A BAE Systems anti-brownout radar is to be flown on a U.S. Army Sikorsky UH-60 testbed to reduce risk in development of a sensor-fusion-based synthetic-vision system for rotorcraft operations in degraded visual environments.

BAE’s Brownout Landing Aid Technology (Blast) system is a lightweight, 94-GHz millimeter-wave radar (MMW) derived from the MBDA Brimstone missile seeker.

The sensor will be used as a surrogate for an advanced MMW radar being developed under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (Darpa) Multi-Function Radio Frequency (MFRF) program.

Blast will be flown on the UH-60 to stimulate the synthetic-vision avionics backbone being developed by Rockwell Collins under the MFRF program. Honeywell is developing a similar system.

The avionics backbone is designed to fuse data from any available sensors with an onboard digital terrain and obstacle database and generate a three-dimensional synthetic-vision display for the pilots.

The multi-mode MMW radar being developed under MFRF will not be available until 2014, so flights with Blast will enable Rockwell Collins to begin exercising the sensor-fusion algorithms.

Tests with an interim radar could also provide an early off-ramp from the MFRF program, enabling the fielding of a synthetic-vision system with see-through sensor as a brownout landing aid.

Darpa previously flew a Sierra Nevada Corp. 94-GHz radar and Honeywell synthetic-vision display under the Sandblaster anti-brownout program, but decided the device was too heavy for fielding.

The complete Blast system weighs 25-30 lb., says Vernon Fronek, BAE business development manager. This compares with 120 lb. for the Sandblaster prototype, and a projected 60 lb. in production, according to Darpa figures.

BAE flew the Blast on a Bell UH-1 in brownout conditions at Yuma Providing Grounds, Ariz., in 2011 and subsequently conducted tests against additional obstacles. “We believe we know what the performance is, and what the requirements need to be,” he says.