Helicopter capability - Defence Committee Contents

Memorandum from SELEX Galileo


  1.  This memorandum is intended to add to the Committee's body of evidence by highlighting the benefits of a coherent, cross-platform approach to the purchase and support of defensive aids equipment for helicopters.[1] The memorandum provides an overview of:

    — Equipment Coherency, what it is, what are the benefits

    — What has been done and where we've got to

    — The impact of the current operational environment

    — The top-level conclusions and recommendations.


  2.  SELEX Galileo (herein referred to as SELEX) has been at the forefront of Electronic Warfare (EW) in the UK since the late 1960s, providing equipment to enhance situational awareness and platform survivability. As part of the Marconi Company, the company developed the radar warning receivers for the Phantom, Jaguar and Buccaneer aircraft that were later fitted to helicopters. Since that time the company, now part of the Finmeccanica Group, has been continuously involved in the design, development, manufacture and support of self-protection equipment for air and naval platforms.

  3.  As well as developing and supplying individual equipments, we have worked with the MoD to develop Defensive Aids Systems (DAS) by integration of EW equipments. DAS provides a superior level of self-protection for platforms operating in the most hostile environments. Starting in the 1980s with the introduction into service of the Zeus system for the Harrier GR5 & 7, SELEX has worked continuously with the MoD to develop and evolve the skill-sets and technology in order to provide a high level of protection for front-line platforms. This culminated in the HIDAS[2] self-protection suite for the UK's Apache AH Mk1 Attack Helicopter and the DAS for the Typhoon F2 multi-role combat aircraft, both of which comprise EW equipment from SELEX. The efficacy of HIDAS has been operationally proven in Afghanistan and, according to Press reports; the system enjoys a high level of confidence from those who fly the UK Apache (see Annex 1).

  4.  HIDAS is widely recognised as offering the highest level of platform protection. The relatively high cost of its development and deployment was entirely justified on the grounds that a high level of protection was afforded the complexity and spectrum of the anticipated threats. At the time that HIDAS was introduced, the cost model used for the Apache could not underpin the requirement for other platforms in the fleet, which were expected to operate in a lower threat environment.

  5.  In the intervening period, we undertook a series of company-funded studies into the cost benefits of a holistic approach to the provision and support of Defensive Aids across the UK helicopter fleet. In the same time period, as the Committee is aware, the threat environment faced by transport and support helicopters radically altered due to the nature of the conflicts.


  6.  Our EW products are installed on a variety of platforms in the UK helicopter fleet. In addition to HIDAS for the Apache, we have provided and support radar warners for the Sea King, Merlin, Puma, Gazelle, Lynx and Chinook. We have also provided the integrated DAS capability for the Chinook and have been selected to supply the integrated DAS for the Army and Navy variants of the Future Lynx. Notably, the acquisitions were made by individual MoD Integrated Project Teams (IPT) and/or platform primes with each platform being subject to individual bespoke support arrangements.

  7.  In 2004, with this situation in mind, and against the background of the MoD's emerging Future Rotorcraft Capability initiative, SELEX commenced a series of company-funded studies to establish the cost-benefits likely to accrue from a coherent, fleet-wide approach to the provision and support of helicopter DAS. The results of the initial study were presented to the MoD early in 2005 and this led to further work including workshops with experts within the MoD.

  8.  Since 2007, as part of the UK EW Tower of Excellence, we have been working with other UK industrial partners on studies into the next generation of DAS architectures for helicopters and other airborne platforms. One of the goals of this work is to develop cross-platform coherency. The work will be continued later this year as a Technology Demonstrator Programme in which an open, integrated architecture will use some of the advanced sensors and countermeasures that are being developed under UK MoD funding. Whilst this vital capability improvement is sponsored by the MoD research programme, it is worrying that there is as yet no obvious pull-through to mainstream acquisition programmes.

  9.  A number of conclusions can be drawn from the work to date:

    — Adoption of a flexible, fleet-wide coherent DAS solution could provide a number of benefits, including improved usage and availability and better exploitation of investment leading to assured capability maintenance and growth.

    — Larger production runs lead to economies of scale. Further savings can be made in the overall Through Life Support costs.

    — The current continuous competition that results from the present, stove-piped IPT approach has an adverse effect on the UK's EW capability. Funding that could be used to invest in new or improved products, is instead used to fund expensive competitive tenders. This promotes a short term view that weakens the UK's overall capability.


  10.  Engagement with the MoD led to a coherent DAS solution being selected for the Army and Navy variants of the Future Lynx. This DAS, based on the HIDAS architecture, uses equipment already fitted to other UK helicopters. This brings capability and cost benefits from having common mission, equipment support and training solutions.

