German Armed Forces Personnel Recovery Mission Package enters service in Afghanistan

The ESG-developed Mission Tactical Workstation (MTA) has just entered service with the German Armed Forces CH-53s in Northern Afghanistan.

CH-53GS ESG-Missionspaket

ESG liefert den Missionstaktischen Arbeitsplatz für Rettungseinsätze mit dem CH-53GS (Fotos: ESG).  


The MTA is a mission package that gives the heavily armed and combat-proven CH-53GS the capability to conduct Personnel Recovery Missions and to support Special Forces in theatre.

Within the ballistic-protected fuselage the Recovery Mission Operator (RMO) controls the Personnel Locator System (PLS), the geo-referenced EO/IR sensor and the extensive array of communication devices including NATO-compatible V/UHF-radios and SATCOM. The PLS of the MTA is compatible with PRC-112 and PRC-434 Personnel Locator Beacons and with Cospas Sarsat beacons.

In addition, it also provides direction finding across a wide frequency range to conduct the recovery of untrained and under-equipped personnel typical for Combat Recovery missions.

The RMO has access to all mission-critical data via two large touch-sensitive MFDs as his main user interface. The embedded mission software and the highly optimised graphical user interface maximize the usability and functionality of the system.

The mission software incorporates a database for the isolated personnel (ISOP), supports data communication with the ISOPs and to other supporting assets, and provides optimized situational awareness for the RMO by the use of a digital map with extensive mission-specific overlays. The mission system and its integrated digital map is compatible to FalconView (PFPS), so supporting the seamless data transition from multi-national mission planning through to mission execution.

To survey the landing zone the RMO can control an EO/IR-sensor either manually, via the touch-sensitive map or by directly aiming it at an ISOP position available in the data base.

The RMO has a direct connection to the cockpit crew’s tablet computer via a Local Area Network over which he can share map information, flight paths, EO/IR images and ISOP information with the cockpit crew. All components of the MTA PR Mission Package are specially designed for robustness and NVG-compatibility to permit their unrestricted use in a helicopter operating in a harsh environment.

The MTA is designed as a stand-alone system with distinct interfaces to existing sensors, communication equipment and primary flight equipment. As a result, and especially due to its modular system and software architecture, it can easily be upgraded or adapted to other platforms.

As the MTA is designed as role equipment that can be installed in any of the 20 GS- or 6 GE-variants of the CH-53 helicopters, the German Armed Forces has been able to maximise its fleet flexibility across the range of operational tasks.

For the German Federal Government adoption of the concept of a PR Mission Package rather than dedicated PR helicopters has made it possible to provide ISAF with a new capability within the manning level approved by the German Parliament.

With the introduction of the Mission Tactical Workstation the German Armed Forces has applied a concept that was previously used in the MH-53 J/M “Pave Low” helicopter of the US Air Force. Crews operating in a hostile environment on a potentially dangerous mission in adverse weather conditions and at night are exposed to an extremely high workload simply to keep the helicopter safely flying. In this context the (Recovery) Mission Operator can concentrate fully on the mission by performing the planning, communication and reconnaissance tasks, so lowering the crew workload and increasing the mission success.

In addition to the MTA system itself ESG has developed a dedicated Personnel Recovery training device. The PR Scenario Trainer enables real-time full mission training of the RMO, the Cockpit Crew, the Ground Station Crew other entities as well as the ISOP.

The PR Scenario Trainer is conceived as a “hardware in the loop” training device that incorporates the real MTA in the “Virtual Battlefield Simulation 2 (VBS2)” simulation framework that is already widely used by the German Armed Forces as well as other nations. In order to quickly reach combat readiness the German Armed Forces opted to train their operational crews and maintenance personnel at the ESG company headquarters in Furstenfeldbruck, Germany.

To further support the German Armed Forces in its Personnel Recovery Mission the company ESG is also responsible for the MTA with regards to maintenance, logistical support and software improvements. The highly modular system and software concept of the MTA PR Mission Package makes it the perfect solution to easily equip new aircraft and to retrofit legacy aircraft with functionalities optimized for Personnel Recovery, Combat Recovery and Special Operation Forces missions.

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