09 November 2011 - 16:21 by Beth Stevenson in Bisley
A UK helicopter chief has argued that rotary systems are the ideal choice for ISTAR operations rather than the unmanned systems that are routinely used.
Col Richard Leakey, commander for the MA3/Station Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) Flying Station Aldergrove, told the FIND conference in Bisley on 9 November that an unmanned fleet may be a reality 'one day in the future, but in the near term I see an absolute need for a man in the loop'.
Leakey described how the Apache 'has really been the essence of target acquisition on a helicopter', although JHC 'does not have a down link on the Apache at present'.
‘[For helicopter operations] surveillance probably comes quite far down in terms of priorities because it is a relatively recent innovation. However in my opinion across the ISTAR spectrum it [the Apache] is filling those capabilities,’ he said.
'It is not just about the pilot, we have analysts on-board. The manned platform has the ability to provide greater flexibility. UAVs with ground analysts will not have the same flexibility,' Leakey said about his operational experience.
The new AW159 Lynx Wildcat aircraft coming into the JHC in 2014 includes a MX-15Di for ISTAR operations, which Leakey used as an example of how the UK is utilising rotary assets for this type of mission.
'We have always been in this business since there was aviation, it has just been called different things,' Leakey explained.
For the conflict inNorthern Irelandthe army supported surveillance through airborne rotary assets, and 'in Germany specifically we had helicopters perform a special kind of [mission] on a Gazelle', Leakey said.
He also said that helicopter ISTAR under JHC was a 'pattern of life over Basra', that there were cameras on the Lynx in Iraq, and helicopters made a 'significant contribution' in Libya. The Lynx Mk9A with an MX-10 surveillance turret is 'absolutely crucial' for ISTAR operations, as the aircraft can find its own targets.