The U.S. Air Force’s new Block 50 Ground Control Station (GCS) – developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) – for the first time controlled an MQ-9 Reaper® on January 8th from the GA-ASI Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif.
The Block 50 GCS cockpit for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) is designed with improved capabilities through an optimized Human Machine Interface (HMI) that significantly enhances aircrew situational awareness and allows for single seat operations. It integrates multi-level security feeds with onboard sensors to display a comprehensive picture of the battlespace and incorporates improved information assurance capabilities that protect against cybersecurity risks.
“This is an exciting milestone for the Block 50,” said David R. Alexander, president, GA-ASI. “With the Block 50, we’re developing a GCS that will reduce manpower requirements and support future missions in complex operating environments.”
The design of the Block 50 provides separation of flight critical components to increase flight safety posture, enable rapid testing and integration of new mission capabilities.
Features of the new Block 50 GCS include:
An intuitive glass cockpit design that reduces operator workload and increases effectiveness of mission execution through electronic checklists and integrated mission data information displays
Demonstrated Single Seat operations
An increase in modularity and interface definition to aid in overcoming Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS)
One-deep line-replaceable unit (LRU) access to reduce maintenance down time and increase operational availability (Ao)
A new Multi-Level Secure (MLS) Integrated Communication System (ICS) for improved situational awareness, leveraging an upgraded network infrastructure for sharing information throughout a globally connected GCS and Squadron Operating Center (SOC) network.