production decision for a new dropsonde, designated
ASondeR3.0, is expected soon. "We received a positive
report from the Operational Utility Assessment, which
tested the upgrades to improve usability," said Brigitte
Darton, the MSE PM. This version makes it possible for
users in the field to now replace the batteries
themselves, and the on/off switch has also been
enhanced. Previously, the user would have to insert a
small plastic stick into a port on the side of the
dropsonde to turn it on. The dropsonde now has a slide
switch, similar to those found on many flashlights.
"This makes it much easier for the crew to operate,
especially with flight gloves on," said Darton. Other
recent hardware advancements include more ruggedization
and a built-in testing feature to ensure the equipment
is operational prior to use.
The team here
will be working on technical publications and
certification, and has initiated an interim contract to
sustain the MSE until the sustainment work transfers to
Robins AFB, Ga., and Hill AFB, Utah by fiscal 2015.
The software has also evolved, with the merging of
applications that were operating on two separate laptops
to one. "One laptop would be running mission planning
mapping tools, such as FalconView, while the JPADS would
be on another," said Capt. Neil Catron, the JPADS-MP
software program manager. "The first CAT release
combined everything, making it more efficient."
The current CAT 2.1 update, which is largely a
maintenance build, also includes the ability to send
roadway heading data to Army-developed Airborne Guidance
Units, allowing for even more precision in the landing.
This update has been turned over to the customer, Air
Mobility Command, for anticipated fielding this month.
"We're always looking for improvements and we release an
updated software version with new capabilities about
every six months," Carlson said.
For the upcoming 2.2 version, the team is working to
incorporate a wireless gate release system being
developed by AMC. Currently, a crew chief or loadmaster
must physically cut cables to ensure loads don't collide
upon release. Now the CAT will be able to transfer
coordinates and timing to allow for automatic cutting to
release the bundles.
"The wireless gate release system is not fielded yet,
but often software will have to catch up. This time
we're out in front," Carlson said. "Our whole goal is
always trying to improve precision." It is anticipated
that CAT 2.2 will be fielded by the first quarter of
fiscal 2014, and development efforts for versions 3.0,
3.1, and 3.2 have already started.
The team said they work closely with their partners from
the Army to incorporate new chute data into
calculations, and to provide additional data transfer
from the CAT to the AGU for enhanced accuracy. "With
every update or release, the Army and Air Force
personnel are happier with what we can provide," Carlson
said. "It helps them do their job better."