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14 septembre 2011 3 14 /09 /septembre /2011 16:40



September 14, 2011 By Tony Osborne, SHEPARD GROUP


London - A BAE Systems' programme to make brown-out landings safer is now in its final phases of testing.


The Brownout Landing Aid System Technology (BLAST) has been under development by the company's defence avionics division since 2008. The system uses the 94 GHz millimetre-wave radar seeker from the Brimstone missile, which scans ahead of the helicopter looking for obstacles in the area where the pilot is planning to land the aircraft.


The information from the seeker is then presented on a display allowing the crew to see any obstacles, regardless of size or dimension that might prevent a safe landing.


Despite increased levels of training in an attempt to mitigate the problem, brown-out remains the single largest cause of rotorcraft losses, both in terms of lives and airframe losses for the US DoD and the coalition operating in Afghanistan. Although there is no programme of record, the US Army, USMC and the US Air Force have been investigating a range of brown-out mitigating systems.


BLAST has been the subject of an extensive test programme, using a modified UH-1 from the army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) flying approaches and landings onto a special test area out in the Yuma Proving Grounds.


The system has already reached the Technology Readiness Level-6 stage and full-scale development (FSD) flight tests are expected to take place in mid-2012, while low-rate of production (LRIP) could begin in late 2013.


Speaking at the DSEi exhibition in London on 13 September, Paul Cooke, business development director in the company's avionics division, said that BLAST's combined use of a terrain database with the active sensor allowed pilots to react to new obstacles that the database might not feature, such as vehicles or people entering the area where the aircraft is about to land.


Cooke said that the system could be retrofitted to a wide range of helicopters. With total system weight coming in at around 30-35 pounds - including the sensor, LRU and cockpit display - even aircraft as small as the AH-6 Little Bird could benefit from the system.


Cooke believes that operators of special forces helicopters would benefit from the installation of BLAST over other systems which he argued weigh considerably more and would require heavier modifications.


'It was designed from the get-go to be retrofittable. Systems like LIDAR make beautiful pictures but it doesn't look through the obscurities -we believe that 94 GHz is the right solution.'


Pilots can customise how the information is presented; overhead wires, for example, can be displayed as a wall which encourages the pilot to fly over them. Customers also have several options in displaying the data to the pilot - either using a heads-down display in the cockpit or using BAE's own Q-sight helmet mounted system.

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