By Sgt. 1st Class Leonel Rubio, Research, Development, Test and Evaluation NCO, Aviation Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – The latest countermeasures designed to improve Army aircraft survivability were tested here by helicopter aircrews based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Soldiers from the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment belonging to 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, with Fort Hood, Texas’ 1st Cavalry Division deployed to Redstone Test Center to fly UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter equipped with Common Infrared Countermeasures (CIRCM).
According to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Toby Blackmon, a test officer with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Aviation Test Directorate (AVTD), CIRCM operational testing provides data on an improved countermeasure system with upgrades that greatly improve on the current Common Missile Warning System (CMWS) that has been used for years on Army aircraft while deployed.
“Due to the evolving battlefield threats, the CIRCM comes at a pivotal time for Army aviation in order to improve the survivability of our crews that will be deploying in support of combat operations,” said Blackmon.
The CIRCM takes advantage of the current aircraft backbone and integrates itself with existing aircraft systems, while displaying within the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI) which displays aircraft systems messages for the pilot.
A test team of Aviators, Army Civilians, and Contractors partnered with aircrews from the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center (RTC) Aviation Flight Test Directorate to carry out the CIRCM test.
Aircrews first received New Equipment Training (NET) from the Product Manager (Infra-red) IR Countermeasures (based at Redstone Test Center, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama) prior to conducting flights.
“It is imperative the aircrews have a clear understanding of how to employ the system correctly before we send them up in the air to conduct missions,” said Mr. Dave Rogers, CIRCM Assistant Test Officer with AVTD.
Crews conducted eight missions yielding over 40 hours of test data, which consisted of air assault, air movement and aeromedical evacuation missions in both day and night environments.
CIRCM test events were designed to test the system under an operationally realistic environment while providing the test unit with training and support to improve overall readiness.
“We designed the test events to cover all the potential environments that aircrews may find themselves in,” said Blackmon.
To deliver that realistic operational threat environment, the U.S. Army’s Center for Countermeasures provided a Multi-Spectral Sea and Land Target Simulator (MSALTS) to engage the aircrews as they performed the missions, forcing the test unit to react and employ tactics, techniques and procedures as if they were conducting combat operations.
“I could have not asked for a better test unit than the 3-227th guys,” said Blackmon. “They exemplify what an Army Aviator should be.
“From planning and executing the missions to the invaluable feedback provided to the test team, the data collected from the post mission surveys will provide a real assessment on the strengths and weaknesses of the system,” he added.
Pilots and crew received critical training during the test event.
“The test has provided training that has made a positive impact on unit readiness and will put us ahead of the curve when the system gets fielded,” said 1st Lt. Peter Zeidler, 3-227th test unit officer-in-charge.
One Pilot in Command, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shane V. Alcock said, “I like the feature of having another countermeasure that can defeat an infrared threat.”
The Army Evaluation Center (AEC) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland will leverage data gathered from CIRCM testing to support an Operational Evaluation Report (OER).
Additionally, CIRCM testing will inform a 3rd Quarter Fiscal Year 2020 Full Rate Production decision for the Army.
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
Operational testing began Oct. 1, 1969, and as the Army’s only independent operational tester, OTC is celebrating “50 Years of Operational Testing.” The unit enlists the “Total Army” (Active, National Guard, and Reserve) when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer – the American Soldier.
The Aviation Test Directorate at West Fort Hood, Texas, plans and conducts operational tests and reports on manned and unmanned aviation-related equipment to include attack, reconnaissance, cargo and lift helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, tactical trainers, ground support equipment, and aviation countermeasure systems.