The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $12m contract to DRS Defense Solutions to upgrade the HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter with new automated flight controls enhancement systems.

Under the contract, the company will replace the original first-generation altitude hold and hover stabilisation (AHHS) system, which was deployed in the early 1990s, with a fifth-generation improved AHHS (IAHHS). The company will also provide technical data package development, test support, platform integration, production kits, spares and support for the Pave Hawks fleet in addition to the upgrades that include enhanced hover and cruise capabilities, and automatic descent, landing and go-around modes.

The precision, hands-free aircraft control at low altitude and speeds is vital, especially when conducting combat search and rescue missions in reduced visual environments. DRS Intelligence, Communications and Avionics Solutions (ICAS) president Logen Thiran said that the IAHHS technology will play a critical role in ensuring the safety of those in and around the aircraft under these less-than-desirable conditions.

The modified version of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, HH-60G Pave Hawk features an upgraded communications and navigation suite, enabling it to perform insertion and recovery of special operations personnel. The additional features of the long-range aircraft include colour weather/mapping radar, Doppler, INS, SATCOM/secure radio systems and two Robertson 185gal internal fuel tanks.

Integrated with an in-flight refuelling probe and a fuel management panel to assist in long-range missions, the aircraft combat enhancements include a radar warning receiver, infrared jammer and a flare/chaff countermeasure dispensing system. The aircraft is also capable of conducting peace-time operations including civil search and rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC), disaster relief, international aid, counter-drug activities and Nasa space shuttle support.

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