Unit Emblem TFDC

 

Test Flight and Development Centre
   
 
 
 

 Mission & Vision

TFDC MISSION STATEMENT

TFDC ensures the integrity of combat ready aircraft and associated systems for the SA Air Force and other aeronautical organisations by applying total quality Flight Test Management.

 TFDC VISION

To be recognised for excellence in flight testing.

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 Emblem

 

TFDC Emblem

During the period that TFDC was stationed at AFB Waterkloof it had a satellite unit stationed at Upington.  It was during this period that the present TFDC emblem was developed and thus reflects both the core business of TFDC and the tasks performed at the satellite unit. (Since TFDC's move to Bredasdorp the satellite unit was closed.)

Description:

  • The unit has the task of experimental flight testing - research and development.  In the emblem this is displayed by the heraldic key.

  • People involved in flight testing must have exceptional skills regarding observation, decision-taking and reaction.  They must be wide awake all the time.  These characteristics are displayed by the eagle.  The motto is in French and means (more or less!) wide awake.

  • The use of Upington and the Kalahari must be recognised as part of the history of TFDC.  That is displayed in the emblem by the use of a specific eagle namely the Tawny Eagle.  This eagle's natural habitat is the Kalahari.

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 History

 From very modest beginnings, Test Flight and Development Centre was officially established on 10 August 1975 at Air Force Base Waterkloof, Pretoria with a satellite unit based at Upington. With the entry of the RSA into the Aerospace Industry and the establishment of the sophisticated technical facilities of the Overberg Test Range (OTB) for the space programme, TFDC was relocated near Bredasdorp in 1987 and has during the past 23 years, with a relatively small work force, flown approximately 30 000 flying hours and conducted more than 2 000 flight test programs.

TFDC conducts the major portion of experimental and Research & Development flight test work in the RSA. It's strategic positioning with a large volume of airspace, allowing for flexibility during flight testing, as well as its capabilities and facilities are the envy of many foreign Aerospace Companies.

General

The scope of the projects at TFDC, vary from short to long duration, low to high cost, moderate to high technology, and low to high risk. Some of the tasks currently include the qualification of the locally developed maritime surveillance suite, the locally developed electronic warfare suite, performance tests, flutter tests and various smart weapons.

Denel's Overberg Test Range also plays an important part in the conduct of flight test trials. Accurate spatial positioning, optical and radar tracking of airborne targets is provided. Cinetheodolites are located throughout the test range for visual tracking of aircraft and released stores, while the laser track mount and Doppler tracking radar's are used for accurate multi-target tracking.

Aerospace Organisations that have utilised the facilities at TFDC include the Russian company MARVOL, British Aerospace with the Hawk testing, Vodochody L-59 testing and several other clients. We have also successfully hosted both the Empire Test Pilot School and the United States Navy Test Pilot School in conducting previews on the Oryx helicopter.

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 Projects

 SAAF HAWK Programme

The time is drawing closer for the first Hawk aircraft purchased as part of the Strategic Defence Packages to arrive at TFDC.  Several activities for the development of the Hawk Mk 120 for the SAAF took place during 2002.  These included development of the new engine, Training Systems, Planning Systems and Navigation and Weapons System.  The aircraft Critical Design Review where the go ahead for manufacture according to the approved design is given took place in November 2002 in England.  The airframe is complete with only the engine and avionics still to be fitted.

The Rolls Royce Adour 951 engine, the new engine for the SAAF Hawks, completed the first phases of its development in 2002.  Electromagnetic Compatibility and Interoperability testing took place during March and April last year. This phase was followed by ground testing at Warton in England and high altitude chamber testing in America to ensure the engine was safe before testing in flight.  The first flight in the BAE Systems Hawk New Demonstrator Aircraft (HNDA) took place at Warton on 28 August last year and was a success.  All in all 18 flights were conducted including relighting, engine handling and performance.  The purpose of these flights was to ensure a smooth programme when the aircraft arrives in South Africa for the final phase of engine testing.

