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Schofield pilots test laser system


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Schofield Barracks aviators in Iraq are flying the first CH-47 Chinook helicopters equipped with a system designed to shoot laser energy at incoming heat-seeking missiles to direct them away from the aircraft.

“;It looks like two R2-D2 heads on the side of the aircraft,”; said Chief Warrant Officer Cary Nadeau, a test pilot, in an Army news release, referring to the fictional android in “;Star Wars.”;

“;They provide an added layer of protection against infrared missiles by using laser energy to spoof them or direct them in a different direction,”; he said. “;The lasers work automatically to confuse the missile. It's all about increasing the survivability of the aircraft.”;

Nadeau, 38, is assigned to the Redstone Test Center at Fort Rucker, Ala., to perform test flights on new technology for Chinook helicopters.

He left Oct. 24 on his fourth deployment—his third to Iraq—as one of the Army's 30 experimental test pilots to show 25th Division Chinook pilots the benefits of new technology.

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Midway during his six-month deployment, Nadeau will be transferred from Schofield's 25th Combat Aviation Brigade to Afghanistan to support another unit of Chinooks being equipped with the system.

“;Eventually, all of the Army's Chinooks will have this system,”; said Nadeau, who is qualified in Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

Nadeau said it is critical, when flying a Chinook, that the aircraft have the “;capability of protecting itself from outside forces.”;

He added that Geneva Convention rules prohibit medical evacuation Chinooks from shooting back when fired upon, so their crews must rely heavily on armed escorts and multilayered defense systems.

On Oct. 10, during a short ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit, Col. Mike Lundy, commander of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, accepted responsibility for aerial operations in Multinational Division-North in Iraq from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Schofield's combat aviation brigade, along with the 130th Engineer Brigade, are part of Task Force Marne, commanded by Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo. Yesterday, Cucolo, who also commands the 3rd Infantry Division, relieved Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, as head of Multinational Division-North at Camp Speicher.

Caslen will return to Schofield tomorrow with other staff members.