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Quiet Knight

The Quiet Knight program used maturing technology to demonstrate and validate affordability, applicability to all types of special operations forces platforms, and retrofit/forward fit of complete or partial solutions for a special operations force infiltration/exfiltration mission scenario. Specific deficiencies addressed for the infil/exfil type mission scenario included passive detection, situation awareness of active threats, and crew workload. This effort was intended to bring detection avoidance technology closer to the operational user, and allow end users to "fly before you buy." System integration issues that were to be investigated included sensor/resource management, fault tolerance/configuration, database management and high-speed data distribution, retrofit with existing avionics platform architectures, and extensibility to future high performance architectures. The new technology was eventually integrated into a C-130 airframe, previously used as a Pacer COIN plaform or C-130(PC).

The Quiet Knight demonstrations advanced the state of the art in passive ranging by exploiting emitter phenomena. Using data from flight tests on the Quiet Knight program, Litton Amecom demonstrated techniques for air-to-ground ranging using Doppler measurements on the emitter. The Quiet Knight program was sponsored by Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Architecture and Integration Branch (IFSC) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which developed and demonstrated advanced embedded system architectures and system integration concepts for legacy and future platforms. The Branch conducted research and development programs ranging from constructive to real-time/hardware-in-the-loop simulation technology to support effectiveness evaluations and demonstrations of the evolving technologies. The Quiet Knight Display Processor provided by PortalSoft Technologies of Albuquerque, New Mexico included a Digital Map Display (with HSD, flight plan, route/threat data overlay), Ridgeline display, and a Terrain following/Terrain avoidance display.

What became know as Quiet Knight Phase I, which began in May 1989, was completed in March 1991 after completing 43 separate flights totaling 188 flight hours. Quiet Knight Phase I demonstrated the ability to improve sensor management so that scanning was done only when and where required to minimize RF emissions, verify potential inaccuracies in stored terrain data, detect and account for features such as towers detected by radar, perform look-into-turn sensing of the terrain, and exercise in-flight route replanning in response to simulated threats. The core avionics from the MC-130E Combat Talon had been used to determine a baseline for RF detectability. Phase I established new standards of performance for active and passive detection avoidance.

The Quiet Knight Phase II contract was awarded in May 1991 with system technology demonstrations to be complete by FY93. The Phase II work was interrupted by a stop work order, that lasted for 90 days between 18 October 1991 and 17 January 1992. This was the product of a congressional suspension of the Quiet Knight program until credible transition planning was established with Special Operations Command. This was completed and the remaining proof of concept was to be completed by the first quarter of FY94 as of April 1993. Payoff was expected in between 5-7 years.

The objective of Quiet Knight Phase II was to demonstrate integrated detection avoidance technology for special operations aircraft requiring low level undetected ingress and egress through enemy air defense systems. Phase II would add off-board and on-board threat warning capability integrated with a real time route replanning capability, as well as a laser radar system for improved obstacle avoidance and secondary terrain following.

Quiet Knight Phase II program would: provide air crew with the best picture of the terrain, obstacles, and threats; warning of unexpected threats beyond line-of-sight; and real-time route replanning to take advantage of terrain and avoid threats; provided fast threat identification and high accuracy location; reduce emissions detectability; provide obstacle detection and avoidance capability; improve terrain masking capability; and increase functional redundancy.

As of April 1993, the baseline core techologies demonstrated in Phase I were said to be ready for immediate transition. These included the Low Probability of Detection (LPD) radar altimeter, LPD terrain following radar with electronically scanned array antenna, the Quiet Knight data processor, terrain database, and associated software. Though developed for the MC-130E aircraft, the technologies were applicable to all C-130 variants (including AC-130 gunships), as well as to MH-53 Pave Low and MH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, and the proposed CV-22 Osprey aircraft. It was also hoped that the resulting techonlogy might be applicable for conventional fighter and bomber aircraft.

The Quiet Knight program had been started as part of the Balanced Technology Initiative (BTI). In FY94, the BTI was stripped of funding and individual programs placed under the control of a service or the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Responsibility for the Quiet Knight program was subsequently transfered to Special Operations Command's Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisitions Center (SORDAC).

An enhanced digital map called the Advanced Terrain Data Processor (ATDP) was later developed by Honeywell Defense Avionics Systems. The ATDP fused data from a variety of sensors, including Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) Radar, Ladar, and a radar altimeter, with Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED). The DETD was also fused with data from INS, GPS, and the radar altimeter to provide accurate naviation. The ATDP also provided theat avoidance capabilities by using on-board and over the horizon intelligence information along with the DETD. The system could automatically adjust the flight plan based on this information. The system could be set to aggressively follow the terrain to the destination at altitudes from 150 to 1000 feet. The system had 3 different visual outputs, displayed on 2 video engines. The first engine provided a plant view map. The second engine showed ridgelines and energy elevation profiles. The ATDP, tailored to the C-130(PC) test aircraft, provided passive pitch and roll commands to the pilot based on the set parameters.

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