BAE System has continued work on its brownout landing aid system technology, or Blast, and believes the US Army could issue a request for proposal that applies to such technology at the end of 2013.
"The market for this technology could be significant," says Milan Dedek, director rotary wing avionics at BAE Systems. "It is applicable across all rotorcraft."
Dedek notes that the US military lost 130 helicopter airframes between 2002 and 2008, resulting in 189 fatalities. Fifty-seven percent of these losses likely resulted from a loss of visibility.
Blast uses a millimetre-wave radar seeker to scan a landing zone in real time, in combination with digital terrain elevation data. Pilots receive situational information and warnings of obstacles via a brownout symbology set shown using a cockpit, head-up or helmet-mounted display.
Blast is also effective in rainy and snowy conditions.
Originally developed for European missile manufacturer MBDA's Brimstone air-to-surface missile, the 94GHz seeker is housed within a 7in-diameter aperture and will weigh just 4.5-6.8kg (10-15lb) for a production system, says Paul Cooke, BAE's business development director of defence avionics.
The system has undergone testing on helicopter types such as the Bell UH-1 and Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk. It was also tested on the CH-53, which Dedek says produces a unique "double wall" of sand and dust when landing on unprepared landing zones.
France's special forces are also testing the equipment using a Eurocopter SA 330 Puma.