General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale has received a $30 million fiveyear contract from the U.S. Army to develop an improved electronics and life support system for military helicopter pilots.
Called the Air Warrior Block 3 system, it will consist of state-of-the-art electronics, helmets and air crew protective clothing that can be used interoperably with many types of U.S. Army helicopters, said Mark Fried, general manager of General Dynamics C4 Systems.
The Block 3 system will include improvements in electronics equipment integrated into the aviator helmets, an upgraded cooling unit to keep pilots comfortable and enhanced voice and data communications capabilities, he said.
"The Air Warrior system will provide helicopter crews increased mission effectiveness through . . . high technology electronics and survival equipment," he said.
Officials at Boeing’s Mesa helicopter operations are working with General Dynamics on the project to make the system compatible with Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopters. But the system also will be adaptable to other U.S. Army helicopters such as the CH-47 Chinook, OH-58D Kowa Warrior and the UH-60 Blackhawk, according to General Dynamics.
A group of subcontractors are doing much of the work on the components while General Dynamics in Scottsdale is engineering them into an overall system and managing the program, said Susan Pasternack, manager of business development for General Dynamics C4 Systems.
The Army has already fielded some of the technology incrementally, but the Block 3 program is the first full system available for combat helicopter air crews, she said.
The first two blocks featured numerous capabilities including a microclimate cooling system, survival gear, chemical and biological protection ensemble and an aircraft wireless intercom system.
The third block will provide additional displays on the aviators’ helmets and
eyesight protection against laser weapons, Pasternack said. Advances also will be included in voice and data communications with ground soldiers and battlefield command centers, she said.
The technology is being produced in a wearable form because of the limited space available in military helicopter cockpits, she said. "They (Army aviators) don’t have much real estate to work with, so they have it on their person," she said. "That is part of the design challenge."
As new technology is developed, additional Air Warrior contracts are possible when the latest program is completed, she said.
Partners in the program include Dynamics Research Corp. (Huntsville, Ala.); Foster-Miller (Waltham, Mass.); Hamilton Sundstrand (Windsor Locks, Conn.); Kaiser Electro-Optics (Carlsbad, Calif.); Navigator Development Group (Enterprise, Ala.); and Sikorsky (Stratford, Conn.).