The Paramount Group is expanding its FLASH (Flexible Light Armaments System for Helicopters) weapons and sensor suite, which will soon be offered on fixed wing aircraft. FLASH is about to undergo flight trials aboard a Fennec helicopter and be displayed to potential customers at AAD in September.
FLASH was launched at the International Military Helicopter Conference in London in January this year as a collaborative and smart partnering approach that allows customers to select a wide variety of weapon, sensor and equipment options from different suppliers. To date, 27 companies (30% are South African) have signed up to be part of the FLASH demonstrator project, offering everything from weapons to helicopter ballistic protection panels, displays and avionics such as satellite communications. There are three companies offering sights with various capability and limited restrictions, for example.
Paramount Advanced Technologies (PAT) CEO Ralph Mills said “we see a future in arming light utility helicopters,” as it is more cost effective than buying new or upgrading existing attack helicopters.
Mills said that by collaborating, there are now 27 companies selling the concept rather than just Paramount. PAT can offer a very wide range of sensors and weapons to meet just about every customer requirement. “Hunting together as a pack, we can accomplish more,” he said.
Paramount Advanced Technologies hopes to have a fully equipped helicopter ready by the time of the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) exhibition in September. The company is promoting FLASH on a global scale and around July aims to conduct live fire testing. It says some of the key attributes of FLASH are that it is ITAR-free, scalable and expandable.
FLASH has been incorporated onto the Fennec helicopter and the FLASH system already has a launch customer in the Middle East, but PAT has acquired its own AS550 Fennec demonstrator/prototype that is being fitted with different FLASH weapons and equipment options.
The basic FLASH weapons kit will comprise 70 mm rockets and 12.7 mm cannon pods but this can be expanded to 20 mm cannon pods and guided weapons. The AS550 Fennec demonstrator is fitted with a helmet-mounted display, electro-optical turret, mission display, GPS receiver, air data, attitude and heading reference system (ADAHRS), mission computer, and weapons. Various armament options are available such as FN RMP gun pod; 12 tube rocket launchers; 20 mm cannon pods; Thales FZ unguided rockets; Thales FZ guided rockets; and Ingwe anti-tank missiles.
PAT envisions the FLASH System ranging from FLASH Scan to an equipped helicopter being able to carry out a wide array of roles, such as armed reconnaissance; fire support; observation and surveillance; airborne command and control; maritime patrol; counter insurgency; training; border surveillance and anti-poaching.
FLASH was preceded by the Stand Alone Weapon System (SAWS) weapons kit, which was jointly designed, developed, manufactured and supported by Eurocopter (now Airbus Helicopters) and Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE – now Paramount Advanced Technologies). The 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.
SAWS was installed on 26 EC635 helicopters in partnership with Airbus Helicopters for a Middle East client, whose upgraded EC635s are able to fire machineguns, cannons, rockets and Ingwe missiles.