US Air Force, October 19, 1998 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. by Staff Sgt. William J. Seabrook Jr. 16th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs - The 20th Special Operations Squadron's MH-53J Pave Lows, already among the world's most sophisticated helicopters, are now being equipped with a powerful new capability.
The modification, called the Interactive Defensive Avionics System/Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal, or IDAS/MATT, provides aircrews with a new level of readiness and efficiency.
A color, multifunctional, night-vision compatible digital map screen is the most visible hardware in the system. Located on the helicopter's instrument panel, the display gives an MH-53 crew a clearer picture of the battlefield. Crews have access to near real-time events, including the aircrew's flight route, man-made hazards such as power lines and even enemy electronic threats that are "over-the-horizon."
Transmissions are beamed from a satellite to the helicopter's computer and then decoded. The data from the screen provides a perspective of potential threats and their lethal threat radius.
According to Lt. Col. Jack Hester, 20th SOS commander, this gives crews near real-time intelligence data and reduces their workload.
"It used to take me nine seconds to make a decision once I perceived a problem. Now the computer can recognize the problem and offer a solution in a nanosecond," said Hester. "It greatly increases our ability to manage any type of contingency that might arise."
Besides the map display, a navigational display provides digital course and bearing information with the push of a button.
The heart of the system -- advanced software -- includes an integrated electronic warfare system. Infrared countermeasure controls, including missile warning, radar warning and jammer inputs as well as chaff and flare countermeasures, are on one display. Crews will receive instant cautions and advisories on threats with immediate recommendations, including when to dispense countermeasures.
"With IDAS/MATT, if the computer senses a threat, it will anticipate the threat with a direct action the crew can take," said Maj. Rhea Dobson, 20th SOS flight commander. "It will sense the problem and offer us a way to solve it instantaneously."
The entire system was designed with the crew member as a priority in consolidating a variety of functions, say Pave Low crews. Special attention was made to display visible instrument panel functions with easy console access while increasing the efficient flow of information.
"Everything is designed with ease of crew workload in mind," said Dobson.
In a battlefield situation, concise and near real-time information is perhaps an aircrew's most reliable asset. With IDAS/MATT the probability of being detected by the enemy is greatly reduced.
Currently, nine Hurlburt Pave Lows have this system. Eventually, all 20th SOS helicopters will have this technology.
The system is also readily transferred to other special operations platforms and is included in the basic design of the CV-22 Osprey, Air Force Special Operations Command's next generation of aircraft. The tilt-rotor CV-22 is expected to eventually replace the MH-53J, the MH-60G Pave Hawk as well as the MC-130 Combat Talon I.