Story by Tech. Sgt. Betty Squatrito-Martin, National Guard Bureau - Counterdrug, Public Affairs
Just as it has become common place to see people use touch screens to communicate on their phones, it will become common place to see aircrew members on the Security and Support Lakota UH-72A helicopter use touch screens to communicate during domestic operations.
According to Chief Warrant Officer 3, Kevin Mudd, the S&S Lakota UH-72A, is the first DoD Aircraft to be outfitted with a new Mission Equipment Package that includes touch screens.
In addition to the touch screens, the S&S MEP is equipped with an electro-optical/infrared sensor (EO/IR) and laser pointer, a moving map system, video management system, two digital video recorders, two Radio RT-5000 transceivers with single control head to enable cross band communications and point to point data communications enabling video downlinks, and real time video.
This equipment enables the National Guard Counterdrug helicopter aircrews to support law enforcement with aerial observation, photographic imagery, full motion video and interagency communications.
The Lakota UH-72A is the perfect communications platform, said Lt. Col. Dallas Jones, a pilot with the Louisiana National Guard.
In part, what makes the MEP so useful is the new transceiver. According to CW3 Mudd, the old aircraft [OH-58A] had some of the digital frequencies covered in the communications package but now they have the entire digital spectrum covered.
Basically, aircrews can talk to anyone be it law enforcement, fellow Guardsmen, the fire department, or any other emergency responder.
“The greatest benefit is the steady flow of real time information, which keeps the ground and aircrews in sync,” said Dallas.
In addition to talking and hearing, the new MEP has an improved ability to see. The MEP is equipped with an upgraded electro-optical/infrared sensor (EO/IR) and laser pointer and a 43 plus-million-candlepower searchlight. Unlike previous aircraft, the night sun is slaved with the EO/IR sensor.
“When we are covering an undercover agent or police officer on the ground in the UH 72 with the new system, that agent can tell me the street location, I can plug it into the system and the camera on the aircraft will actually slew to that address, said Capt. Craig Hunter, Counterdrug OIC, D.C. National Guard. “Now I basically do it manually, I take a look at a small GPS that I have, I look at the streets, and I actually have to locate it myself.“
Not only does the camera go to where it is told, so does the night sun.
“Where the ball (camera) looks, the night sun can also look,” said Mudd.
“The searchlight can light up a city block,” said Dallas. “It provides good situational information at night,” said Dallas.
As the UH-72A Lakota gets the MEP upgrade, the aircrews receive MEP training. Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Florida Guard units have taken delivery of the newly upgraded aircraft, and the Guardsmen from those states are undergoing training on the MEP in Huntsville, Ala.
“They will complete their training, take their aircraft back to their state and put into operation and continue to train their folks on how to use their equipment,” said Mudd.
With radios that cover the whole digital spectrum, a night sun that lights up city blocks, EO/IR sensors, moving maps and communication that is but a touch away, “There is not a better domestic operation platform in DoD,” said Mudd. “We have an airframe that can carry more people and more stuff than what we had.”