  11.  In parallel, the MoD Central Customer developed the Common DAS (CDAS) Air Platform Protection (APP) Strategy that seeks to provide:

    "more capable systems, which deal with the full range of potential threats; using DIS-compliant equipment; to provide common solutions across the range of air platforms; supportable and affordable through-life".[3]

One of the cornerstones of the Strategy is to achieve maximum DAS coherency across platform types to improve overall availability and minimise cost of ownership. The APP Strategy is intended to be accomplished incrementally through various funding routes, including UORs and Equipment purchases. Successful accomplishment will require cross-platform and cross-IPT buy-in.

  12.  The heart of the CDAS strategy is the common architecture, which is based on HIDAS. As well as the Apache and Future Lynx platforms, the architecture has been implemented for the recent Chinook DAS upgrade and is planned for the Puma Life Extension Programme.

Coherency on the equipment support side is making some progress with moves underway to provide a common cross-platform support solution for the Sky Guardian 2000 radar warner, an integral component of HIDAS. On the Mission Support side, SELEX-produced Merlin Integrated Electronic Warfare System is used by the Air Warfare Centre for mission data programming and replay for a range of platforms.


  13.  Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) are generally a disrupter to coherency. One of the early arguments against DAS Coherency was that only part of the fleet (Attack Helicopters) was expected to operate in a truly hostile environment and hence justification for fitting a comprehensive DAS to all helicopters was weak. Clearly, recent combat operations have involved a wider range of helicopter platforms.

  14.  The need to react rapidly to asymmetric threats, in order safely to provide support to the troops on the ground, mandated the use of UORs. Unfortunately this results in a disjointed solution across the fleet that only addresses today's perceived threat, cannot readily be absorbed into the coherent solution and has larger longer-term costs

  15.  A coherent approach would have benefited the short term and long term platform capability and through-life support.


  16.  As stated above, it is our experience that UORs are a disruptor to coherency strategy. For the recent round of helicopter DAS UORs, SELEX responded in line with the MoD's APP coherency strategy. Solutions were worked-up for, and presentations made to, a wide range of interested parties including the MoD Central Customer Chinook, Puma, Sea King, Helicopter and Islander, and Merlin IPTs, and the Joint Helicopter Command. Only the Chinook IPT took up the challenge. By adopting an intelligent approach to the UOR, they have gained a growth-capable architecture using legacy equipment that is coherent with the MoD's APP strategy. This will ease capability & technology insertion in the future. For instance, Hostile Fire Indication can be readily integrated.

  17.  Timeframes, funding and lack of inter-IPT coordination militated against coherent solutions on the other platforms (Sea King Mks 4 and 7, Puma, Merlin Mk1). Instead, the MoD generally adopted an interim solution that met the immediate requirements, allowing a small number of aircraft from each fleet to be deployed. However, the downstream consequence of this is that money has been spent on a "fleet-within-fleet" short term solution with no long-term support strategy. In addition, future capability insertion will be more onerous.


  18.  Our experience is that for both Equipment Purchase (EP) and UORs, insufficient attention is paid to the Logistics tail. For UORs, DLOD only get the limited attention necessary for the short-term needs. Equipment programmes have varied approaches but, in our experience, generally only cover an initial, short period of support. In our experience also, the support package included in UK EP contracts can vary from the supply of limited support documentation, to one including documentation, spares, test equipment and extended warranty.

  19.  Despite being a key enabler to getting the full capability from modern defensive aids equipment, the tools used for DAS mission planning, testing and replay, are often relegated to a less important role. They are rarely included in the EP contract and the user can be faced with capabilities that are present in the equipment but cannot be used operationally because the Mission Support Tools to exploit them have not been procured.

  20.  DAS training is another key area that is often neglected. It is hampered by lack of hardware with the result that the aircrew's first experience of the equipment is when they use it in anger in theatre. In association with the Chinook UOR, we worked up novel, low-cost, bench-top and in-cockpit DAS training solutions that were rapidly prototyped using the SELEX Concept to Capability Synthetic Environment at Luton. The proposed solutions were extensively demonstrated to the prospective stakeholders such as the platform IPTs and the relevant MoD players. However, despite everyone agreeing that it was an innovative, low-cost solution, there was no take up.


