Collins Aerospace [RTX] is looking for its Enhanced Vision System (EVS) to gain traction within the U.S. Air Force C-130 community for a number of missions, including low-level flying at night, formation refueling for special operations forces, and Air National Guard firefighting.
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to begin several months of testing of an EVS-3600 on a standard C-130 this May to let AFSOC, Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and the Air National Guard watch the tests and consider EVS for future missions, said James Gourde, a former U.S. Air Force C-130 pilot and the senior manager/business development lead for EVS at Collins Aerospace.
EVS-3600 is designed to cut through smoke, fog, and darkness by displaying high-clarity visual references on a pilot’s head-up display (HUD).
“This is a fielded capability on commercial and business aircraft,” Gourde said. “The capabilities have existed for a while. We’re a fully vetted system that’s capable of going down to EFVS 2, which essentially allows you to use a multiplier to your vision. If an RVR [runway visual range] is 1,800 feet, we can cut a third of that and shoot an approach with an RVR of 1,200 feet. It allows you to go into weather scenarios that normally an aircraft would have to divert or go around. It also gets rid of ceiling requirements.”
Under EFVS 2, planes are able to conduct straight-in landing operations below Decison Altitude/Decision Height (DA/DH) or Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) by using an enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
“From a military perspective, there’s a lot more interest and engagement because of what it’s capable of doing,” he said. “It’s able to see through smoke, maybe find IR [infrared] hot spots in terms of firefighting.”
Last Oct. 22, 14 senators, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel, wrote a letter to Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, to ask him to assess the firefighting readiness of National Guard forces, including their firefighting equipment.
Lorrin Johnson, marketing manager for head-up guidance and vision systems at Collins Aerospace, said that EVS had shown its worth for future firefighting during the Carr Fire in California in 2018.
“We were certifying EVS on the Globals for Bombardier at the time,” she said. “At 10 nautical miles out, we could see the approach lighting system through the smoke where it was just flat out gray through the windshield. Also, in snow, we can get a several nautical mile advantage. The issue is when it becomes very wet, a heavy rain, it starts to decrease that because it neutralizes so much of the temperature. Our system has three camera spectrums inside of it. It can do visible light, long-wave infrared, and short-wave infrared–all bringing in different aspects of the outside world into the camera real-time.”
Collins Aerospace is asking that Congress provide $9.4 million in funding for equipping a range of C-130s with EVS.
“We feel like this [EVS] could get us to 24 hour firefighting capabilities, as well as helping special ops and the ‘slick’ [standard] C-130s that do the day-to-day IMC [instrument meterological conditions] operations and the low-level/night terrain stuff,” Gourde said. “We feel it has a fairly large, full spectrum application to most of the military missions we have going on.”
EVS “is a big generational leap better than night vision goggles in terms of seeing other aircraft at night and flying in formation,” he said.