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By Julian Nettlefold

Alan Chinoda of Lockheed Martin gave an update on the progress fielding the Lockheed Martin Pathfinder Advanced Pilotage Sensor for Cargo and Utility Aircraft.

Chinoda stated that according to U.S. Army findings, helicopter flight in night and degraded visibility conditions is 25 to 30 times more dangerous than flight in day visual meteorological conditions. The two biggest contributors to mishaps are cruise-flight-into-terrain accidents and landing at night or in reduced visibility conditions. Flying under these conditions is not a problem for Apache AH-64D pilots using the combat-proven Arrowhead system. “Flying at night or in degraded visual conditions will be easier for cargo and utility aircrews flying with the Pathfinder advanced pilotage sensor,” said Chinoda.

Pathfinder is a dedicated pilotage sensor system adaptation of the Modernized Pilot Night Vision System (M-PNVS) currently being fielded to great pilot acclaim on the AH-64D Apache helicopter. The M-PNVS is the pilotage sensor part of the Arrowhead system.

Lockheed Martin will be working with the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD), Fort Eustis, Virginia, and Company B (MEDEVAC), 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, United States Army Reserve, Aviation Support Facility Clearwater, Clearwater, Florida, to evaluate a Pathfinder Production Prototype system fully integrated on a HH-60L MEDEVAC Blackhawk. AATD will be conducting the developmental testing portion of the evaluation from 7 July through 24 September, 2008. This will be followed by operational testing from 25 September through 24 November by Company B aviators at the Clearwater facility and other training areas.

Pathfinder is the only long-wave infrared (LWIR) sensor that supports head-up, eyes-out pilotage. The upcoming evaluations will demonstrate how the Pathfinder system significantly increases situational awareness and reduces pilot workload as aircrews can view the system imagery either from a cockpit-mounted multi-function display or the head-up, eyes-out, head-steerable, wide field-of-view (WFOV) helmet-mounted display. This maximizes the pilot’s unobstructed visibility in degraded visual environments. One huge benefit of the Pathfinder sensor is that it provides aircrews with a high-resolution, WFOV of 52 x 30 degrees, allowing for superior clarity to locate power lines and poles on low-level missions. Pathfinder is also enhanced by the addition of an image intensified television camera, so cargo and utility aircrews will fly with confidence.

After Arrowhead was initially fielded in 2005, Pathfinder was developed in 2007. The entire system is designed for flexibility, ease of integration, and quick certification onto cargo and utility platforms.

During the upcoming evaluation phase, US Government and foreign personnel will get a first-hand look at Pathfinder’s superior imagery, as initially demonstrated in 2007 on a UH-1 Huey, as well as its state-of-the art pilotage capability.

“The Pathfinder pilotage sensor is the optimum low-risk, best value solution to provide safe flight operations in diminished visibility environments for cargo and utility aircrews,” Chinoda stated.

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