Honeywell has fielded its Aspire 200 Satellite Communications System on at least 20 UH-60 Black Hawks in a specialised US Army aviation unit, Tom Hart, vice-president of defence aftermarket Americas, tells FlightGlobal.

Aspire is already flying commercially, including on AgustaWestland's AW139 twin-engine helicopter. But the system is still in its early phases for military use, outside of the specialised Black Hawks which needed extra surveillance capability, Hart says.

While spinning rotor blades have often interrupted high-speed satellite communications, the Aspire system allows the satcom to move through the rotor blades, Hart says. Honeywell recently added a high data rate upgrade to enhance Inmarsat L-band services, which incorporates a long-burst interleaver. As data is broken up, Honeywell’s software repairs the data into an algorithm that understands how to travel through the rotor blades and creates a secure stream, Hart says. The upgrade increased the system’s maximum date rate from 650kbps per channel to 432kbps, according to Honeywell.

Honeywell put together a programme and proved the Aspire system in tests after army aviation released a requirement for extra surveillance capability on the Black Hawk, Hart says. The first initial orders are starting to move, but Honeywell believes the programme could be the start an emerging need for army intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

“We believe that any army aviation, both domestically and internationally, that requires surveillance, video streaming and ISR capability will need a satcom system like this,” Hart says.

Aspire could also improve army helicopters’ Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS) capability by collecting information on the health of the aircraft in real time. Rather than waiting for the helicopter to land and retrieve information from a USB stick, maintainers could analyze information and vibrations from the helicopter during operations. Although Aspire hasn’t been used for that application yet, Honeywell has proven the HUMS and satcom could be linked, Hart says.

“We could have real-time streaming of this information that while the helicopter’s in the air, the maintainers could understand what’s occurring with the systems, how is the mission profile being flown,” he says. “So that they know when it lands, what kind of maintenance to perform, if there are anomalies they’ll see it in real time.”