  21.  Coherency is also highly relevant to DAS for Fixed Wing platforms and to platforms in the Naval and Land domains. Of course, there is nothing unique about DAS. The principle applies equally to other military equipments. In fact, we have an early example of the benefits of coherency in the MoD Thermal Imager Common Module (TICM) programme that was started in the early 1970s. Looking forward, areas such as AFVs, ISTAR and Battlespace Integration would appear to be ideal candidates for adopting a coherent approach for selected capabilities across their "fleet".


  22.  Export sales generate the financial returns that allow UK industry to invest in Research and Development across a wide range of technologies applicable to helicopters, fixed wing, naval and land platforms. The products and services provided to the UK by SELEX benefit substantially from our company funded R&D. Recent examples of DAS programmes that have benefited include those for the Chinook and for the Future Lynx. We are also supporting the UK's work on Hostile Fire Indication and on advanced DAS architectures.

  23.  Despite the demonstrated effectiveness of integrated defensive aids, most of the DAS and other sensor equipment used by UK Armed Forces is procured as individual items. The user therefore cannot benefit from integration of data and functions. This approach is largely due to emphasis of competition for the individual items rather than taking a holistic view and fully engaging the principle suppliers. The success of HIDAS, and its derivatives, indicates what can be achieved. It should be noted that elements of the UK MoD, in particular on the Science &Technology staff, are totally supportive of the holistic approach. However, because of the constraints placed upon them, the platform IPTs are driven to make independent equipment selections. It is anticipated that this situation will improve with the creation of the Programme Boards.


  24.  There are many areas of military capability where it is vital that the UK maintains an on-shore, strategic EW capability. This is not about jobs for the UK; rather, it is about the UK retaining independent control of vital platform capability. Various issues must be taken into account, including both short and long-term affordability, supportability, exportability and insertion of new and improved capabilities and technologies.

  25.  We believe that it is vital to maintain and develop the UK's scientific and technological (industrial) capability. Lack of UK MoD business means industry will concentrate on export opportunities where the requirements may not be aligned with those of the UK Armed Forces. The other danger is a loss of relevant skills and facilities. Electronic Warfare expertise is a strategic capability, highlighted in the Defence Industrial Strategy, that once lost will prove very difficult to recover. Without a coherent approach to DAS fits in the future, this strategic capability is at risk.


  26.  It has been recognised that DAS coherency has the capability to provide substantial cost savings. These would be realised though commonality in a number of areas, including technology and capability development, equipment qualification, validation & verification, training, equipment & mission support, the MoD support infrastructure, capability enhancement, procurement and programme management. It should also be recognised that DAS coherency is fundamental to retaining a strategic capability within the UK.

  27.  A coherent approach to the purchase and support of Helicopter DAS would:

    — Save money

    — Lead to better solutions

    — Assure long term sovereign capability

    — Assure industrial commitment to the UK

  28.  To date the coherent approach has only been partially implemented. To get full benefits of coherency, MoD needs to adopt a different procurement approach. One approach would be for the MoD to negotiate with potential suppliers at an early stage in order to get cross-platform coherency. The results of such negotiation might be, for example, the appointment of a cross-platform DAS system prime, or architecture lead. Working with MoD, this lead would then be responsible for:

    — competing sensors and countermeasure components at the appropriate level, either across platforms or for individual platform types

    — technology insertion and capability growth

  29.  All parties in the procurement chain, including MoD, Primes and Suppliers, would need to be bought in. It seems likely that a different skillset would be required to negotiate the best deal for UK. IPTs and Platform Primes, in particular, would need encouragement to take a wider, sustainable view of procurement and support.

3 April 2009

Annex 1


1 December 2007

  Attack helicopters adapt their role for the asymmetric battlefield. By Rupert Pengelley

    One difference in tactics is that the pilots of UK Apaches are generally content to operate above the small-arms threat, having, as Lt Col McGinty puts it, "a high degree of confidence in the level of technical protection provided against surface-to-air missiles" by the Apache AH.1's Selex HIDAS integrated defensive aids suite (DAS).


1st February, 2007

  UK Apache proves itself in Afghan service. By Joris Janssen Lok

    In answer to a question about the differences between the operating methods of British Apache units and Dutch or US units operating the AH-64D, Jane's was told that the AH.1 was likely to be flown at a higher altitude. Because of the AH.1's HIDAS defensive aids suite (which is integrated and not a bolt-on solution) and its superior flare capability, "we can afford to fly higher because we are less worried about surviving a surface-to-air missile attack than our opposite numbers".

1   Hereinafter referred to as DAS Coherency. Back

2   Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System. Back

3   This quotation is taken from a 2008 UK RESTRICTED presentation given by DEC(TA). Back

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Prepared 21 July 2009