

"Their level of support to the War Fighter and POE Aviation/Apache PM Sensors Group makes me proud to work with and be associated with the JVYS contact team."

The PM was planning on purchasing an aircraft simulator from Lockheed Martin for more than $500,000.

"Because of the cable the PIF built worked, we didn't have to purchase that simulator," Baker said.

"The MRT nose is pushing out quality test data that otherwise would have been conducted by LM," he explained. "The lab also allows the USG to keep LM honest since we can validate their test information."

"Overall," Baker said, "this situation has yielded nothing but quality, cost-avoiding results to the PM."

"The PM has been so impressed that they've asked us to do the same thing with additional software," McBride added.

"Bottom line," Lapointe said, "quick response, cost-effective, can-do solutions for challenges of Apache PM."

Officials said these results are not uncommon the PIF, as they continue to produce such products and give their best to support the Soldier.

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Page last updated Thu March 25th, 2010 at 14:27