Vipers employ BRITE Star in Iraq

30 Sep 2004 | Cpl. Paul Leicht

Marines here with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, Marine Aircraft Group 16, Marine Aircraft Wing, are flying some of their Vietnam-era aircraft with state-of-the-art technology.Designed to be mounted on a variety of aircraft, the high-performance BRITE Star thermal imaging and laser designator system is giving the 'Vipers' another weapon for their arsenal.A next-generation airborne laser targeting system, the BRITE Star platform was designed by its creators to surpass the abilities of its predecessor, the Star small-arms fire system. "The BRITE Star is basically an upgraded Star SAFIRE (Forward Looking Infrared) system with laser designating and rangefinder capability," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael W. Reed, maintenance officer, HMLA-169. "It has a larger field of view and is remotely operated from inside the cockpit."Unlike the UH-1N Huey's gunship weapons mounted to the sides of the helicopter, the BRITE Star's turret FLIR unit sits more inconspicuously under the nose of the Huey.Reed, a Marine of 19 years from Murrietta, Calif., said unlike the Star SAFIRE, BRITE Star has a regular camera screen image and a main bore sight module that automatically aligns the thermal imager and TV sensors to the laser, whether in flight or on the ground."The laser designator and rangefinder is fully compatible with different codes and will designate for a variety of (aircraft)," said Reed. "In rangefinder mode the eye-safe laser is capable of providing accurate range-to-target information."Since arriving in Iraq in August, the 'Vipers' have fitted four UH-1Ns with BRITE Star. Technicians with FLIR Systems, Inc., makers of Star SAFIRE and BRITE Star, helped HMLA-169 with the installation of the units and have worked in coordination with the Marines to resolve any maintenance issues.Relatively new to the Iraq area of operations, BRITE Star's true potential has yet to be achieved, though it has provided the Marines with added resources."The biggest advantage of the BRITE Star is its capability to laser designate for Hellfire missiles which greatly helps us accomplish our mission," said Reed.