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F-16 Smart Display – Keeping the Viper Relevant Through 2025
It has often been a safe assumption that an original equipment manufacturer will provide long-term support for that equipment — but now the game is changing. One example of this change is Raytheon's addition of new avionics to existing older aircraft, adopting a form-fit replacement methodology on platforms not originally built by Raytheon. The art of this technique is to integrate advanced capabilities without changing platform mechanical or software interfaces, which gives Raytheon the competitive edge by eliminating the need for, and the cost of, extensive operational testing and flight recertification. One real-world example of this practice is Raytheon's Smart Display product line adapted to the F-16 Viper aircraft.

The F-16 Smart Display is a form/fit/function replacement for analog flight instruments through a new color LCD. It adds embedded net-centric processing nodes that provide the pilot with new capabilities such as digital moving map, tactical situational awareness display, data link processing, Web services and machine-to-machine messaging using XML. It can easily add new capabilities such as the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) (Figure 1). The Smart Display includes more processing throughput and digital data storage than many mission computers because of recent advancements in commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processors used inside mobile computing platforms.


Operating Mission Support and Primary Flight Reference Software
F-16 Smart Display architecture is based on dual processors to operate the Mission Support software and the primary flight reference software. The Mission Support software contains many common reusable software components, allowing for quicker and more cost-effective development. This software architecture also permits COTS processor upgrading without affecting the Mission Support software.

The F-16 Smart Display uses Raytheon's Information Layer architecture to layer asynchronous net-centric battlefield data processing on top of the deterministic command-response processing found in the existing modular mission computer (MMC). Net-centric operations are asynchronous in nature and involve helping the pilot visualize the battlefield and provide data exchange with other battlefield elements.

The F-16 Smart Display provides the pilot with the following capabilities:
  • Digital primary flight reference display
  • FalconView™ digital moving map
  • Tactical situational awareness using data link overlays
  • Data link processing
  • Sensor control and sensor points-ofinterest data sharing
  • Digital image capture and XML image transfer to other systems using cursor on target messaging
  • Embedded processing for growth features (Tactical geo-registration, AT3 processing, Web services)

Two constraints drove the physical packaging solution. First, an affordable, upgradable solution was required. A COTS solution for the processors, 3-D graphics engines, Ethernet LAN components and 1553 data bus interface cards was chosen. The second constraint was to avoid cutting the aircraft, which would require flight recertification. Consequently, the solution was designed from the front, fitting into the space of a 3-inch analog flight instrument, while still providing the requisite capabilities and processing (Figure 2). These limitations required multiple small physical enclosures to exchange data to provide video to the LCD glass panel. Components were installed into the existing opening of the instrument panel and then properly aligned using highdensity electrical connectors. Cable harnesses were eliminated by stacking custom circuit card assemblies and building a new interface card.

Integrating New Capabilities
Smart Display supports advanced sensor and net-centric radio integration into the F-16. By leveraging the embedded net-centric processing nodes contained within the Smart Display, new capabilities are integrated without changing the operational flight program (OFP) software in the current MMC. These capabilities can be Raytheon- or externally-developed capabilities.


Two examples are the Raytheon Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and the airborne mobile ad-hoc network (MANET). The MMC would continue to receive the existing sensor and radio data and would be the control point for the AESA radar and the airborne MANET radio. The Smart Display sits on the avionics data buses within the F-16 mission system and can extract key avionics data without affecting the platform software. New features can now be integrated directly into the Smart Display by developing dedicated links between the display, the AESA radar and the airborne MANET radio for data exchange (Figure 3). Using the Smart Display as the point of advanced sensor and net-centric radio integration allows Raytheon to upgrade the F-16 as a low-cost field modification.

William T. Stiffler