Cyclone Search

By By Frank Colucci | May 1, 2010
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The first CH148 Cyclone arrived at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, Nova Scotia, in February to begin cold weather testing and sea trials for the Canadian Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP).

Starting this November, 19 interim maritime helicopters will be delivered with enough equipment for operational testing and training. In June 2012, the first CH148 with the full MHP Integrated Mission System (IMS) will set the ultimate standard for all 28 new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

The Cyclone IMS integrates off-the-shelf acoustic, radar, electro-optical and self-defense sensors on a marinized helicopter that can network with other air and surface assets. “One of the challenges is optimizing the vast amount of information these sensors can provide,” acknowledged Paul Steers, General Dynamics Canada MHP chief engineer.

As a sub-contractor to helicopter manufacturer and MHP prime contractor Sikorsky International Operations Inc., General Dynamics Canada is responsible for the Cyclone IMS. The system integrator buys the sensors and provides a Mission Data Management System (MDMS) based on core hardware and software from the CP-140 Aurora Incremental Modernization Project. “It’s a common solution for us on our fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft and our new maritime helicopter, the CH148,” Steers said.

To fit the multi-role helicopter, the MDMS is packaged in a removable lightweight operator console, and the mission computer is located in a removable avionics rack. Dipping sonar and other IMS sensors can be installed to suit the mission. Cyclone IMS hardware and software are running on hot benches at the GD Canada Ottawa headquarters and at the company’s Halifax engineering center near the CH148 users of 12 Wing.

The GD Canada MHP work share includes mission system simulators at the Shearwater Maritime Helicopter Training Center and, with L-3 MAS, performance-based in-service support for the integrated weapon system. “For the next 20 years, we’re on the hook for availability to keep this thing flying and keep it current,” explained Mike Greenley, vice president of business development and strategic planning.

The MHP goal remains to provide modern ship-borne helicopters to replace Canada’s CH124 Sea Kings, in service since 1963 and out of estimated life expectancy in 2012. The Sea Kings were delivered with dipping sonar and enhanced piecemeal with a surface search radar, forward looking infrared (FLIR) imager, infrared countermeasures, and radar and laser warning receivers. The one-time open-ocean sub-hunters remain in demand increasingly for counterterrorism, fisheries patrol and other “non-traditional missions.” Sea Kings supported security operations at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The new CH148 with fly-by-wire flight controls, folding main and tail rotors, and Rockwell Collins glass cockpit is a marinized, torpedo-armed derivative of the commercial Sikorsky S-92A. It will operate from a dozen modified Halifax-class frigates on surface and subsurface surveillance and control, search and rescue and utility transport missions. The CH148 flew for the first time with IMS hardware installed last August at the Sikorsky Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Like the Sea King, the Cyclone will have two pilots, a tactical coordinator (TACCO)-mission commander, and a sensor operator (SENSO). The TACCO and SENSO will share data-rich sensor displays and mission plots with the pilots.

“We’re very tightly coupled, and we can exchange information back and forth with the flight control system on the helicopter,” said Steers. “All of that information is displayed in that common tactical picture. One of the challenges is how you automate all that so the operator isn’t overwhelmed by all that data.”

Sensor Suite

The Cyclone sensor suite is not biased to one mission or environment. “It’s very much across the board,” noted Greenley. “Our customers in the past might have had a more ‘blue water’ focus, but as the world scenario has changed, it’s very much multi-mission and littoral as well.”

Drawing on its long history in antisubmarine warfare acoustics, GD Canada integrated its own sonobuoy processor into the CH148 IMS. The integrator also chose the DS-100 Helicopter Long Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) from L3 Ocean Systems and re-hosted the dry-end processor on a single board to save weight and simplify system interconnects.

“It’s a more integrated acoustic package than you’d find on other platforms,” said Steers.

At 1.38 kHz, HELRAS exploits low-frequency acoustic performance to maximize detection ranges, especially in shallow water, and to defeat the hull cladding on today’s quiet submarines.

The Telephonics APS-143B(V)3 multi-mode radar gives the CH148 a long-range, 360-degree surface sensor sensitive enough to detect submarine sails and small boats. The Cyclone radar evolved from the combination synthetic aperture radar/inverse synthetic aperture radar (SAR/ISAR) on Australia’s canceled SH-2G(A) helicopter program. It shares detection and imaging algorithms with the APS-147 ISAR on the U.S. Navy’s new MH-60R Seahawk.

