Lockheed Martin continues project to equip Special Forces C-130J with terrain-following radar

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 18 April 2016. Avionics experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. are moving forward with a project to install a secretive radar system aboard U.S. Special Forces turboprop aircraft to enable the planes to infiltrate enemy territory by hiding in mountain passes, valleys, and in bad weather.

Apr 18th, 2016
Content Dam Mae Online Articles 2016 04 C 130j 11 April 2016
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 18 April 2016. Avionics experts at Lockheed Martin Corp. are moving forward with a project to install a secretive radar system aboard U.S. Special Forces turboprop aircraft to enable the planes to infiltrate enemy territory by hiding in mountain passes, valleys, and in bad weather.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, announced a $93.7 million contract modification Friday for work involved in incorporating the common terrain following radar system aboard Special Forces MC-130J Commando II aircraft.

Lockheed Martin's work involves installing the Silent Knight terrain-following/terrain-avoidance radar aboard MC-130J aircraft. The radar system comes from the Raytheon Co. Space And Airborne Systems segment in McKinney, Texas. Lockheed Martin is prime contractor for the MC-130J.

The Silent Knight radar is an above-K-band multi-aircraft terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar designed to enable Special Forces aircraft like the MC-130J to infiltrate dangerous areas undetected and at night with reduced risks of crashing while flying at low altitudes.

Special Operations commanders need aircraft capable of flying at low altitudes covertly at night to insert and remove commando forces for operations behind enemy lines.

Related: U.S. Air Force evaluates COTS solutions for next-generation airborne radar

The system also provides navigation support, ground mapping, and weather information to air crews. The radar has advanced terrain-following and -avoidance capabilities and will be lighter and require less power than its predecessors.

story continues below

Other Special Forces aircraft that can be fitted with the Silent Knight radar include the MH-47 and MH-60 helicopters and CV-22 tiltrotor. The security level of the Silent Knight program is at the secret level of classification due to its sensitive nature.

The Silent Knight radar operates at low-power levels to reduce its chances of being detected by enemy passive RF receivers. The system also has color weather tactical data displays to enhance pilot situational awareness.

Essentially the Silent Knight radar system enables MC-130J and other Special Forces aircraft to fly close to the ground -- hugging low spots in mountain passes, valleys, and other terrain features -- even when darkness and bad weather cause zero-visibility.

Related: Raytheon to provide upgrade kits for F/A-18E/F airborne radar systems

The system's sophisticated weather radar also enables the aircraft to hide in clouds, fog, dust, rain storms, and total darkness at very low altitudes. Its radar can pick out key details like electrical towers and high-tension power lines while providing pilots with enough warning to avoid them.

This order to Lockheed Martin is a modification to a $480 million 15-year contract awarded in June 2015 for C-130J follow-on research and development to enhance C-130J capabilities, and for continual aircraft improvement.

Lockheed Martin received a separate $52.6 million modification to this contract last October to provide crew systems integration of the MC-130J common terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar system.

On Friday's order Lockheed Martin will do the work in Marietta, Ga., and should be finished by March 2021. For more information contact Lockheed Martin Aeronautics online at www.lockheedmartin.com/us/aeronautics, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems at www.raytheon.com, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at www.wpafb.af.mil/aflcmc.

More in Avionics