The Marine Corps has fielded the first open-architecture mission-systems computer aboard the UH-1Y utility helicopter and AH-1Z gunship.

Northrop Grumman [NOC] manufactured and delivered its Tech Refresh Mission Computer (TRMC) as part of the Marine Corps H-1 upgrade program, which is replacing UH-1N and AH-1W helicopters with upgraded aircraft with improved capability, commonality, reliability and ease of maintenance.

Bell UH-1Y Huey. Photo: Bell
Bell UH-1Y Huey. Photo: Bell

UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft are the first to benefit from Northrop Grumman’s TRMC, which is now in full-rate production and features multi-core processing. The lightweight computer integrates advanced mission, weapons and video processing capabilities into a conduction-cooled, high-performance airborne computer capable of driving four independent, multi-function displays.

Northrop’s open systems architecture enables easy system upgrades, rapid insertion of new and emerging technologies and integration of other platform avionics, communication, onboard sensors and survivability equipment.

“Our Tech Refresh Mission Computer gives warfighters an asymmetrical advantage and improved situational awareness through enhanced processing and C4ISR capabilities,” said Steve McCoy, vice president of the land and avionics C4ISR division at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, in a statement. “This next generation of centralized mission computing will accommodate future growth and rapidly bring emerging capabilities to the warfighter through its proven open system architecture.”

The mission system architecture is scalable to other platforms including the Sikorsky UH‑60 Black Hawk, Northrop Grumman E‑2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft, the Bell AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopter and other aircraft. Integrating the common computer into multiple aircraft fleets increases commonality, which in turn decreases logistics challenges and the need to sustain large inventories of spare parts. Sikorsky is part of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Bell is part of Textron [TXT].

Dual mission computers are a central element of Northrop’s Integrated Avionics System (IAS) that powers the UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopter cockpits. The mission computers provide centralized display and control of all IAS functions, including aircraft performance and flight instruments, onboard sensor and survivability displays, and improved situational awareness and health monitoring information.

Northrop Grumman’s mission computers have been used in H-1 helicopters since the upgrade program’s inception in 1997, making the mission computers a safe, combat-proven and mature solution. Previous mission computers have amassed more than 200,000 flight hours in both peacetime and wartime operations and have exceeded the required mean time between failure rate, according to the company.

Northrop Grumman is providing identical mission computers for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft that make up the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadrons, resulting in increased commonality across multiple platforms through a shared integrated mission equipment package.