November 29, 2011
UK MoD to enhance integrated Aircraft Defence Capabilities
As announced in a recent press release, UK Ministry of Defence has begun a development programme to make aircraft better equipped in the hostile environments that UK aircraft are likely to encounter during future operations.
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) working with UK industry, has brought together the country’s leading scientists and engineers to develop the Common Defensive Aids System (CDAS). This would allow air forces to more easily upgrade existing platforms with new technology and more easily reprogram such defensive aids systems (DAS) for different missions.
This development, CDAS Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP), is a project to establish that the concept works practically, and will be achieved through collaboration - a partnership between UK MoD and an industry team led by Finmeccanica's Selex Galileo, and comprising Thales, QinetiQ and BAE Systems.
Defensive aids systems (DAS) consist of two parts, sensors, which identify the threat, and effectors, which employ appropriate countermeasures to defeat that threat, for example flare or chaff deployment. Historically, DAS sensors and effectors, sometimes different on different aircraft, have communicated through different, proprietary interfaces developed by the supplier companies.
CDAS represents a new systems approach, based on an ‘open architecture’ - components which can freely communicate with any other component regardless of manufacturer, to improve the modularity of sensors and effectors and coherence of the DAS across aircraft.
The CDAS TDP includes a current missile warning system built by BAE North America, a new infrared threat-warning system being developed by Thales, a developmental system for detecting hostile gunfire from the ground and a laser warning system, all feeding into the DAS controller. On the output side of the demonstrator system is a next-generation laser countermeasure built by Selex Galileo. Other countermeasures could include chaff (tiny pieces of material to confuse radar systems) or flares. A Qinetiq on-board planning system has also been integrated into the TDP.
John Bowker, Team Leader at Dstl said: “The ‘eureka moment’ really came along when we developed the new ’CDAS spine’ concept which now feeds into the MOD’s CDAS programme.”
The CDAS spine concept, evolved from the battle proven Helicopter Integrated DAS (HIDAS) on UK Apaches, was recognised by Dstl scientists and engineers as the most effective model to input into the DAS upgrade on Chinook helicopters. The implementation of this upgrade was undertaken with the assistance of global defence specialists including Agusta Westland, Boeing Helicopters, Selex Galileo, BAE Systems, QinetiQ and UK MoD's Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), who drove the project.
The CDAS would also mean the UK MoD would be able to more fully exploit competition in the defence market because technologies built by different contractors could be used together. Integrating different systems would also enable the UK MoD to configure aircraft for specific missions without having to make major changes to the architecture.
In February 2010, the UK MoD awarded SELEX Galileo a 4 year contract to lead the Common Defensive Aids System (CDAS) Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) in support of the UK strategy for air platform protection. Under the TDP, SELEX Galileo is providing a coherent cross platform approach to both acquisition and support of defensive aids suites for both new build and legacy helicopters. The common architecture leverages the UK's existing investment in the Selex Galileo HIDAS (Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System) suite in service on the UK Army Air Corps' Apache AH.1 attack helicopter and the Project Baker DAS fit developed for the Royal Air Force Chinook fleet under an urgent operational requirement.
After 18 months of studies and a further 18 months of hardware development, DSTL has now put together a technology demonstrator programme (TDP) in partnership with four defence firms, showing how different sensors and countermeasures can work together under one DAS controller.
DSTL plans to conduct flight trials of the technology by the end of December, after which it will be up to the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) department to decide how the system will be manufactured and rolled out across the UK’s air fleet.
“This collaborative approach allowed us to quickly find the best equipment solutions to improve protection to aircraft and personnel," said John Bowker, Team Leader at Dstl. "As MOD’s science and technology specialists, Dstl works with industry and academia to increase our knowledge base and develop effective solutions. The Chinook upgrade is a great example of this and is in Afghanistan right now helping to save lives. Sharing ideas is the most effective way of getting the best capability to the front line.”
References: UK MoD (1), The Engineer (2), SELEX Galileo (3)