Defence contractor, Raytheon, has been awarded a contract to integrate its next-generation multi-mode K-band AN/APQ-187 Silent Knight Radar (SKR) onto the United States Air Force’s (USAF) 52 Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.

The contract modification, worth $15m (USD), adds to the total funding formally committed to the SKR Operational Flight Program, increasing it to $45m (USD). The SKR will be integrated over the USAF’s CV-22B fleet over the next three years, with work coming to an end by December 2021. The announcement was made by the US Department of Defense (US DoD) on 12 February 2019.

The Silent Knight radar is a radar specifically designed for helicopters and tiltrotor application. It provides terrain-avoidance and terrain-following capabilities and gives the pilot a high-resolution terrain mapping and “climb” or “dive” commands. Silent Knight is also said to require less power and is 30 per cent lighter than previous applications, an asset which would give the aircraft a lower probability of detection and interception.

Aside from ground mapping, Silent Knight also has a range of new navigational support systems including weather detecting capabilities, which displays weather intensity on a colour display. The two of these updated capabilities combined are expected to help Special Operations Forces (SOF) conduct day and night low-level operations (i.e. insertion and extraction missions) in a variety of environments.

The CV-22Bs will not have been the first aircraft in the US military inventory to receive the SKR, as the US Army’s famed 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), nicknamed the “Night Stalkers,” has had the radar integrated onto its Boeing MH-47G Chinook and Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters since 2012.

Silent Knight is expected to be integrated to all USAF CV-22B Osprey’s by the end of December 2021 and is part of a large effort to help reduce costs whilst increasing the SKR’s presence within USAF SOF aircraft. The radar is also being tested on Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II aircraft operated by USAF Special Operations Command.

The US military’s Osprey programme is managed by the V-22 Joint Program Office, which falls under the US Naval Air System Command (NAVAIR).

By Khalem Chapman [23/02/2019]