UK military seeks industry help to protect helicopters against hostile fire

UK military seeks industry help to protect helicopters against hostile fire 6 Oct, 13, Source: DSTL

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) is looking to industry for innovative ways to develop simulation and field trial capability to counter potential threats to UK military helicopters from ground-based man-in-the-loop (MITL) operated weapons. This is to meet future requirements to assess how aircraft manoeuvres, threat warning systems and countermeasures can mitigate the effects of hostile fire from a range of weapon systems.

MOD scientists at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) have been showcasing the technology they currently use for testing and evaluation. Thedemonstration brought together user and industry communities to develop ideas to overcome future test and evaluation challenges.

On show was the Helicopter Countermeasure Assessment System (HCAS) – a realtime MITL engagement model built on the Virtual Battle-Space 2 synthetic environment. There are two main system components: a weapons station employing an imitation machine gun to engage a simulated target and a cockpit flight simulator replicating basic helicopter controls. A trained pilot in the cockpit simulator can react to realistic warning cues to manoeuvre a virtual helicopter in response to a threat. Various manoeuvres can be trialled in both the HCAS synthetic environment and during field trials to determine the optimum response to any hostile fire event.

To improve the realism of simulated air-to-ground engagements, DSTL is integrating validated ballistics and representative countermeasures into HCAS. Countermeasure concepts also need to be developed in the HCAS virtual environment and validated in a live flight scenario.

Weapons operator performance during field trials is currently assessed using military off the shelf equipment – the Helicopter Collective Training System (HCTS) – which can only be fitted to the Lynx Mk 7. With the Lynx Mk7 out of service date being imminent, the HCTS equipment will soon become obsolete, so there is a call to industry to consider ways to replace and upgrade the existing capability. This shouldbring together four elements; the weapons operator, the Defensive Aid Suite (DAS) fitted aircraft, the aircrew and countermeasures.

Ian Pothecary of DSTL’s Countermeasure Concepts team says: “The challenge facing DSTL is how to conduct human performance trials of the aircrew and the threat operator without the need for live fire scenarios. Replicating these interactions in simulation, coupled with DAS, is vital to developing credible countermeasures. What we need from industry are ideas on how to overcome this challenge, for examplehow do we appropriately simulate the weapon effects, how do we fuse the data from the weapon and aircraft correctly?”

A combined simulation and live trials capability will allow aircrew to develop more effective tactics, techniques and procedures if facing an attack. Squadron Leader James Birtwistle says: “The importance of simulation when testing new concepts is that it’s cheap, relative to live flying, easy to repeat and you have full control of the environment in which your testing takes place. Live flying is also important because the environment on a live aircraft is different from that in a lab – there are factors such as noise and vibration and there may well be others we might not know are an issue until we test something. Which is why to make sure something works properly, you have to do it on a real aircraft as well as in a lab”

A video explaining the work can be viewed in either wmv or mp4 format.

About DSTL

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.

DSTL is a trading fund of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.

DSTL works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas. Around 60% of the Defence Science and Technology Programme is delivered by these external partners and suppliers.

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