REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.-The Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and the Aviation Systems Integration Facility together with The Boeing Company, and Rockwell Collins Inc., have earned the 2008 American Helicopter Society's "Howard Hughes Award" for their contributions to Network Centric Operations technology development.

In 2007, AMRDEC and its industry partners participated in two nation-wide Network-Centric Warfare exercises using the System of Systems Common Operating Environment and focused Army Aviation - Future Force interoperability.

"In April and November of 2007 the AMRDEC and its industry team members participated in technical tests that have set the stage for executing distributed joint force war fighting simulations and experiments.

"The tests connected 7 sites in Huntsville, Ala., Mesa, Ariz., Saint Louis, Mo., Philadelphia, Pa., Long Beach and Anaheim, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. with the technical objective of establishing a connectivity infrastructure between over a dozen participating sites and programs and using SOSCOE to exchange information between platforms using several SOSCOE service families," said Scott Dennis, director of the Aviation Systems Integration Facility.

Participating in Huntsville, the ASIF team employed its trailer-mounted facility in order to plug in to the exercise and replicate Army Aviation assets.

"The ASIF transported one of its two platform-independent, reconfigurable Mobile Systems Integration Laboratories to the Boeing facility located behind the Huntsville International Airport and configured it as a CH-47F integrated with the Future Combat Systems System of Systems Common Operating Environment," said Dennis.

The Aviation Applied Technology Directorate, working with the Boeing Company, supplied a live fly asset to Future Combat Systems Field Experiment 1.1, in February 2007, to the Program Manager C4ISR On-the-Move summer experiment, in July 2007, and to FCS Field Experiment 2.1/Joint Expeditionary Field Experiment 2008, February through April 2008.

During these activities an Apache Longbow equipped with the Manned/Unmanned Common Architecture Program mission processing architecture demonstrated interoperability with Future Combat Systems ground vehicles, ground soldier systems, unattended ground sensors, and unmanned air vehicles and with joint fixed wing aircraft all within the context of net centric operations.

"AATD is very pleased to have been a member of the Net Centric Operations technology development team and to have had the opportunity to work alongside Aviation Systems Integration Facility personnel.

"We believe the combination of live and virtual experimentation allows a more comprehensive evaluation of the benefits of network centric technologies than would otherwise be possible and look forward to future collaborations.

"There is a great deal to be learned about the interactions between platforms but practical considerations dictate that there are only a few live fly events in which any particular aircraft can involve itself," said Dale Johnson, Manager of the Manned/Unmanned Common Architecture Program at the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate.

These exercises, and ones planned for the future, support the Warfighter in the current fight while looking forward to meet the Army Aviation Community's future requirements and challenges.

"There are still many challenges ahead and our efforts must result in a more responsive, lethal, and flexible aviation capability that will effectively support combat commanders at all levels. We are committed to our aviation Soldiers and their Families.

"U.S. Army Aviation modernization, with an emphasis on Future Force interoperability, is one of the Army's major challenges over the next 10 years. The primary goal is to transition from the current point-to-point communication methodologies to a net-centric enabled capability, while maintaining current force interoperability.

"As we continue to capture the interoperability synergy of the entire aviation community, we will continue to focus on the development and maturation of these new capabilities in order to ensure that our aviation Warfighters have the tools they need to accomplish their mission," said Dennis.

The team has been working together for several years.

"Throughout 2006 and 2007 AATD, ASIF, Boeing and Rockwell Collins have worked together to bring the essential new Network Centric technologies to Military rotorcraft ensuring the viability and relevance of rotorcraft in the Future Force.

"AMRDEC, Boeing and Rockwell Collins have collaborated to develop and demonstrate the substantial improvements in battlefield situational awareness and combat effectiveness that can be achieved via incorporation of advanced mission processor architectures, advanced high bandwidth communications systems and advanced display systems to support real time Network Centric Operations capability," said Dennis.

"Commonality is a key aspect to achieving robust interoperability in future data intensive networked combat environments.

"In 2008 through 2010 the architecture will be built upon, with increased Warfighter capabilities and system enhancements, in preparation for participation in 'live fly' experiments such as Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2008, JEFX 10, and Trident Warrior," said Dennis.

The ASIF, the first Systems Integration Laboratory of its kind for Aviation, was developed in 2004 as a result of the Army's termination of the RAH-66 Comanche Helicopter program and Congress' direction to establish a critical link between Army Aviation Original Equipment Manufacturers and the AMRDEC.

"One of the many benefits of using the ASIF to evaluate system-level software prior to installation in helicopters is a savings of approximately $4,000 per flying hour when using an actual helicopter," said Dennis.

The Howard Hughes Award is given in recognition of an outstanding improvement in fundamental helicopter technology brought to fruition in the previous year and was presented to representatives of the AATD, ASIF, Boeing and Rockwell Collins during the AHS International Annual Forum in Montreal April 30, 2008.