Innovative Design and Safety-Critical Software Enable Refuelling Wing Pods
Cobham Air Refuelling & Auxiliary Mission Equipment and Wind River have announced the use of Wind River’s safety-critical VxWorks real-time operating system (RTOS) in the 900E series air refuelling pods to be used on the A330MRTT and A400M.
The 905E/A330 and 908E/A400M wing pods are fourth-generation systems incorporating over 50 years of design, integration and refuelling expertise. The wing pod is “role-equipment” and contains a software-based digital control system.
The safety-critical edition of VxWorks conforms to the DO-178B standard and runs the Refuelling Control Unit (RCU) inside the refuelling pod. The RCU controls the primary functions of the refuelling pod, including safety and mission-critical applications.
The RCU is responsible for controlling the electric hose-reel motor and brakes, as well as the ram air turbine that supplies power to the fuel pump. The unit also monitors hose-reel speed, fuel pressure, turbine speed and up to a dozen sensors in the self-contained refuelling pod. Input from the tanker aircraft regarding airspeed and weight-on-wheels status is fed to the RCU via the external interface standard (ARINC, 1553 or optical, as required).
The RCU runs continuous Built-In Testing (BIT) diagnostics for enhanced mission availability. It also provides the operator with warning, caution and advisory information at the control panel. Finally, the RCU is responsible for arming the Emergency Functions Unit (EFU), a unique feature on A330 and A400M aircraft.
Roy Trim, Chief Engineer at Cobham Air Refuelling & Auxiliary Mission Equipment Division explains: “Prior to using Wind River’s VxWorks, the Refuelling Control Unit ran on machine code. VxWorks provides greater options with regards to architectural flexibility, considered important for the continued development of our avionic solutions capability. A key reason for selecting VxWorks was that it’s an industry-accepted safety-critical RTOS that comes with proven DO-178B Level A certification credentials.”
Richard Tyson, Managing Director of Cobham Air Refuelling & Auxiliary Mission Equipment Division, says: "Using a product that’s tailored to our needs for connectivity and safety-critical standards gives us an unparalleled edge to tailor our product to a global range of applications. As the inventors of mid-flight refuelling, we’re able to utilise decades of experience to stay on the cutting edge of hardware and software advancements.”
Alex Wilson, Senior Programme Manager for Aerospace and Defence at Wind River, comments: “The RTOS is a critical building block for an increasing number of safety-critical systems, and rather than develop this technology in-house, aerospace device developers and manufacturers are increasingly looking to readily available COTS solutions to outsource commodities like real-time operating systems, middleware and board support. This approach enables specialist device makers, like Cobham, to focus on the development of products that are more advanced, versatile and easier to certify”.
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About Wind River
Wind River is the global leader in device software optimisation (DSO). Wind River enables companies to develop and run device software faster, better, at lower cost and more reliably. Our platforms are preintegrated, fully standardised, enterprise-wide development solutions. They reduce effort, cost and risk and optimise quality and reliability at all phases of the device software development process, from concept to deployed product.
Cobham plc - with five technology divisions and one in a service sector, the Group designs and manufactures equipment, specialised systems and components for the aerospace, defence, communications, law enforcement and national security markets, and operates, maintains and modifies aircraft, particularly in relation to special mission flight operations and surveillance.
Cobham Air Refuelling & Auxiliary Mission Equipment specializes in the provision of tactical tanking for helicopters, buddy-buddy and special operations as well as strategic tanking for deployment and sustainment of fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The division also designs and manufactures refuelling probes, external fuel tanks, missile launchers, pneumatic and pyrotechnic bomb ejection, defensive aid chaff and flare systems, pneumatic multi-store carriers, aerial targets, filtration and liquid separation systems, and area, terminal and ground movement control systems.
Director, Global Communications