Research center engineers develop electronics package
May 16, 2012
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The challenge to be smaller, lighter and cheaper often requires Army engineers to take non-traditional approaches. Such was the case with the recent design, fabrication and hardware verification testing of the first generation electronics power system for the Aviation Multi-Platform Munition.
The personnel in the AMPM Science & Technology Program at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center develop missile technologies for a diverse set of aviation platforms. These include manned helicopters like the AH-64D Longbow Apache and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and unmanned aerial systems like the RQ-7B Shadow and the MQ-1C Gray Eagle.
Chris Lofts, program lead for AMPM, said one of the objectives of the program is to develop a core set of munition subsystems that can be used to construct a forward firing rocket-propelled missile and a drop/glide munition.
"The subsystems have been modularized so that they can be 'stacked' in any order without modification to achieve the desired configurations," Lofts said. "The AMPM concepts are small and very lightweight so as to increase load-out options for armed reconnaissance without adversely impacting platform 'on-station' times."
Achieving smaller and lighter munitions requires more-dense electronics and presents a challenge with heat dissipation, Lofts said. Also, the diameter of the AMPM missile body is just 2.75 inches, and the program wanted a design that would address both munition variants in the same set of electronics.
Demanding AMPM system constraints like these resulted in a non-traditional approach to power system design.
"Designing an electronics power system to address either of these munition variants is challenging enough," Lofts said. "Designing for both munition variants in the same set of electronics takes that challenge one step higher."
Brian McIntosh, from the Controls & Electronics Function of AMRDEC's Weapons Development & Integration Directorate, is responsible for the AMPM system electrical modularity and the power electronics design. To address the AMPM's unique requirements, McIntosh said AMRDEC used a non-traditional design approach involving the elimination of connectors from the power supply board and merging the power supply and main harness functions of the Guidance Electronics Unit into a single piece of hardware.
Other key technologies for the success of this electronics power system include unique Direct Current-Direct Current converters, remote power control, voltage feedback monitoring, robust voltage filtering and various power protection features.
Successful completion of the verification tests not only marks a significant milestone in the development of the AMPM variants but also has positive implications for the development of future Army missile systems.