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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in the US is set to use a small aircraft for military personnel rescue flight experiments.

The CubCrafters XCub aircraft was recently acquired to further advance the Lysander project, which was conceived to rescue isolated personnel in heavily defended and undefended airspace.

Particularly, the aircraft will be used to test the AFRL-developed Low Altitude Sensing Helmet (LASH) system.

Developed within the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, the LASH portable kit comprises specialised equipment, including a flight helmet, a thermal camera, night-vision goggles and other components.

This kit can be installed on the majority of general aviation aircraft to enable pilots to conduct low-level, low-speed, nighttime flights, an essential aspect for personnel recovery and other special light airlift missions.

711th Human Performance Wing project lead Dr Darrel G Hopper said: “The airforce’s CODE (Combat Operations in Denied Environment) programme determined that these types of missions could not be executed effectively by the large aircraft that we have been using over the last 20 years in areas where we have air dominance.

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“Project Lysander was conceived as a method of rescuing isolated personnel in both heavily defended and undefended airspace. A critical element of the project was determined to be a carry-on kit that could allow such operations.”

This comes after Air Combat Command identified CubCrafters XCub as the safest and most capable commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft for such testing with the LASH System kit.

The first test flights are expected in early this year. If the tests achieve its objectives, the LASH system can be deployed as early as 2022.