20 Januari 2015
Tiger ARH cockpit (image : flyawaysimulation)
ELECTRONIC and systems group Thales Australia needed to address obsolescence issues faced by the Australian Army Tiger helicopter simulators.
After the successful delivery of the simulators in 2007, major Australian Defence Forces contractor Thales was awarded the contract to maintain and support them.
Two are located in Toowoomba — a full-flight mission simulator and a crew procedural trainer — and another CPT at Darwin.
Each of the simulators consists of several specialised interconnected technologies that combine to deliver the highest standards of training to army aviation aircrews, including projection, hydraulics, electrics, computing and networking. Thales, responsible for maintaining and upgrading all of these technologies, recently undertook a major upgrade to the FFMS projectors and image generators that deliver the visual experience for the pilot and battle captain.
“We find that when you get to the seven-year mark of any sustainment of computer IT equipment that you start getting reliability and availability issues with the whole system,’’ Thales Australia program manager Harry Tavlaridis says.
The simulators require maximum availability with scheduling for upgrades to be mapped around low activity periods to ensure limited disruption to the aircrew training program.
“They (the army) would still like to train as much as possible and not lose that capability while any major upgrade was going on so that was the tricky part.’’
With the aim of delivering the highest possible fidelity to a real-life scenario, Thales reviewed options for a partner to help design, deliver and support the image generation hardware while adhering to strict service level agreements. Thales, which has about 3200 staff across roughly 35 sites, had previous experience with Melbourne-based specialist high-performance computing consultancy Xenon.
Thales opted to contract Xenon to design the hardware and network infrastructure for the operating system and management software, and then provide prototypes to Thales to load its own software and deploy across the image generators for delivery to the projectors.
“We had a deadline that we had to start in mid-December (2013) — there was equipment on the projector that wouldn’t go past that date so we had a hard fixed start date,’’ Tavlaridis says.
“We were limited in the time to do a full market tender for any of that equipment. So the safest, least risk to our schedule was to go with someone that we knew that we were going to get over the line with, and because of our past experience with Xenon that is why we went with them.’’
Despite starting later than originally planned, Thales managed to deliver nine days ahead of schedule in mid-April this year.
“It was a good outcome,’’ Tavlaridis says. “We delivered within a reasonable time.’’
Xenon delivered a multi-layered solution. Image generators are based on NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics with Qsync technology, dual Xeon processors with error correcting memory in a rack mount enclosure with redundant cooling, power and storage.
To maximise uptime, Xenon built a network attached storage solution that works in an active/passive mode. Centralised storage design lowers the total cost of ownership on support of the simulator and increases the uptime and manageability.
“If the system does go down we need to bring it back within 30 minutes but if it does occur there is a redundancy in the system that it can come back within minutes and it was a requirement that was met very easily with the new equipment,’’ he says.
Tavlaridis says the savings in running costs are up to almost 70 per cent over five years with the new system.
“In effect, if we run this system for five years it will pay itself off by the savings in running costs.’’
The second stage will be to upgrade the CPT simulator, which will include improvements in the visual database and the image generator real-time systems.
Problem: Australian Army’s Tiger helicopter simulators faced obsolescence issues, which needed to be addressed.
Process: Xenon helped design, deliver and support the image generation hardware for a major upgrade to the FFMS projectors and image generators.
Result: Thales able to deliver the upgrade nine days early. The savings in running costs are up to almost 70 per cent over five years with the new system.