Concerned over the potential for mid-air collisions involving its rotorcraft, the UK Ministry of Defence is to contract Qinetiq to conduct a study into the integration of new traffic and collision-avoidance systems.

Citing current demands in Afghanistan and Iraq, which include large numbers of aircraft movements in limited airspace, night flying and landing hazards including brownout, the MoD says it "seeks to reassess the probability of air collision and the effectiveness of current warning systems in operational environments".

An MoD solicitation notice, released on 1 April, says: "Rotary-wing aircrews currently keep a watch for collisions, but in whiteout, brownout and night flying operations, such activities become difficult. Collision-warning systems have proved effective in civilian applications where flying is regulated, but the requirement here is to test the effectiveness in a poorly regulated environment, such as exists over Baghdad, and in totally unregulated operational scenarios, such as in Afghanistan."

The MoD says the work will involve upgrading a "low-level confliction software program" previously demonstrated by preferred bidder Qinetiq to also assess medium-level confliction, and the trial of a TCAS capability. The assessment will determine whether new crew instructions are needed to support safe operations, and whether a TCAS or similar system should be integrated across the UK's military rotorcraft fleets, it says.

The work will be worth up to £685,000 ($1.4 million), with Qinetiq to respond to an invitation to tender by 22 May and the project scheduled for completion by 31 March 2009.

The UK Royal Navy lost two Westland Sea King 7 airborne surveillance and control helicopters to a mid-air collision during the 2003 Iraq War, and the Board of Inquiry report into the accident recommended: "The rules and procedures for night flying at low level in reduced visibility should be reviewed."

Six AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin HC3A helicopters acquired from the Danish defence ministry last year, due to enter front-line use with the Royal Air Force's 78 Sqn late this year, are already equipped with TCAS devices.

Merlin HC3A 

 © AgustaWestland


Source: Flight International