REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center has developed a new test facility to support the modernization of the UH-60V Black Hawk aircraft.

AMRDEC's Prototype Integration Facility assisted the U.S. Army Program Executive Office- Aviation's Utility Helicopter Project Management Office in developing and qualifying a UH-60V digital cockpit upgrade kit during the modernization phase. AMRDEC's Software Engineering Directorate simultaneously began developing the UH-60V Systems Integration Lab while the PIF proceeded with developing the UH-60V prototype.

This January, the UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter completed its initial test flight after two years of design, integration, and development. The successful flight of the UH-60V working prototype represents a significant milestone in the UH-60V program and moves one step closer to getting an enhanced, modern air capability to the operational force.

"The UH-60V SIL is the newest addition to AMRDEC's Aviation SIL," said AVNSIL Project Lead, Doug Anthony. "This lab serves as an essential test asset complementing the UH-60V aircraft, offering a facility for demonstrating and verifying Operational Flight Program software throughout the life cycle."

"As the Project Manager begins fielding the UH-60V, the SIL team will be able to make needed aircraft modifications and system updates to match the fleet," UH-60V SIL Project Lead, Allen Neeley said. "If software or hardware testing is necessary, the UH-60V SIL allows lab testing without hindering aircraft in the field. This gives the PM a realistic test bed that is available without taking away aircraft from the mission. We have the same wiring and components to keep the SIL as ready as they keep the aircraft."

The AVNSIL provides life cycle support to the UH-60V from initial development, continuing through the fielding process and beyond. The UH-60V SIL increases Army readiness by providing risk reduction, addressing obsolescence issues, and reducing maintenance time. The SIL allows systems developers and integrators to test and verify changes to hardware and software using real systems on aircraft early in the development process.

All AVNSIL assets are built from actual aircraft, retaining as much of the aircraft cockpits, avionics hardware, tactical components, pilot flight controls, and cockpit equipment as feasible for use in a Hardware-in-the-Loop laboratory environment. The AVNSILs facilitate systems-level Pilot-in-the-Loop testing in simulated flight environments depicting relevant operational scenarios. Additionally, the SILs support Army Interoperability Certification testing using accredited aircraft surrogates.

The SED AVNSIL also supports the modernization of UH-60M, CH-47F, and AH-64D aircraft platforms and the post-production sustainment of the HH-60L platform.

"We will continually upgrade the UH-60V SIL as UHPO upgrades the UH-60V aircraft, so we can have a test asset that is representative of what is in the field," explained Anthony. In 2017, the team will move past development, onto modernization and operation. Though the UH-60V SIL is a PM asset, the SIL will remain at SED for regular system updates and maintenance.

Last week, the software development team, test pilots, and the project office gathered for a Technical Interchange Meeting. A demonstration was performed to explain how the upcoming OFP software works and to get feedback from the pilots on what needs to be updated. "The SIL will be updated before the changes go on the real aircraft," Anthony said. "Our goal is to do more of this early development work in the SIL, in order to deliver a better product to the Soldier."

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U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Material Command.