The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and its industry partners have concluded a flight trial to test and demonstrate an integrated defensive aids system (DAS) “open architecture”.
This “open architecture” enables aircraft sensors and countermeasures to be fitted to aircraft more easily, allowing rapid enhancement to the protection of front-line aircraft, against future, more challenging threats, in a more agile and cost effective manner through-life.
The Common Defensive Aids System (CDAS) Technology Demonstrator Programme (TDP) is a £24 million, three year partnership between MOD and an industry team led by Selex ES, comprising Thales and QinetiQ, from the UK, and BAE Systems North America.
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), a trading fund of the MOD, has facilitated a series of tests using a ground-based advanced multi-axis motion platform and a Lynx helicopter from the Army Air Corps Development and Trials (D&T) Squadron.
Integrated defensive aids systems (DAS) consist of three parts; sensors, which identify the threat, effectors, which employ appropriate countermeasures to defeat that threat, for example flare or chaff deployment and a DAS controller (DASC) to provide the intelligent processing.
For the flight trial, carried out on the Salisbury Plain training area, the team was testing the architecture which has integrated infra-red, laser, ultraviolet sensors and a compact directed infra-red countermeasure (CDIRCM) effector. The equipment and data analysis capability was provided by industrial partners Thales, BAE Systems, QinetiQ and Selex ES.
The aim is to establish how the different components can be better integrated, providing a coherent approach across different aircraft types. Historically, the sensors and effectors used different, proprietary interfaces to communicate. The TDP has developed a common interface through which they can all communicate, providing greater flexibility.
Rather unusually, the film industry has also helped with these trials. Scientists and engineers wanted to capture flight data to show the response of sensors and effectors while an aircraft was moving. However, due to the difficulty and cost of using real flight trials to obtain the necessary data, the team developed a novel approach to testing by using an advanced multi-axis platform developed for the film industry by visual effects company, VFX.
The London-based company developed a six-motion axis table, which was used in the Golden Compass film to replicate the movement of a polar bear. By reprogramming the table, VFX was able to mimic the movement of an aircraft while Dstl scientists stimulated sensors at representative ranges. This resulted in numerous hours of test data being produced which has been used to develop the system and de-risk the latest round of flight trials. A standardised test-bed for Integrated DAS has also been developed with potential application to other defence projects.
Barry Knight, of Dstl’s Sensors and Countermeasures Department, says the axis table provided Dstl with a unique opportunity: “The motion table provided a middle-ground between lab-based trials and real aircraft trials. As a result, we were able to identify motion based issues prior to flight trials, hence saving time and money.”
Industry has played a key part in these trials, with Selex ES leading the Industry team as Prime partner. Pete Forrest, Vice President EW Marketing and Sales at Selex ES’s Airborne and Space Systems Division pointed to the team focus that has been demonstrated throughout the three year TDP. “The CDAS TDP has provided Selex ES and its industry partners with a unique opportunity to contribute towards the enhancement of DAS integration and intelligence for UK MOD platforms. Government and Industry team members have combined to support one another in pursuit of TDP aims, further motivated by the knowledge that their efforts will improve the survivability of vital air assets.”
The project team is now analysing the flight data, and Dstl is also considering how these systems can be used for other defence benefits, such as land and maritime projects.