Airbus Helicopters has just completed the first test firing of its new HForce helicopter weapons suite and plans to have the system qualified by the end of next year.
The company unveiled HForce in February, after launching the programme in April 2014. HForce has been selected for the H125M, H145M and H225M helicopters and has been designed as a plug and play weapon system for Airbus Helicopters platforms. The basic system allows the pilot to fire cannons, machineguns or rockets via a helmet-mounted site (HMS), or a gunner firing via an electro-optical sight. The most advanced option sees guided and unguided weapons (including missiles and laser-guided rockets) being fired by a gunner or by the pilot, but Airbus emphasises that one does not need to buy the weapons to have the capability. Airbus emphasises that it can turn a commercial aircraft into a light attack helicopter.
The HForce suite first flew in December 2015, after the central unit test bench entered service in May last year. The first firing took place in Belgium from 25 May to 3 June and involved an H225M firing 12.7 mm machineguns, 20 mm cannons and rockets. Airbus Helicopters plans to fly the H145M with HForce at the beginning of 2017. Only Airbus Helicopters aircraft will be able to carry HForce and it will not be offered on any other platforms.
Christian Fanchini, Senior Operational Marketing Manager, Airbus Helicopters, told journalists at the company’s facilities in Germany this week that HForce comprises an FN Herstal HMP400 12.7 mm machinegun, Nexter 20 mm cannon, Forges de Zeebrugge 70 mm rockets, Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted sight and Wescam turret. HForce is funded solely by Airbus Helicopters as a company initiative.
Fanchini said the added value is having multiple weapons systems and several sensors on one platform instead of one platform and one weapons system.
Eurocopter, as Airbus Helicopters was known at the time, developed the Stand Alone Weapon System (SAWS) system for helicopters in conjunction with South Africa’s Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE – now Paramount Advanced Technologies), and benefitted from SAWS and Gazelle experience to create HForce (Gazelles have been fitted with HOT and Mistral missiles and rockets, gun pods etc.).
Eurocopter and ATE announced they had begun flight testing the system at the Murray Hill Test Range near Pretoria in September 2010. In December 2011 ATE concluded Ingwe firing trials aboard the EC 635. The SAWS package featured a Belgian FN Herstal HMP–400 12.7 mm machine gun, a French Nexter NC-621 20mm cannon, FZ-233 70 mm rockets and Denel’s Ingwe anti-tank missile.
Paramount is now marketing its FLASH multi-platform modular mission system for helicopters. This includes a stabilised sight, mission computer, mission display, weapons control panel and weapons (12.7 mm gun pod, 20 mm cannon, 70 mm rockets and Ingwe anti-tank missiles).