Special Ops Command advances new helo terrain-avoiding radar
- By Katherine Owens
- Feb 24, 2017
U.S. Special Operations Command is advancing work on a radar system that for the first time combines grounding mapping and weather detection technology that allows special operations force pilots to improve low-level maneuvering, target comprehension, and air-ground coordination.
The project is the Silent Knight Radar system, being developed through a USSOCOM contract with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. It was recently modified to include an additional $45 million investment, which signals that the Silent Knight Radar system is approaching full production and operational use, and specifies an expected completion date of June 2019.
As it becomes operational, the Silent Knight Radar system brings with it new capabilities and prospects for special operations flights. According to USSOCOM statements, the Silent Knight Radar system’s projected platforms include the MH-47G Chinook, the MH-60M Blackhawk Special Operations helicopter, MC-130 transports, and CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and is designed to be uniquely adaptable to multiple platforms with only minimal adjustments. Once the system is installed, aircrews will have access to the unique color screen feature of the Silent Knight Radar system, which not only displays terrain features, but also highlights weather patterns and intensities. Operationally, this will give USSOCOM the ability to carry out crucial low-level insertion missions regardless of weather conditions.
The Silent Knight Radar system’s terrain following/terrain avoidance (TF/TA) technology provides the pilot with terrain maps as well as climb or dive cues. These cues are essential during low-level flights because the pilot has no visibility outside the cockpit, and operations have gravitated toward urban areas with more ground obstacles.
The system’s TF/TA capabilities, also profiled by Global Security.org, come from Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) technology, which generate high resolution images from the multiple returned radar signals of a single antenna over a time instead of the multiple parallel antenna of a phased array.
According to the Department of Defense, the system is also designed to be lighter and low-power, rendering it able to evade detection by ground-based sensor systems.
The contract for the Silent Knight Radar system was originally awarded to Raytheon in 2007, and with the modification is now capped at $200,000,000. It is a firm-fixed-price contract, meaning that the contract price remains unchanged and Raytheon accepts responsibility for any fluctuations in cost.
The contract specifies indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity, and a procurement and development timeframe of 2016 to 2020, which is on track with the movement of the Silent Knight Radar system toward operational use. It will now enter the Low Rate Initial Production phase, where a small quantity set is produced for Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in anticipation of a gradual transition to Full Rate Production in 2019.
Katherine Owens is a freelance reporter for Defense Systems