Chinook-Mali
RAF Chinook Mk.5 in Mali. (Crown Copyright)

A new tool being used by RAF CH-47 Chinook crews deployed to Mali with the UK’s Operation Newcombe is the beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capability of Inzpire’s GEKO tablet-based mission system.

The capability, which was developed in response to an urgent operational requirement (UOR), uses satellite communication enabling users to communicate over great distances from virtually anywhere in the world using the company’s tablet-based electronic flight bag.

A global system for mobile communications (4G) option is also available for use during training where a suitable network exists. Default messages are stored on the system to speed up the sending of routine messages, while emergency messages are also stored and can generate instant alerts and responses.

To enhance awareness during missions, the BLOS capability also provides the operator with live location updates of other users, both on the ground and in the air. With the functionality being developed by ex-military aircrew who understand the sensitive nature of missions, the position sharing feature can also be turned on or off.

GECO BLOS achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) in only nine months after the UCR was issued. The system is also used by RAF Chinook crews supporting France’s Operation Barkhane moving freight and passengers, keeping people off roads where there is an EID threat.

GECO is used in the briefing stage of RAF Chinook crews at RAF Odiham to give a 3D flythough of a target, alongside other briefing products that allows crews to visualise the assault track and final mile to the landing site. It also allows them to talk through overshoot plans, re-attacks and factor threats. The use of an electronic bag allows the crews to have large documents to hand rather than having to rely on photocopies or memory.

Flt Lt Rob Town outlined the challenges of the Chinook operations in Mali. “Most of the FOBs are 150-180km away and fuel is limited. Weather is changeable with dust storms, thunderstorms and torrential rain. Communications ore difficult due to the sheer size of the operations area. The use of Arctic flying techniques in the desert was required. BLOS allowed us to communicate back to base so oncoming crews were fully prepared and read in the weather before they launched.”

by David Oliver