Successful first test flight for Inundu pod

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The CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) has completed the first flight test of its electronics testing, evaluation and training pod – the Inundu.

The name Inundu originated from the isiZulu word meaning ‘moth’. Tiger Moths ‘click’ to disrupt a bat’s echolocation capability, similar to electronic warfare techniques. For this reason, Inundu was chosen as the name for the CSIR’s first fast jet radar and EW laboratory in the sky.

The pod will serve as an experimental platform for airborne electronics and support electronic warfare (EW) testing and evaluation, which includes electronic support applications and synthetic aperture radar. The pod is designed to provide an airborne “laboratory environment” for electronics during flight on military type platforms without requiring electronic hardware hardening or ruggedisation.

The pod permits rapid implementation and flight testing of experimental electronic hardware and new technologies in a fast jet environment. The main aim of the instrumented flight test was to perform an initial assessment of the influence of the pod on aircraft handling, determine the performance of the pod airframe structure and conduct an internal environment analysis in preparation for the integration of payload electronics.

Earlier this month the Inundu pod was installed on a Hawker Hunter aircraft – a demilitarised British-designed fighter aircraft at Lanseria Airport. The aircraft was piloted by owner Ron Wheeldon and retired SAAF major general Des Barker, an internationally recognised test pilot and an acting executive director of the CSIR.

The pod was tested up to a flight envelope speed of 350 knots with the flight crew satisfied it had no noticeable influence on aircraft handling. The development team confirmed the pod was structurally intact and they were confident the flight envelope would be extended during the next flight test to meet the full design goals.
“As South Africa celebrates 75 years in radar research and development, this is a major leap forward in bringing together aeronautical, EW and radar research. The team has taken significant strides in extending our laboratory and surface based research infrastructure to the airborne environment. This progress would not have been possible without the support we received from Epsilon Engineering Services and other industry members, such as Paramount Advanced Technologies, National Airways Corporation and e-System Solutions,” said CSIR radar and EW research group manager, Erlank Pienaar.

The first test flight represents a significant milestone in the CSIR’s aeronautical, radar and electronic warfare research and development effort aimed at establishing a cost-effective fast jet testing, evaluation and training platform. The pod is designed to support the CSIR, the local industry, the SA National Defence Force and international requirements.

The Inundu pod is an agile, multi-purpose electronics technology demonstrator designed to provide the functions and services of an airborne laboratory.

It is designed to enable the exchange of an electronics payload without affecting its interfaces with the carriage aircraft, enabling the flight testing of a wide range of electronic technologies. The radome in the front of the pod supports radio frequency transmission and reception and is designed to facilitate integration with fast jets with minimal additional effort. The pod attenuates the severity of the environment the payload experiences and provides all the interfaces between the payload and the outside world.
“The pod is similar in size and mass to the widely-used BL-755 store, which allows low-cost integration with many fast jet aircraft types, such as the BAE Hawk, Alpha Jet, Hawker Hunter, F-16, Tornado, F-4 Phantom and the Mirage III. It is highly configurable with a modular interchangeable payload.” said Kevin Jamison, leader of the CSIR Inundu aeronautic development team.
“The pod offers the option of being electrically independent from the carriage aircraft by using a Ram Air Turbine, Wi-Fi communication and a base station telemetry link. It has on-board GPS and an inertial measurement unit for real-time platform situational awareness and enables scripted or human-in-the-loop responses according to experimental requirements,” CSIR Inundu EW payload development team leader, Anton Snyman, said.
Click here to view a video about the pod.



Picture: Courtesy Andre Kok via the Unofficial SAAF website