The Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Aircrew Systems programme office (PMA-202) is set to deploy the prototype of the US Navy’s MH-60S Seahawk helicopter’s replacement gunner seat by 2019.
The PMA-202 team initially looked for an industry solution to provide the fleet with a qualified seating system, which would address various concerns raised during hazard reports and fleet visits.
However, the US Navy ultimately approached the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD)’s AIRWorks rapid prototyping team to find a quick and cost-effective solution.
The team had completed its initial design by August last year using details based on existing performance specifications and supplemental fleet input.
The first prototype was developed by September 2016.
Concerns regarding the existing seats were again raised during the flag panel at the Naval Helicopter Association (NHA) Symposium in May.
A follow-on formal acquisition effort was established by June in order to address the new concerns, which included the design, testing and development of the latest gunner seat.
The NAVAIR / NAWCAD team was involved in refining and redesigning the seat, digitising drawings and developing technical data packages in order to prepare the second prototype for flight testing, which is scheduled for March 2018.
A ten-person Gunner Seat Fleet Task Force has also been created to enable the fleet to provide real-time input during the prototype development.
NAVAIR Acquisition assistant commander Gary Kurtz said: “The MH-60S Gunner Seat prototype is a significant milestone.
“We are approaching a known, long-standing risk in an innovative way and we are focused on trying to resolve this aircrew safety concern as quickly as we can.
“Feedback on the prototype helps ensure we are pointed in the right direction.”