YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. -- A science and technology program designed to increase the capability and safety of the aviation fleet achieved a major milestone Sept. 15 during testing here.

The Degraded Visual Environment Mitigation Program held a VIP Day for the NATO Yuma Flight Trials. The dust and brownout testing is the first time the program has tested an integrated cueing, sensor and flight control solution in a relevant operational environment, said Maj. Joe S. Minor, Program Manager and Experimental Test Pilot for the DVE-M Program, led by the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's Aviation Development Directorate.

"This DVE mitigation program is a concerted effort to attack not only brownouts, but to build the capability of being able to fight in all weather conditions," said Col. Steven Braddom, director of the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate.

"Dark night went from being a hazard to our greatest tactical advantage," he said. "Now we prefer to operate in the darkest night we can find. We'd like to transform operating in other weather environmental conditions to our advantage, just like this."

The agenda included a program overview briefing from Minor, as well as briefings from all the ground and air sensor participants and updates on the DVE-M efforts in cueing, flight control and guidance.

About 100 government and industry attendees witnessed the testing. Foreign representatives were from the British, Australian, Swiss, German and Canadian governments.

The attendees were multi-service, including Marine Corps operational test pilots, as well as Air Force Research Lab civilians and Air Force Helicopter Program Office civilians. Industry representatives from about 10 companies attended, as well as other Army organizations.

The DVE-M test director reviewed chase aircraft and cockpit videos of testing from earlier in the week and answered questions on the testing progress. The day ended with a static display of the test EH-60L at Laguna Army Airfield on YPG.

The testers looked at three complementary approaches to solving the DVE problem -- sensors, cueing and flight controls -- to find the best mix for flying in all types of degraded environments. For example, advanced flight controls and cueing may reduce an aircraft's reliance on sensors in some situations. The testers are also aware that a comprehensive solution meant for all types of DVEs will likely involve trade-offs, and want to identify what the potential consequences of each could be, Minor said.

"All attendees were engaged and are extremely interested in the knowledge that will be gained from this flight testing. Testing will continue at Yuma Proving Ground until approximately Oct. 6," Minor said.

The next major event is the European NATO DVE Flight Trials Event in February 2017 in Germany and Switzerland. In Germany, the testing will focus on rain and fog, while the Switzerland test will focus on snow and whiteout environments.

Operations in degraded visual environments, known as DVE, are the primary contributing factor to most Army aviation mishaps over the last decade. Eighty percent of rotorcraft losses in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to "combat non-hostile or non-combat factors," including DVE, according to U.S. Army Program Executive Office Aviation officials.

AMRDEC's Aviation Development Directorate leads the program. The effort includes AMRDEC's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate and Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, the Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Lab, and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.

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The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.