UK‘s Royal Naval Air Station Upgrades Helicopter Trainer with Dual-Input Christie Matrix StIM Projectors

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The full flight simulation system at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose in the UK, where training facilities for the RN Sea King helicopters are based, has upgraded its visual system technology with the new Christie Matrix StIMâ„¢ WUXGA DLPA® LED projectors. The upgrade dramatically advances the capabilities of their training and simulation facilities, allowing them to support normal visual operation as well as stimulation of aircrew Night Vision Goggles (NVG) simultaneously. For the Commando Helicopter Force and Airborne Surveillance and Control crews, who are tasked with supporting operations in Afghanistan, it fills a critical gap in the NVG training and offers them realistic, state-of-the-art imagery from the pilot’s cockpit.

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“The Sea King simulator is a world class training facility that provides cost effective, unique and invaluable training for all Royal Navy Sea King aircrew, as well as foreign users,” noted Lieutenant Commander Steve King, who is Officer in Charge. “It offers a realistic 200 degree field of view (FOV), representative of what pilots see from the actual helicopter cockpit. The recent upgrades were designed to enhance training for front line operations and include a full Defensive Aids Suite and a new Afghanistan package with bespoked graphics and hostile environments to provide a more realistic and challenging simulator training.”

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To achieve the world’s most advanced, true-to-life NVG training environment, an array of three dual-input Christie Matrix StIM single-chip LED projectors were installed, driven by upgraded versions of the ThalesView family of powerful Image Generators (IG).

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Christie’s InfraRGBâ„¢, which combines RGB and IR LEDs illumination, and Christie InfraSceneâ„¢ contribute to the projectors’ unique ability to process and display infrared content. With Christie’s IR-compatible MotoBlendâ„¢, designed to maximize life-like images of both day and night, and Christie Twistâ„¢ processing, all of the projected images blend seamlessly to provide the ultimate, life-like 200 degree FOV from the simulator cockpit.

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Thales UK, which installed the system, recommended the Christie Matrix StIM projectors because of their unique ability to support both normal visual operations and stimulation of NVG. Because they raise the low-level night flying imagery to a higher level of fidelity than was previously supported by CRT projectors, they allow trainee and front-line pilots to realistically experience these challenges from the cockpit before getting airborne.

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“With the addition of new ThalesView IGs, the results were higher brightness and improved graphics. Whether 3D seascapes where the waves rise, as well as recirculation FX – sea, snow, sand and dust simulating the down force of the blades as they come into land – images are exactly what the pilot sees,” said Thales UK’s Brian Mouser, the program manager who supervised the five-week installation phase. “It’s a new level of realism of the different terrains and conditions likely to be encountered by helicopter personnel, including ground warfare, driving, military aircraft, and a wide diversity of physical environments.”

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Mouser added: “Technology has moved on considerably since we last updated the simulator. The Christie Matrix StIM offers capabilities that simply hadn’t been seen before, such as its unique ability to run conventional night and NVG images simultaneously. It also offers a huge weight, power consumption and size advantage. The StIM improves visuals, training and reduces power usage.”

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The new simulation center has proven extremely popular at RNAS Culdrose, with pilots and instructors alike observing the brighter and sharper images. They now relish the fact that air crew can operate in both visible and NVG modes simultaneously — an invaluable training aid especially for night operations to unlit landing sites as well as ships’ flight decks.

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“The simulator prepares our aircrew for every eventuality,” said Pat Douglas, Commander, Sea King Force, “By testing our aircrews in the safety of the simulator, we can take them far beyond anything that they are likely to experience in Afghanistan. This means they will be better prepared if they are faced with difficulties in theater. Just like in a real situation, in the simulator, they must take evasive action against enemy fire; engines will be ‘failed’ at critical moments of flight and the weather will be extreme. Key to this realism is that the new graphics are able to replicate actual areas of Afghanistan.”

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“The Christie Matrix StIM is the first projector to provide independent control over both the visible and infrared spectrum, and enable real-time balancing of both color and brightness levels,” observed Zoran Veselic, vice president, Christie Visual Environment. “It is also designed with solid state illumination, making it virtually maintenance-free. “Intense, 24/7 engagements spanning daytime as well as nighttime operations are the new reality of modern theaters of conflicts, making NVG training a crucial component of today’s state-of-the-art trainers. Christie is pleased to partner with Thales UK and contribute to RNAS Culdrose’s latest upgrades to the visual systems of their renowned Sea King simulators.”

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