restricted access 6. The Smoke-Evacuation System and FLIRS
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C h a p t e r 6 The Smoke-Evacuation System and FLIRS T his chapter continues the examination of the AC-119 reconfiguration program by discussing two key high-technology subsystems of the modified aircraft that were added to enhance combat performance, navigation, and targeting. These are the smoke-evacuation system and the AN/AAD-4 forward-looking infrared radar system. Smoke-Evacuation System One of the most important of the gunship subsystems was the smokeevacuation system. Early flight and operational tests found that the blinding smoke generated by the gunships’ rapid-firing guns, the ignition of its magnesium flares during launch, or onboard detonation as a result of accidents or enemy fire went billowing throughout the aircraft, impairing the crew’s vision and movement. In the case of unintentional onboard smoke generation, locating and removing the burning flare and/or ordnance were essential if the aircraft and crew were to survive. With this in mind, in March and again in April 1968 USAF experts specified that the modified old low-flying cargo plane needed a smoke-evacuation system that would effectively expel the smoke within ten seconds. smoke-evacuation system 115 Since the AC-47 had a similar smoke-evacuation system, the AC-119 modification designers reasoned that it was feasible to do the same on the AC-119. As it turned out, the development of the AC-119 smoke-evacuation system, like much of the program, proved far more daunting than anticipated, especially by the contractor, and created another contentious aspect of the overall project. Throughout the process, Warner Robins management pressured Fairchild-Hiller to “stay on” this part of the program. Maltais says, “In fact, relations with Fairchild-Hiller became more strained over this particular specification than any other associated with the gunship program.”1 And frankly, that is saying something! Development of the System The specifications called for the contractor to design and perfect an effective smoke-evacuation system for the AC-119’s cargo compartment and even the flight deck. While the U.S. Air Force expected this to be a simple modification of the AC-47 system, it soon became clear to the engineers that it would require the creation of an entirely new system. Robins project managers found Fairchild-Hiller’s early efforts in this area “most inadequate.” In the eyes of the USAF, they needed the new gunships quickly, yet the contractor was not working hard enough or with enough concern. From the contractor’s viewpoint, the USAF was being totally unreasonable in expecting Fairchild-Hiller to create a new cutting-edge smoke-evacuation system “overnight.” On 19 April 1968 frustrated Warner Robins officials informed their Fairchild-Hiller counterparts that they were “extremely dissatisfied with the contractor’s attitude towards the accomplishment of this work requirement.” This entire situation proved exasperating to the depot commander, Major General Gideon, and the program director, Colonel Christenson, since potential deficiencies had been brought to the contractor’s attention during the critical design review of contract F09603-68-C-0996 and during the munition data conference held 19–22 March 1968. In retrospect, one wonders how Fairchild-Hiller could have failed to recognize the importance WRAMA leaders placed on this safety and survival component, and yet they did.2 Fairchild appeared to be stunned by the reaction from Robins to its initial efforts to develop a unique AC-119 smoke-evacuation system. The company believed the U.S. Air Force was failing to acknowledge 116 Shadow and stinger the intricacies involved in creating such a system. It argued that, in its initial understanding of the overall project, this ancillary effort was secondary to the rapid reconfiguration of the cargo aircraft into a gunship. While Fairchild-Hiller may have been sincere about its understanding of the existing documents, it appears obvious that WRAMA had emphasized this particular subsystem, as they contended in April 1968. The relationship soon deteriorated to the point where the Det 28 officials, acting as the USAF’s administrative contracting officer (ACO), issued a “stop work” order and threatened to reopen the contracting process. With Fairchild-Hiller so deeply invested, the company had little choice but to “acknowledge” the “deficiencies” in its smoke-evacuation system.3 Under pressure to meet the program’s deadlines, officials in Middle Georgia decided not to wait for Fairchild-Hiller to offer a solution; instead, they notified the company that they had scheduled a government test at Eglin AFB, Florida, for 11 April 1968. The trial was...


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