Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp. is to provide new capabilities for the Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters by Sikorsky [LMT] to allow the helicopters to perform better in degraded visual environments.

On May 22, Air Force Materiel Command awarded Sierra Nevada a nearly $75 million contract for the installation of a Degraded Visual Environment System (DVES) for 85 Air Force HH-60Gs by May 2024.

The Army Combat Readiness Center has reported that degraded visual environments caused a significant portion of U.S. military aircraft crashes and aviation fatalities since 2002. In degraded visual environments, aircrews have low or zero visibility during takeoff, normal flight and landing under conditions that can include brownout, smoke, sand, snow, rain, night and fog.

Also on May 22, Israel-based Elbit Systems said that it has delivered its “BrightNiteTM systems for [Airbus] Puma 330 helicopters of an Air Force of a NATO country.”

“Users’ feedback has been extremely positive, with pilots emphasizing the contribution of the system to degraded visibility environment flights and describing it as a ‘game changer’ and a ‘breakthrough in pitch dark night flight,'” Elbit said.

The company said that BrightNite transmits high-resolution video to the Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD) to allow pilots to fly in a head-up, eyes-out position. BrightNite “processes real-time panorama video, pre-loaded terrain and obstacle information enhanced by a 3D conformal and intuitive symbology,” Elbit said.

“Low flying, mission helicopters are vulnerable to threats such as difficult terrain, enemy fire and the intersection of utility wires in the flight path while sorties must often be carried out in DVE, adding to the already heavy workload and leaving flight crews to rely on NVGs to accomplish their mission,” according to Elbit. “BrightNite is designed to overcome visibility limitations and enable [pilots] to safely and effectively fly mission helicopters in pitch dark nights and in DVE [degraded visual environment] conditions, including poor weather conditions, brownouts, whiteouts and sandstorms.”