As of 9 Apr 99
By Gidge Dady
V-22 Public Affairs
Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.  ---A technology that is used in laptop computers and flat television sets will find its way into the cockpit of the MV-22 Osprey later this year resulting in substantial savings to the V-22 program, according to Col. Nolan Schmidt, V-22 program manager.

Active Matrix Liquid Crystal Display (AMLCD), or flat panels as they are more commonly referred to, are slated to replace older technology Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) displays. These CRT displays are used in the Multi-Function Displays (MFD) on the V-22.  There are four MFDs located in the V-22 cockpit that provide the pilots with primary flight symbols used to control and navigate the aircraft, and display video imagery, such as Forward Looking Infra Red (FLIR) and digital map data.   “This change in MFDs is expected to save approximately $500 million in procurement savings alone over the life of the program, which extends out to 2020,” said Schmidt.

These new flat panel displays will bring several benefits to the Osprey.  The displays will be cheaper, lighter, and have better performance than the CRT display they are replacing.  The flat panel displays will also correct a nighttime ‘glow’ problem that exists with the current CRT MFDs.  This background ‘glow’ decreases the pilot’s night visibility outside the cockpit when Night Vision Goggles are not being worn.

 "By installing the AMLCD we can not only resolve the technical deficiency, but we can also achieve other benefits, such as increased contrast and better sunlight readability.  Better in the day and better at night, a combination difficult to achieve with CRT technology." said Cdr. Don Mueller, former V-22 avionics system project officer (ASPO) and current deputy program manager for Systems Integration.

Affordability and reliability are also major forces behind the drive to flat panels.  “For the cost of one CRT display we will be able to buy 10 flat panels and have change left over,” said Mueller.  The flat panels will be more reliable than the CRTs, which are prone to frequent tube and power supply failures.  The difference in reliability means that the predicted mean time between failure will be on the order of 4500 hours for the new flat panels compared with 2000 hours for the CRT system which has life limiting components and will require periodic adjustment.  Finally, the flat panel displays are about 50 percent lighter than the CRTs, which weigh in at about 40 pounds each.

While AMLCD technology has been available for laptop computers and other commercial devices for several years, it was not practical to install a flat panel MFD in the V-22 during the Engineering, Manufacturing, and Development (EMD) phase which began in 1994.  However, the Osprey team did choose to use flat panel technology for other displays, such as the Standby Flight Display and the Engine Instrument Crew Alerting System, which do not have the vigorous performance requirements of the MFD.

“In 1994 flat panel displays (for aircraft) were relatively new.  While they looked adequate for computer applications, which are relatively static, they did not have the clarity and color depth to display moving video such as the Forward Looking Infrared system the V-22 pilots will use. In addition, the MFD needed square AMLCD glass vice the rectangular glass that was used in laptops,” said James Negro, systems engineer supporting the Controls and Displays Integrated Product Team for the Navy.

There was also the concern that early AMLCDs would be vulnerable to the Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) generated in a shipboard environment.  Not having the EMI capability, crisp resolution, or enough suppliers to make the flat panel displays accessible and affordable are a few reasons that this technology would not have helped the program five years ago according to Mueller. Today this technology is mature and affordable, and flat panels will be installed in all the MV-22 (Marine) aircraft beginning in FY-99 and in the CV-22 (Air Force) variant starting in FY-01.  A total of 410 Ospreys will be outfitted with the flat panel displays. The new flat panel MFDs are being manufactured by EFW of Fort Worth, Texas.
"This change means increased savings, increased reliability and decreased weight, a triple treat because it does not happen very often," said Cdr. Michael Ahern, V-22 deputy program manager for Business.