Software assurance helps new helicopter fly

In 2002, the Future Lynx project was launched by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in the UK to determine the suitability of a derivative of the Super Lynx 300 to replace the existing Lynx helicopters of the Royal Navy and British Army.

helicopter software assurance

The resultant new rotorcraft was the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat, known as the Lynx Wildcat. This is an improved version of its predecessor, being designed to serve in battlefield utility, search and rescue and anti-surface warfare roles.

Although similar in look to the helicopter it replaces, the Wildcat comprises 95% new components and has many improved attributes, such as durability and stealth capabilities. Other innovations include the Lynx Wildcat being the first AgustaWestland helicopter to be designed inside an entirely digital environment.

From drawing board to delivery

In February 2012, a prototype Wildcat conducted 20 days of sea trials with the Royal Navy and in May of that year the first production Wildcat was delivered to the Army.

However, a huge amount of vitally important work is done between the design of a new rotorcraft coming off the digital drawing board and it taking flight. And that’s where TP Groups’ team has played a significant role; adding tangible value during the past decade of working on the Wildcat program.

Military helicopters rely upon many complex IT systems for safe and effective operation. These come from a range of sources and must work seamlessly together to enable the aircrew to quickly and easily assimilate and act upon multiple streams of information coming at them from around the aircraft.

In the system development method, there are many system-derived requirements and it’s been the role of TP Group experts to verify that the airframe sub-systems meet these to ensure compliance prior to systems integration testing on the actual hardware and reference rigs.

This verification is undertaken in a series of iterative stages (either manual or automatic) with observations and failures recorded and fed into the verification traceability matrices as part of the Body of Evidence for Certification.

This is a vitally important step in enabling the Wildcat to enter service, with the TP Group team working on the program ranging in size from between six to 10 engineers – depending on the program stage - plus two permanent project managers.

A cost effective outsourced capability

Assuring the Wildcat’s software worked as intended and keeping the program on track were not the only benefits the TP Group team brought to the new helicopter’s development.

They also provided a cost effective, outsourced and managed capability across multiple aspects of the project, while building an excellent and sustainable working relationship with the customer. This enabled the customer to concentrate their own resources on other critical areas.

Part of the future of the Lynx Wildcat program

The TP Group will continue to work on the next phase of the Lynx Wildcat program, undertaking the same exacting verification testing with the same software assurance team, as exports bound for markets such as Portugal and the Philippines take shape.

Steve Lafferty, Services Support Director of TP Group Services commented, ‘We were chosen for this important work because of our track record in the sector, plus the fact that we have the correct level of suitably qualified and experienced professional engineers who understand the customer’s ambitions and products in detail. This work is typical of the software assurance projects carried out by our team at Wincanton. Through their skills, complex safety-critical and mission-critical systems are delivered quickly and cost effectively, helping to bring aircraft into service sooner.’