F4949 / AVIATION SUCCESSES
CASE STUDY: CRITICAL REQUIREMENTS OF FIXED-WING AVIATORS ELICIT NIGHT VISION SYSTEM INNOVATION
How ITT captured the worldwide market for aviation night vision through innovative problem solving and quick customer responsiveness
To address the specific night operational needs of fixed-wing aviators.
The story of how ITT became the dominating manufacturer of aviation NVGs for pilots of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft began in earnest in October 1991. At that time, former RAF pilot Roy Holmes, now international marketing manager for ITT, attended a meeting at the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Test Center in Tucson, Arizona. Holmes' purpose was to recommend the Company's AN/AVS-6 to the United States Air Force (USAF), which wanted an NVG for its fixed-wing fleet. But the Air Force rejected the AN/AVS-6 because it didn't fit onto the (HGU-55/P) helmet. The bulky, rear-mounted battery pack also made the AN/AVS-6 impractical for fighter pilots sitting on ejection seats.
Rather than accept defeat, Holmes offered to modify the AN/AVS-6 to overcome these problems. The USAF agreed to consider the change.
Modify, yet improve, equipment design
Upon returning to ITT's night vision headquarters in Roanoke, VA, Holmes and John Domalski, now vice president and director of military marketing, discussed a different mount and battery pack for the HGU-55. The modified AN/AVS-6 would be mounted in a space on the front of the HGU-55/P helmet, where the visor had been on the SPH-4 helmet for which the AN/AVS-6 system was designed. This battery pack would contain two miniature batteries and would replace the rear-mounted AN/AVS-6 pack so as not to impede ejection from the aircraft.
Initial prototypes were developed and approved for consideration by the USAF. In April 1992, the USAF conducted a fly-off between the ITT model (F4949) and the offerings of one U.S. and two British competitors. ITT won the competition. While the F4949's creation was more of a mechanical improvement than technological breakthrough, the effort would eventually produce a financial windfall for ITT.
More options for more aviators engaged in night operations
In September 1992, ITT Industries Night Vision received its first order for AN/AVS-9s from the U.S. Air National Guard, which wanted the device for its ongoing effort to intercept drug-running aircraft. In the next three years, ITT delivered over 2500 F4949 versions to the USAF. In early 1996, the USAF adopted the AN/AVS-9 (V) nomenclature for the various versions of the F4949 in service. The (V) suffix indicates that there were several versions of the AN/AVS-9, all identified by F4949 model numbers. In February 1996, the USAF and U.S. Navy added their requirements for NVGs to the Army's multiyear procurement program known as Omnibus IV. ITT won 100% of this contract. Eventually, the USAF and U.S. Navy would enter into direct contracts with ITT for night vision equipment, as their requirements grew for further versions of the system.
Sizeable quantities of AN/AVS-9s have gone to the USAF and U.S. Navy, which selected ITT's F4949G for their fixed-wing aviators. The U.S. Navy had British Catseye NVGs in service for fighters from 1987 until they were replaced by ITT F4949 systems in 2000. The Catseye NVG was designed by Roy Holmes before he joined ITT in 1988.
ITT also has received substantial orders for the F4949 Series from other countries. With a backlog of over 6000 units, ITT has sold over 13,000 F4949s to 30 nations.
Presently, ITT offers 40 different configurations of the F4949 for fixed- and rotary-wing applications, which may include different helmets or image tubes. Currently, there are eight versions of the AN/AVS-9 used by the U.S. military.
The basic F4949 fits a wide variety of aviator helmets such as the HGU-55/P, HGU-84/P and SPH-4AF. A quick-don mount is available with the HGU-84/P helmet. Other versions fit the British Alpha and French OS549 helmets.
Features of the F4949 include 40% field of view (FOV), 1.30 cy/mr resolution, 25 mm range for vertical adjustment, 27 mm fore-and-aft adjustment range; up-front battery pack using two 1/2 in. AA lithium batteries; independent eye-span adjustment; and lateral adjustment capability on the helmet. An optional battery pack adapter enables connection of the AN/AVS-9 to an additional low-profile rear-mounted battery pack for crews of aircraft not fitted with ejection seats. Total weight of the goggle plus mount is 800 grams for fixed-wing applications and 880 grams for rotary-wing applications.
ITT continues to enhance its F4949. U.S. military customers now are specifying AN/AVS-9 variants upgraded with ITT's new PinnacleTM thin-filmed tube. The Pinnacle provides the highest performance of any Gen 3 device on the market, according to separate evaluations by ITT and the U.S. military.
The decision to upgrade with the Pinnacle tube stems from the Army's 2002 OMNI VI contract, of which ITT won the maximum allowable share totaling $450 million [see related press release]. OMNI VI, the largest contract the Army has ever awarded for Gen 3 equipment, consists of two separate parts: one for aviator night vision equipment, which was awarded solely to ITT; the other for ground forces NVGs, which was split: 60% to ITT - 40% to a competitor. The five-year contract calls for $150 million to be spent on aviator goggles, $300 million for ground units. The aviator goggle is a new version of ANVIS designated AN/AVS-6 (V) 3.
The F4949 took the basic AN/AVS-6 design and, through a series of modifications, adapted the design to fixed-wing requirements, different helmets and different solutions to cockpit compatibility. The AN/AVS-6 (V) 3 incorporates many of the improvements ITT made in fine-tuning the F4949 design and now looks very similar to some of the F4949 versions. The Army plans to buy over 14,000 of the AN/AVS-6 (V) 3 to replace their older systems. Once replaced, all aviation NVGs in the U.S. military will be based on the F4949 design that began with the 1991 Tucson meeting.
Continuous Improvement and Customer Responsiveness
The development history of the F4949 aviator NVG fully exemplifies ITT's commitment to both continuous improvement and customer responsiveness. The F4949 was an innovative solution to a critical requirement. By addressing the "voice of the customer" in a simple design modification, ITT Industries has expanded and enhanced night operations for military fixed-wing aviators - wherever their missions take them.