Converting commercial aircraft for military use makes financial and operational sense. That explains why conversions have such a long history. But the systems involved are complex and evolve over an aircraft’s many decades of life. Modifications and updates become necessary. These programs also bring major, unanticipated challenges with significant risk of delay, cost and impact on operations. The best way to align the operator and the OEM on project requirements is to work with an independent partner that has proven engineering expertise and a deep knowledge of the aircraft.
Years ago, a leading U.S. manufacturer of derivative aircraft developed the first and only airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform operated by a foreign military customer. The manufacturer delivered radar and related mission systems in multiple stages over several years, increasing functionality with every modification. The aircraft received significant use, including deployments in various regions, and expectations for its capabilities evolved. New mission systems were designed to meet the evolving needs but had to be integrated without redesigning the aircraft.
SeaTec was able to provide experts in the AEW&C systems and teams with experience modifying the specific airframe. Lending that expertise is similar to how we assist in certifying the airworthiness of these derivative aircraft, to avoid costly delays and expenses. First, we organized a multipronged assessment of the existing aircraft, its systems and the upgrade requirements as defined by the foreign Air Force and interpreted by the OEM’s team. We conducted a gap analysis between OEM requirements and customer specifications and created diagrams and narratives to ensure functionality and ascertain options for integrating modifications into the aircraft’s current space. To eliminate inconsistencies and provide clarity, our team conducted a review of systems requirements involving the OEM and its suppliers and the OEM and the customer’s Air Force.
SeaTec consultants also performed independent assessments and organized working group sessions featuring experts from the OEM, prime suppliers and customer. Three objectives drove each path of the overall assessment:
- Do the requirements meet the intent of the operator’s specification?
- Do the requirements represent the defined scope of work?
- Do the requirements meet the needs and expectations of the operators?
Throughout, the team considered the maturation of technology with an eye to future growth, integration and enhancement of existing systems. Through analysis and data collection, SeaTec identified and resolved several fundamental issues. The work aligned the OEM and customer. It produced a roadmap of 3,000 requirements covering five systems and four subsystems, identifying 350 missing, erroneous or superfluous requirements along the way.
SeaTec’s team managed accountabilities throughout, enabling a smooth transition of project artifacts and processes to the client’s staff for continued development and definition of upgrades. In the process, we were praised for our methodology, rigorous approach, deep systems engineering expertise, and effectiveness of our quiet, coaching leadership style.
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