Lockheed Martin’s Pathfinder Completes Flight Testing on HH-60L Black Hawk MEDEVAC Helicopter
ORLANDO, FL, 02/25/2009 -- The Lockheed Martin [NYSE:LMT] Pathfinder team has successfully completed flight testing on a U.S. Army HH-60L MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopter in coordination with the Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate.
Pathfinder is an adaptation of the battle-proven Apache Pilot Night Vision Sensor (PNVS) system optimized for use on cargo and utility aircraft. It is the only forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor approved for pilotage by the Army's Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate.
The six-month test program resulted in 75 flight hours and established Pathfinder at a Technology Readiness Level of 7, indicating that its maturity warrants planning for transition to operational use.
The evaluation consisted of developmental testing followed by ground and flight demonstrations for both domestic and international customers. The aircraft and crews were provided by the 159th Aviation Regiment of Clearwater, FL. Lockheed Martin led an industry team consisting of BAE Systems, Elbit-Fort Worth and Thales.
"Pathfinder is ushering in a cultural change for today's cargo and utility pilots," said Bill Ryan, Business Development manager for Apache programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "With Pathfinder, aircrews have sensor choices, based on existing mission and environmental conditions that maximize operational capability and enhance flight safety. The FLIR makes all the difference."
Pathfinder is the only FLIR system developed specifically to help air crews fly at very low, terrain-hugging altitudes, and it also makes it possible for crews to set their aircraft down in unimproved landing areas when visibility is severely reduced. Its high-resolution imagery allows pilots to fly safely at optimum mission altitudes and airspeeds while providing the necessary information to complete complex missions while avoiding obstacles such as wires, poles and trees. Pathfinder significantly increases situational awareness and reduces pilot workload through a head-up, eyes-out, helmet-mounted display.
The Pathfinder advanced pilotage system also has a Visible/Near Infrared (V/NIR) camera that enhances situational awareness in low light conditions by blending the V/NIR sensor video with Pathfinder FLIR. Pilots can now see cultural and military lighting, further providing aircrews enhanced mission capability and safer flying conditions. The sensor also allows aviators to see laser pointers, improving coordination with ground units.
"If we have learned anything from current operations, it's that Pathfinder provides vastly superior imagery over goggles or other vision aids," said Bob Gunning, vice president of Apache programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "Pathfinder's wide field of view high-resolution FLIR provides aviators VFR [visual flight rules] day-quality video regardless of ambient light conditions – especially when they need it most – like on the darkest nights in the canyons of Afghanistan."
Pathfinder integration and the majority of testing took place at Felker Army Airfield, Fort Eustis, VA. During the final weeks of the test program, the team conducted flight demonstrations at Cairns Army Airfield, Fort Rucker, AL, and the Saint Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Clearwater, FL.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 146,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The corporation reported 2008 sales of $42.7 billion.