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  • Cockpits

    Wow, it's been dead on here lately...

    Cockpits. Specifically, cockpits of tactical aircraft (fighters) and trainers...

    To my knowledge every single aircraft design has designed a new cockpit to go with it, and these cockpits are changed and upgraded over time. Sure there are some similarities within aircraft families or certain manufactures, but has there ever been an effort to standardized tactical cockpit design and layout? Has a government or even a manufacturer ever attempted to standardize this?

    Especially now, with fly-by-wire and glass cockpits, the instrument panel of the T-6B Texan II trainer doesn’t look all that far off from the F-22A Raptor. Yet each aircraft has a distinctly different cockpit layout. The same, yet different.

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    Would the US government pay for the design of a cockpit module that would be used in all single and tandem seat tactical (and tactical training) aircraft? The module could be mandated to be used in all future designs and dropped into airframes like a bathtub. The module could contain the flight control computers so that you could just connect the airframe to the cockpit module, and everything would work – I understand this is an oversimplification.

    This would save money in the development and testing of new aircraft and especially in crew training. The ‘cockpit module’ could be enhanced and evolved with future innovation.

    Does anyone know if this has been considered? Are we seeing the beginning of this with the F-35 common cockpit, where all three models (even the STOVL F-35B) share the same cockpit configuration? Will the USAF try and incorporate this in its digital century series aircraft? Or are aircraft just too unique and the benefits not significant enough to develop this type of standardization?
    Last edited by JA Boomer; 24 Feb 21,, 00:06.

  • #2
    In a word...no.

    The reason being is acquisition law. As a government PM I can only tell a vendor they need to do XYZ. I cannot tell that vendor what parts they have to use and which sub-contractor they can use.

    If they want to use Earl's Bait & Aerospace instead of Raytheon, so long as Earl's meet the standards of reliability and use, then Earl's it is.

    Also look at those 2 cockpits...one is a center stick and the other is a HOTAS set up.

    You can put commonality in some parts of the requirements but that is hard to justify.

    The 4 legs of a program are cost, schedule, performance and sustainability. the PMs job is to try to keep those 4 legs of stool the same length.
    “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
    Mark Twain

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
      Also look at those 2 cockpits...one is a center stick and the other is a HOTAS set up.
      They are both HOTAS, one is center stick, one is side stick.

      Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
      In a word...no.

      The reason being is acquisition law. As a government PM I can only tell a vendor they need to do XYZ. I cannot tell that vendor what parts they have to use and which sub-contractor they can use.

      If they want to use Earl's Bait & Aerospace instead of Raytheon, so long as Earl's meet the standards of reliability and use, then Earl's it is.

      You can put commonality in some parts of the requirements but that is hard to justify.
      Great info! Hard to wrap your head around how restrictive that is. Sounds like you couldn't even specify side vs center stick!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by JA Boomer View Post
        Great info! Hard to wrap your head around how restrictive that is. Sounds like you couldn't even specify side vs center stick!
        Something like side v center you can specify by stating having that as a requirement.

        It is like when we went to FMTV truck fleet....we specified the vehicles with a crane had to be stowed in a specific area and unfold in a certain manner to match with existing supported systems.

        There is always trade space built in...and open and frank discussions can happen where a PM can see we want aircraft X to have similar look/feel in the cockpit as Y. To meet that requirement a vendor for X will usually use the Y aircrafts supply source so you can have it in both.

        Also, that whole sustainability leg...you can require a new system be able to be maintained by currently sets, kits and outfits in the supply/maintenance operations. That can also drive a vendor down a specific path you want them to travel.

        As an Acquisition Logisitician my job is to try to force that scenario as it makes an new system easier to maintain.


        “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
        Mark Twain

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post
          t is like when we went to FMTV truck fleet....we specified the vehicles with a crane had to be stowed in a specific area and unfold in a certain manner to match with existing supported systems.
          It that because you couldn't go so far as to mandate the specific crane system that was to be included?

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          • #6
            Originally posted by JA Boomer View Post

            It that because you couldn't go so far as to mandate the specific crane system that was to be included?
            Yeah, we couldn't say use X vendor. It just turned out X met all the specs the best.

            You can argue against the requirement/proposal to use something made out of unobtainium as well. Cause sometimes technology and/or manufacturing capability doesn't exist at an economical cost.

            And keep in mind this is US Acquisition policy and law.

            Your experiences may differ.
            Last edited by Albany Rifles; 25 Feb 21,, 15:04.
            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
            Mark Twain

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Albany Rifles View Post

              Yeah, we couldn't say use X vendor. It just turned out X met all the specs the best.

              You can argue against the requirement/proposal to use something made out of unobtainium as well. Cause sometimes technology and/or manufacturing capability doesn't exist at an economical cost.

              And keep in mind this is US Acquisition policy and law.

              Your experiences may differ.
              I find this fascinating. I do understand the underlying premise of what these acquisition laws are trying to achieve, but in the end it seems it just makes procurements folks like yourself and vendors jump through hoops to wind up at the same place.

              I do wonder if an aircraft's engines aren't normally dictated by the buyer to the aircraft prime contractor. Didn't the USAF tell Boeing that the F-15EX will have the GE F-110 engines? A cockpit module could be similar.

              Because modern cockpits all look similar but all have different configurations, I do see significant advantages to standardizing, but perhaps this is a problem that doesn't need solving.

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              • #8
                I can't really address the engine thing.

                But in that case the specifying a type engine could fit into the requirement of using existing tools, kits and outfits already in service.

                But to be honest, the system is better now than it was a decade or so ago. Everyone knows the rules so we keep off the guardrails and everyone behaves.
                “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                Mark Twain

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