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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

12 Sep 07. Beth Garrity-Marchman of Lockheed Martin gave an update as to the progress in the fielding of the Lockheed Martin Pathfinder system.

With the fielding of Lockheed Martin’s Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system on the AH-64D Apache, there is now a state-of-the-art pilotage and navigation system, Pathfinder, available to provide cargo and utility helicopter pilots significantly increased situational awareness and reduced pilot workload. The Pathfinder system on the Apache which enables pilots to navigate without NVGs using a helmet mounted display. The system has also been enhanced by the addition of a TV camera. One huge benefit of Pathfinder is that it extends the pilots field of view to 8x200m which allows the location of power lines in particular on low level missions.

“To achieve advanced situational awareness, Pathfinder changes the method of presentation from a cockpit-mounted multi-function display to a head-up, eyes-out, head-steerable, wide field-of-view, helmet-mounted display. This system maximizes the pilot’s unobstructed visibility, allows for earlier identification of obstacles at lower altitudes and higher airspeeds, assists in reduced visibility conditions, provides viewable critical flight data continuously, and allows for a greater ability to immediately identify and react to threat-induced situations. Pathfinder increases pilot confidence, reduces pilot workload, and provides safe-flight capabilities in diminished flight visibility conditions such as brownouts, whiteouts, darkness and adverse weather conditions, helping the pilot achieve mission success,” Beth Garrity-Marchman said.

Pathfinder has been developed a as a stand alone option on other helicopters and aircraft such as Chinook and C-130J. Lockheed gave a video showing a Huey navigating round Washington DC where the clarity was excellent. Pathfinder can be retrofitted with a kit onto existing Apache platforms. The system was fielded in 2005 and the kit developed in 2007. The U.S. Army demonstration phase has been extended by 40 days and Phase II will see the system integrated into Blackhamwk and then Chinoook. The U.K. MoD is also looking at the system.

“Pathfinder is a low-risk, best-value pilotage solution for safe flight operations. It is the only FLIR system designed and developed specifically to support terrain-following flight and terminal operations in unimproved landing areas.” Beth Garrity-Marchman concluded.

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