The Stand Alone Weapon System (SAWS), currently under development by Eurocopter and Advanced Technologies & Engineering (ATE), is on display at this year’s edition of IDEX at Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The duo will deliver the first of a undisclosed number of the system to an unidentified customer – thought to be Jordan – at a confidential cost after the third quarter of this year.
SAWS matches a mission computer, an electro-optical system with TV, infrared cameras and laser telemeter (with laser designator as needed), a targeting system with a helmet-mounted sight and display, two multi-purpose weapon pylons with slaving units, and a choice of guns, missiles and unguided or guided rockets as weapons loads.
The prototype SAWS was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June 2009, fitted to an AS550 Fennec light military helicopter on Eurocopter`s static display. The Fennec is a military development of the AS350 Squirrel that is in service with the South African Police Service, amongst others. In a joint media release the two companies at the tme said the SAWS addresses “increased market demand for helicopters incorporating a weapon system able to match evolving mission scenarios in current and future conflicts.”
The prototype underwent firing trials at a test range at Murrayhill just north of the South African capital, Pretoria, in September last year. Eurocopter SA CE Fabrice Cagnat said at the time he saw a global market for about 100 more of the systems. “This is an Africa development for a worldwide need, he said at a media briefing.
More than 650 Eurocopter helicopters currently are flying in across the Middle East and through the Arabian Gulf, with over than 80% of them in military use to support missions that include combat, transport, search and rescue (SAR), counter-terrorism, special operations and training, Eurcopter says in a media release. New business opportunities for Eurocopter include the evolving needs in air coverage for security, border patrol missions and support missions; the expanded civilian operations resulting from an opening of airspace that had been reserved for the military in numerous countries; and the overall renewal of aging rotary-wing aircraft fleets.
One area of development foreseen by Eurocopter is in corporate airlift and oil & gas transportation, especially with the relaxation of airspace regulations for such civilian flight activity in many Middle East and Gulf countries. The company says the EC135 and EC145 are strong candidates for new orders in the region, along with the new-generation EC175 – which has entered production and will be certified late this year, the Eurocopter news release adds.
Police and law enforcement agencies are prime Eurocopter customers in a large number of Gulf countries. A complete range of Eurocopter light twin helicopters from two to four tonnes –incorporating the AS355, BK117, EC135, EC145 and Dauphin N3 – already are protecting the population in the Arab world. Eurocopter also recommends its AS550 Fennec for hot climates and high altitudes. Applications include combat missions, fire support, observation, protection and training. More than 4850 helicopters from the Ecureuil/Fennec family in single-engine and twin-engine variants have been delivered to over 90 countries, which include such customers as the United Arab Emirates’ armed forces.
Eurocopter’s EC635 lightweight twin-engine helicopter is being fielded in growing numbers across the Arab world, building on its current operations with the Royal Jordanian Air Force. It offers the combination of a compact helicopter with performance and manoeuvrability for use in scout, anti-piracy and public security missions. The EC645 also is well tailored for the region’s security and defence needs, providing excellent performance, a spacious cabin and proven reliability, Eurocopter continues. “This twin-engine rotary-wing aircraft – which is an armed derivative of Eurocopter EC145, in service many operators around the world, including the US Army – answers the increasing demand by armed forces for a multi-role helicopter that can accommodate a large range of mission equipment, including the SAWS…”
Eurocopter further notes the AS565 Panther combines speed and manoeuvrability required for security and defence missions, with its capabilities further enhanced by this twin-engine helicopter’s endurance, range and unmatched capabilities in overwater surveillance, tracking and search & rescue – which have been proven in Middle East operations for the protection of coastlines and surveillance of offshore economic zones with countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
For the heavy helicopter segment, Eurocopter has a long history in the Middle East and Gulf with a large Puma and Super Puma/Cougar fleet that counts more than 140 helicopters in Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Pakistan and other nations. The latest-generation member of the Super Puma/Cougar family is the EC725, which is well suited to meet new mission requirements and fleet modernization with an expanded mission scope – including combat search & rescue, long-distance tactical transport, medical evacuation and logistics support, with these capabilities demonstrated in extreme combat conditions. The EC225 utility/escort and VVIP version already is flying in the Arab world.
For the tactical transport of troops and anti-submarine warfare, the 10-metric-ton-class NH90 is an ideal choice, Eurocopter argues. As a fly-by-wire, all-composite helicopter with high crash-worthiness standards, it is offered in an army version and for naval operations in the NFH configuration. To date, 529 NH90s have been ordered, with the Sultanate of Oman being the first Middle East customer.
Eurocopter also remains active in providing support to its customers, and was recently awarded the overhaul of several Puma and Super Puma military fleets in the Arab world. Eurocopter has a maintenance centre in the United Arab Emirates with long-standing partner Falcon Aviation Services (FAS), through an operating agreement that was renewed last month. This centre provides full maintenance and revision services, reinforcing the company’s customer support network in the region and supplementing Eurocopter’s platform in Abu Dhabi. In addition, a Eurocopter technical office was recently opened in Islamabad for the daily support of its long-standing customers in Pakistan.