Over water, the APS-143 ISAR mode generates a low-frame-rate video for the Cyclone operator to distinguish ship targets. Sweeping the beach, over-land SAR reveals activity at the water’s edge. Like the Seahawk radar, the MHP APS-143B(V)3 is integrated with an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogator sub-system. IFF Mode 4 helps the Cyclone crew sort out cooperative sea and air targets in target-rich littoral regions. The radar can track 200 targets while scanning. It has a SART beacon interrogator and a weather mode to show the intensity of storm cells.

The widely used Star SAFIRE III electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) payload from FLIR Systems supplements its 3- to -5-micron FLIR with low-light or day TV cameras and other options. The short-wave FLIR provides extended range imagery in humid maritime environments. The ruggedized analog EO/IR gimbal on the Cyclone is similar to that on the U.S. Coast Guard C-130J and HC-144A patrol aircraft.

Passive electronic support measures (ESM) give the CH148 both ISR coverage and self-protection. The Lockheed Martin AN/ALQ-210 ESM on the Cyclone is a version of the same system on the U.S. Navy MH-60R. It quickly detects and identifies emitters over a wide frequency range, determines the signal angle of arrival, and locates the source in dense signal environments. The Cyclone ties the passive ESM and laser/missile warning receivers into its Self Defense System (SDS) to cue the crew to threats on cockpit and cabin displays. The integrated SDS includes the BAE Systems ALQ-144 infrared jammer and Symetrics ALE-47 flare and chaff dispensers.

Cyclone sensors, controls and displays communicate on a mix of Mil-Std-1553B databuses moving megabits per second and a 1 gigabit-per-second Ethernet Local Area Network. The Cyclone IMS cabin console has two workstations, each with a 20-inch flat panel display to layer digital maps, radar plots, threat warnings, sonar contacts and other symbology, and a 12-inch touchscreen to access interactive menus.

“What we’re coming from, and what our customers are used to, is a grease-pencil-and-analog approach,” Steers said. “What we’re moving to is a fully integrated flat-panel display with lots of color at their fingertips.”

He added, “What you get is an integrated tactical picture. We provide lots of tools to filter, to declutter, to turn layers on and off. … What you want is close at hand.” The IMS console also cues the operator to system tools and techniques with visual alerts and aural tones.

Nearly all of the sensor data visible in the Cyclone cabin will be available in the cockpit except for acoustic returns. “The doctrine for the Canadian Forces is that that’s not a pilot function,” Steers said. “But all the other subsystems radar, EO, ESM contacts all of that information is displayed in the common tactical picture. That picture is customizable by the pilots.”

Rockwell Collins estimates the Cyclone cockpit is about 80 percent common with the workload-reducing Avionics Management System (AMS) in the commercial S-92A. Five color Multifunction Displays (MFD) in the cockpit show primary flight and navigation symbology, engine instrumentation graphics and crew-alerting messages.

The civil-certified flight display system facilitates military systems integration through Open Systems interfaces, and it provides critical interfaces and display functions for the CH148 fly-by-wire flight controls. The Cyclone integrated display suite also shows maintenance diagnostics, including the CH148 Health and Usage Monitoring System.

Rockwell Collins provides the fully integrated cockpit display system along with digital navigation and communications radios. Rockwell Collins also supplies training devices for the Canadian MHP, including two Transport Canada/FAA Level D equivalent full-flight simulators and various part task trainers. Delivery of the first full-flight simulator is expected late this spring.

Concurrent development of the high-fidelity simulators and aircraft systems helps maintain concurrency between the aircraft systems and simulators. Blue Ridge Simulation, of Leesburg, Va., developed eight radar simulation systems for the CH148 flight simulators to generate APS-143 weather and ground returns, and to provide realistic ISAR simulations of surface vessels.

In a networked battlespace, the Cyclone will exchange data displays and off-board intelligence with other aircraft and ships via LINK 11. MHP engineers designed the IMS to grow to Link 22, and the evolving system can support other networking standards including Link 16.

The GD Canada role in the MHP includes modifications to Canada’s Halifax frigates. A new mission planning station will enable crews to build their mission plans before launch and transfer the plans to the aircraft.

“Through the mission planning systems we’re developing, there’s an ability to link into the ship command and control system and pre-populate your aircraft mission scenarios,” Steers explained. Cyclone crews can search tactical libraries in flight to put real-time sensor data in context. The planning station also serves as a post-mission analysis workstation to replay aircraft video and tactical data.

MHP plans retrofit the IMS to the interim maritime helicopters and provide a growth path for capability improvements and derivative systems for other customers and other platforms, both rotary- and fixed-wing. “We have an R&D program around that core product line,” Greenley said. “A lot of the focus on that is to push the openness and modularity of that solution so that the reconfigurability is constantly improved.”

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