in Defence / Features

Diamond sparkles

Posted 4 September 2018 · Add Comment

Diamond Aircraft set out to woo new buyers by undertaking a west African tour with two of its aircraft. David Oliver followed the mission’s progress.

The Austrian Diamond Aircraft DA42, a four-seat twin-engine all composite aircraft, first flew in 2002. More than 900 have been produced to date.
The DA42 multi-purpose platform (MPP), launched in 2007, was rapidly adopted by armed forces around the world as a multi-engine trainer and light intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.
The success of the DA42 encouraged Diamond to press ahead with the development of a larger version in 2011 that emerged as the 5/7-seat DA62. Although aimed primarily towards the civil/commercial market, Diamond received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) supplemental type certification (STC) for another DA62 MPP version, a maritime patrol configuration, at the beginning of this year.
At the end of last year, the company’s special mission aircraft department embarked on a high-profile demonstration tour of west Africa with the latest variant of the DA42 MPP configured for the maritime patrol market, the Pandion, and the new DA62 MPP.
Shown for the first time, the Pandion offers a high-tech surveillance package that includes a compact mobile ground station.
The Pandion-configured DA42 MPP special mission aircraft (SMA) was equipped with a Trakker SWE400LE sensor that included electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), laser range-finder, autotracker and target position, and a 36M-pixel camera providing high-resolution images.
Its maritime radar, designed in-house by Diamond Aircraft, provides automated identification system (AIS) signals and receiver, a Thuraya BLOS satcom system, and a Trakker moving map display.
The independent ground station, powered by 230V battery or external generator, has two-way communication to track the aircraft’s actual position, plus past and upcoming track of AIS signals that include details of a ship’s transponder, registration and vessel monitoring systems (VMS).
Screen shots from the EO/IR camera include GPS position of a target, high-resolution images, voice communication via satcom with aircraft crew, AIS signals via internet or AIS antenna, live video store and a forward satcom cost breakdown.
The two Diamond SMAs departed Wiener Neustadt in Austria on October 6 2017 for Cape Verde. The three-day transit route to Praia, the capital of Cape Verde, a nation on a volcanic archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa, included Avignon in France, Jerez and Fuerteventura in Spain, and Nouakchott in Mauretania.
Two major missions had been identified by Cape Verde’s coastguard. Firstly, search and rescue (SAR) to spot fishing boats in distress or simulated ditched aircraft on the water, and secondly, illegal fishery in Cape Verde’s waters.
Both missions are important to support Cape Verde’s fishing fleet, as well as its major income from its fishery industry.
As a result, all designated targets provided by the Cape Verde military were spotted and identified by the DA42 MPP’s crew. The data received by the mobile ground station, including EO/IR images, high-resolution photos, videos and radar images, met all requirements from the military.
In addition, the crew spotted and identified a vessel that had switched off its AIS signal outside the planned demonstration.
Diamond had also received an invitation from the director of Senegal’s Direction de la Protection et de la Surveillance des Pêches (DPSP) to demonstrate its Pandion SMA.
A real on-site mission scenario had been developed on the basis of the DPSP’s daily tasks, which included the monitoring of illegal fishing.
During several missions over the following days, a lot of suspicious targets were identified and spotted by the crew, while the data received by the mobile ground station impressed the DPSP officers and air force personnel.
Diamond also decided to attend the Ghana Air Show from October 24 to 26 to meet existing customers and develop new markets.
Three Diamond DA42 MPP aircraft are already operated by the Ghana Air Force (GAF) in the maritime and border surveillance role, with pilots and rear crew trained by DO Systems Ltd.
According to Ian Griffiths, DO Systems CEO, the DA42’s flexibility had been further demonstrated when one of the GAF aircraft was equipped and successfully interfaced with calibration equipment supplied by Flight Calibration Services Limited.
A joint GAF/DO Systems crew flew the aircraft from Takoradi to Accra to conduct certification of the new CAT II ILS at Kotoka International Airport.
The focus of Diamond’s 2017 visit to Ghana was to introduce the new DA62 MPP SMA.
The new platform brings together all the well-known advantages of Diamond products, using heavy fuel turbo-charged engines, state-of-the-art glass cockpit and full carbon-fibre technology. Its cabin is large and provides more comfort for the crew, as well as more room for airborne mission equipment. Mission applications include SAR, coastline and border patrol, force protection, disaster management, plus pipeline and infrastructure monitoring.
The last leg of the tour ended on October 27, when the two aircraft visited Abuja for a static display and demonstration to Nigeria’s Border Patrol.
The conditions were hot, around 35°C on the apron, when officials of the Border Patrol, which is planning to resuscitate its air unit to target the porous border with Niger, inspected the aircraft.
In addition, the DA62 MPP was demonstrated to AeroPrecisa, a privately owned, and technology-based aerial photography company in Nigeria, which already operates a DA42 MPP equipped with Vexcel UltraCam-Lp digital camera throughout Africa and the Middle East.
“After months of intensive efforts and in close cooperation with local partners, Diamond succeeded in scheduling high-level meetings with air forces, MoDs, and large private service providers protecting their countries against drug smuggling, piracy, border crossing and illegal fishery activities,” said Markus Fischer, Diamond sales director special mission aircraft, who piloted the DA62 MPP.
“We had the unique opportunity to demonstrate the performance and capabilities of our airborne solution in real scenarios. We flew about 30 hours of missions, providing data from the aircraft to the ground without any technical incident on the aircraft or mission equipment.
“The full composite structure, no risk of corrosion, as well as the turbocharged heavy fuel engines, very strongly supported Diamond’s sales arguments in using the latest technology and state-of-the-art aircraft.
“The usage of Jet-A1 made the flight planning simple and allowed the most efficient and straight-lined leg planning. The average turn-around time on the ground was only an hour, due to the availability of Jet-A1 on the apron. No scheduled maintenance stop had to be coordinated due to the 100-hour maintenance intervals of the AE300/AE330 engines, which made the spare parts handling straight forward and simple – an absolute key element when operating complex aircraft in Africa.
“The circumstance that both aircraft will burn less than 1,400US gallons or 5,320 litres in 120 hours over a distance of 8,260 nautical miles is a statement of efficiency that cannot be ignored by any conscientious operating organisation. Diamond has, and will again, demonstrate the outstanding sufficiency of the aircraft with regards to direct operating cost and maintenance.”
The scope of heavy challenges for the aircraft and mission equipment used in the demonstrations ranged from more than 42°C on the ground at Nouakchott in Mauritania, low-level operations in Cape Verde, high-level performance during the transit flights and extreme sandy air conditions in Senegal, which proved the worth of the aircraft’s strong air filter systems.
As a follow up to the successful west African tour, Diamond will have the DA62 MPP on display at the African Aerospace and Defence show in September 2018.

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