During October, November and December five members from TFDC were undergoing training at Warton and Martin Baker in order to help support this aircraft when it arrives at TFDC.  The aircraft is due to arrive at TFDC at the end of March and then after the engine has been fully checked ground runs and flight tests will commence.  The first flight is planned for the beginning of May.  After approximately 18 flights a new low pressure turbine will be fitted, which will give a true reflection of the final engine’s performance and flight testing will continue until September this year.

In the mean time requirements for the Mission Planning and Ground Support System (MPGSS) are being finalised.  This system will allow pilots to plan from a single workstation where all the necessary information such as targets threats and aircraft and weapons sources are available to the pilot in a paperless environment.  The system will also allow debriefing after the mission as well as an interface with the logistics system (OSIS) for faster turn around times.  This system will be delivered in January 2005.

The Hawk training system for aircrew and ground crew will be based on a Computer Based Instruction (CBIS) system.  Technical training will be done on a Virtual Aircraft Training System (VATS) and the aircrew will do conversion and tactical training on an Operational Flight Trainer (OFT).  The Preliminary Design Review in order to assess whether the concept of training could go ahead in more detail was held in Warton at the end of October last year.  Air Force personnel including a TFDC test pilot will be going to Williamstown in Australia in April for finalising requirements on the OFT instructor station.

The first SAAF aircraft is due to arrive at TDFC in October this year to commence testing of the new Navigation and Weapons System as well as clearance of SAAF unique weapons.  This aircraft will be stationed at TFDC when finally delivered.  The SAAF project team had the opportunity to see this complete airframe at Brough in England where it was built.

Therefore from March this year TFDC will have Hawks operating from the base with our personnel helping to operate them.  The first aircraft from the acquisition projects that used to seem so far away will be here in less than two months.  TFDC is about to get very busy again.

 

Lt Col Coetzee
Fixed Wing Test Pilot

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 Telemetry

 What is Telemetry

INTRODUCTION

The South African Air Force's Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC) at Bredasdorp, conducts the major portion of experimental and Research & Development flight test work in the RSA.

The strategic positioning of TFDC with a large volume of airspace, allowing for flexibility during flight testing, as well as its capabilities and facilities are the envy of many foreign Aerospace Companies.

TFDC was officially established on 10 August 1975 at AFB Waterkloof. With the entry of the RSA into the Aerospace Industry and the establishment of the sophisticated technical facilities of the Overberg Test Range (OTB) for the space programme, TFDC was relocated in the Overberg in 1987 and has during the past 23 years, with a relatively small work force, flown approximately 30 000 flying hours and conducted more than 2 000 flight test programs.


An Aerial view of TFDC with the main runway in the foreground (10 000ft) and the secondary runway in the background. (Photo: TFDC photographic section)

CAPABILITIES

General

The scope of the projects at TFDC, vary from short to long duration, low to high cost, moderate to high technology, and low to high risk. Some of the tasks currently include the qualification of the locally developed maritime surveillance suite, the locally developed electronic warfare suite, performance tests, flutter tests and various smart weapons.

Denel's Overberg Test Range also plays an important part in the conduct of flight test trials. Accurate spatial positioning, optical and radar tracking of airborne targets is provided. Cine-theodolites are located throughout the test range for visual tracking of aircraft and released stores, while the laser track mount and Doppler tracking radar's are used for accurate multi-target tracking.

Product Support

To ensure proper support and the highest possible success rate the capabilities and skill of technical telemetry personnel plays an important role. Furthermore the dependability and availability of the telemetry equipment utilized during the flight test is considered as equally important.

To ensure the latter, TFDC has adopted the Product Support Supplier (PSS) concept for the maintenance, support and operation of the telemetry ground station and maintenance of approximately 50% of the airborne telemetry equipment. Reunert Defense Logistics (RDL) is presently contracted as the PSS for the telemetry system at TFDC.

