48th Fighter Wing jets receive high-tech overhaul
By Airman 1st Class Michael Hess, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 13, 2006
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- When aircraft launch from the British Isles in September to support operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, they will be fitted with the most advanced avionics and carry the most accurate, lethal weapons in the Air Force inventory.
The 48th Fighter Wing here has taken the Air Force lead in technology with advanced processors, updated software, improved imagery and expanded munition capabilities on all deploying aircraft.
The overhaul is no small feat.
"Fourteen civilian contractors work in 24 hour shifts Sunday through Friday to prepare the aircraft to deploy," said Capt. Ken Sumler, 48th Maintenance Operation Squadron maintenance operations flight commander.
Each modification increases combat effectiveness, though all are linked to the software-hardware combination of Suite 5 and advanced display core processors, or ADCPs.
"You can think of it like a home computer. The hardware, the ADCP, is the processor. You can't run high-end software on a system that can't support it. You can't run Windows XP on a computer that's running off a 233 megahertz processor. You need something with more power; the ADCP offers that," said Master Sgt. Bryon Parsons, wing avionics manager.
The aircraft performs many of the same functions it did before, though now it does them better.
The Link-16 imagery system, previously installed on the aircraft, was never used to its full potential. Link-16 technology displays a wireframe image of an area including simple symbols that represent friend or foe. The system not only shows real-time location, but communicates via wireless data transfer with the friendly blips to display their individual fuel and armament loads.
"Link 16 has incredible tactical capability. A ground force or (airborne warning and control system) can reach out to a group of aircraft orbiting the area without using radio and task them with a mission. The flight lead, based on its mission load, fuel and armaments, responds by pushing one of two buttons to select ‘No go' or ‘Wilco,' which is transmitted back to AWACS or ground force personnel," said Sergeant Parsons.
The system always has been able to function as a tactical and strategic tool. With the new processor speed and software, it can link with an orbiting MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, AWACS or individual on the ground and receive mission-critical imagery while a mission is under way.
"Even if a target changes positions while we are in the air, someone on the ground can radio or send images to us, and we can adjust the mission accordingly," said Capt. Joseph Siberski, 494th Fighter Squadron, who serves as the wing weapons and tactics project officer.
"This is an enormous advancement to the program," Sergeant Parsons said.
In January 2005, technicians fitted wing aircraft with an advanced targeting pod, which gave aircrew members the ability to designate a target, transmit geospatial coordinates to the weapon systems.
Suite 5 was specifically programmed to incorporate advanced targeting pod data into the aircraft sensor suite. Everything on the aircraft now speaks the same language," said Sergeant Parsons.
Suite 5 and the ADCP make all the components faster and able to handle smarter weapons, which is primary purpose for the developments.
"These modifications will help us directly support ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as we provide close-air support for conventional and special operations," Captain Siberski said.