The U.S. Naval Air System Command’s (NAVAIR's) V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA275), which manages the Osprey program for all the U.S. services, has contracted Raytheon to integrate its next-generation multi-mode K-band AN/APQ-187 Silent Knight Radar (SKR) onto the Air Force's 52 Bell-Boeing CV-22B Osprey tiltrotors. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) uses these aircraft for special forces support, clandestine personnel insertion and extraction, combat search and rescue, and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions. These duties require the aircraft to be able to penetrate enemy airspace at low level in any weather conditions, using terrain-following radar to allow flight as low as 100 feet, and with a sophisticated navigation system, including a digital color moving map, three INS systems, and GPS, allowing the crew to navigate even in complete darkness.
Originally designed specifically for tiltrotor and helicopter applications, Silent Knight provides terrain-following/terrain-avoidance capability, providing the pilot with high-resolution terrain maps as well as climb or dive commands.
Silent Knight is claimed to be 30 percent lighter than previous airborne systems and to require less power. This confers a lower probability of detection/interception. The system includes a range of new applications, including navigation support systems and threat detection and identification. The radar also incorporates ground mapping and weather detection capabilities. Weather intensity is shown on the color display, while prominent terrain features can be picked out and displayed. The radar’s mapping and weather capabilities are new to terrain-following systems and help to allow special operations forces (SOF) to undertake low-level insertion missions in all types of atmospheric environments. The system is designed to be used in conjunction with electro-optical and forward-looking infrared cameras and night-vision goggles.
The system has already been integrated on the Boeing MH-47G Chinook and Sikorsky MH-60M Black Hawk helicopters used by the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment—the "Night Stalkers"—under a contract that was originally awarded to Raytheon by the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in 2007. Silent Knight was developed by an industry team led by Raytheon that also included AIC of Crestview, Florida; DRS Technologies of St. Louis, Missouri; and Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. First deliveries were made in 2012.
Some reports suggest that the system is also being fitted to older MH-60K, HH-60L, and MH-47E helicopters. Silent Knight is being tested by the Air Force Special Operations Command on the Lockheed Martin MC-130J Commando II aircraft, and is in use on several other fixed-wing aircraft types operated by SOCOM.
The USAF is aiming to equip all CV-22Bs in its inventory with SKR over the next three years, with the program scheduled to be completed by December 2021. Work will be conducted at Raytheon’s facility in McKinney, Texas. Silent Knight will replace the CV-22's current AN/APQ-186 multi-mode radar, which is already subject to rising ownership costs and obsolescence/diminishing manufacturing source issues. Equipping the Air Force CV-22s with Silent Knight is part of a wider effort to reduce costs and maximize SKR commonality with other SOF aircraft.