TFDC has, during 1997, launched an active program to improve the TM data acquisition capability by providing the state-of-the-art equipment including data processing, data displays and to meet future test programs.  The TM data acquisition system improvement program includes the planned procurement of equipment to replace old or obsolete equipment and equipment for system checkout and verification.

The telemetry ground station, due to the earlier weapons boycott, comprises equipment from various suppliers.  The present capability of the ground station includes reception of telemetry data in P-band and/or S-band.In both bands, a dual receiver approach with diversity combining is utilised. For the P-band frequencies, Microdyne and ATNE equipment are used with manual tracking and for S-band ATNE receivers and diversity combiner in conjunction with a 1.5 meter parabolic dish antennae capable of auto tracking.  In the S-band the capability also exists to relay video data from an aircraft that is often used during release clearances and providing the client with a visual of what is happening with his product.

The upgrade process for the ground station includes processing and display of 1553 format data and new more advanced data recorders to name but two. It must be mentioned that any change to the ground system is always measured against the total telemetry system, meaning that compatibility and synergy with the rest of the telemetry system must always remain.

Airborne Telemetry

The flight test instrumentation section at TFDC is responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of all telemetry related tasks and onboard installations.

This section is also in the process of upgrading certain equipment, which include new data recorders and development of a "miniature" telemetry strap-on pack that utilises a processor for first level processing and accumulation of required data. The main objective of this development is a decrease in weight and installation time and an increase in capability.

This concept has been in existence since the early 80's.What is however significant is the fact that TFDC is moving in a direction that is vital in flight testing, namely, more cost-effective means of data collection.

The onboard telemetry section is also supported by a comprehensive and highly skilled R&D section who is responsible for the design and manufacture of all electronic circuitry required for signal conditioning and display requirements.

Data Reduction

The facility responsible for data reduction and real-time processing and display of telemetry data received a mayor boost a few years ago with the acquisition of an OS90 system. Apart from its vast processing power it also extended TFDC's capability to display real-time telemetry data to the customer giving him visibility of what is happening with his product and thus making him part of the total process.

The telemetry ground station and the OS90 in the data reduction room is linked via fiber optics to ensure proper high speed transfer of data from the receivers to the processor for real time data processing and display.

To ensure availability as well as supportability, TFDC has signed a back-to-back contract with L3 Communications that includes notification and correction of software bugs as well as any configuration changes/redundancy of components.

APPROACH TO FLIGHT TESTING

Flight Test Safety

The hazardous nature of flight testing places a high premium on safety of flight.  To ensure that all flight tests are conducted with the safety as a key factor, TFDC uses a System Safety Specialist to manage the flight test safety aspect as a systems engineering process. This ensures that all possible negative influences on the safe conduct of a flight test is eliminated or at least made visible.

By utilising this approach and taking into account the exploratory nature of the flight test task, TFDC has managed to achieve impressive flight safety statistics with extremely low flight test incident rates.

Flight Test Management Process

Director System Integrity, via the Staff Officer Test Flying (SOTF), functionally controls TFDC. This in effect results that all flight testing conducted by TFDC is tasked by SOTF. At TFDC the scheduling of the tasks are managed by the Flight Test Director. During a trials management meeting, which is held once a week, all tasks are concepted, prioritised and task leaders appointed. It is the responsibility of the task leader to ensure that the rest of the process is executed with the flight test report as the end result. To achieve this, there are various steps that must be followed to ensure success.

Figure 1 gives a broad outline of the process.

To ensure that the total process is optimised and cost effective, TFDC management believes in innovative thinking. This approach can be explained as follows:

In order to survive in today's marketplace, an organisation and that includes TFDC, must above all, be successful in innovation. By innovation in flight testing it is meant the ability to create new ideas that are critically judged, modified and then finally used to establish new and better approaches, methods, or devices.

Having said this it is also important to keep in mind that for instance to get from point A to point B one can use a VW or a Cadillac, meaning that care must be taken that when something is good enough it should be implemented and used. Remember that 'best' is the enemy of 'good'.

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