BMT Defence Services a subsidiary of BMT Group, has supplied 15 innovative, hand-held map grid converters for use on the Royal Air Force’s new Merlin HC Mk3a helicopters. These units enable Merlin pilots to convert Ordnance Survey (OS) map grid co-ordinates into latitude and longitude (WGS84) co-ordinates for the onboard flight system.

BMT’s grid conversion technology has proved itself over recent years. Previously, BMT supplied 70 grid converters for use on British Army Apache AH Mk1 helicopters during UK training exercises. Used to assist with navigation and enhance situational awareness, these enable pilots to convert between OS, WGS84, Universal Transverse Mercator and Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) formats.

The existing Apache and new Merlin systems are based on a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solution – standard Dell and HP Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) – loaded with BMT’s highly capable grid conversion software. Pilots can attach their PDA to their flight suit.

“The Merlin Integrated Project Team (IPT) had heard about the fast implementation of BMT’s cost-effective solution, which provides accurate grid conversions from Apache IPT and approached us directly with their requirements,” says Simon Luck, Senior Systems Analyst, BMT Defence Services. This software is just one example of the extensive capability available across the BMT group which is being promoted as BMT in Software Solutions.

In addition to supplying the PDAs and grid conversion software, BMT has provided the associated training for Merlin pilots at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire.

“During training last month the Merlin crewman told us how much they like the grid converter, particularly how intuitive and effective it is,” says Simon Luck.

“The Merlin and Apache IPTs are pleased too: the Ministry of Defence and our other customers trust BMT to deliver innovative solutions such as our PDA-based grid converters, together with a consistently high-quality service.”

Simon Luck says BMT’s grid conversion software expertise has potential in other areas: “UTM and MGRS are used worldwide so our COTS solutions and software could be used to assist pilots and troops wherever they need to operate.”