Airbus Helicopters is pursuing additional military sales with a new program to give customers a range of cost-efficient options for meeting scout, ground attack, transport and air-to-air combat requirements without investing in purpose-built helicopters.
The initiative, dubbed the HForce Generic Weapon System, is intended to build on the proven acquisition and life-cycle costs and performance characteristics of its civil helicopters by modifying them for military operations, said the manufacturer's operating marketing manager, Philippe Kohn.
HForce is targeting customers that need to build an ability to create, operate and sustain an air mobility force. Most of them “need to fly before they fight,” he said. “We can get into their requirements right at the beginning.”
The initiative's initial focus is on the medium, twin-engine H225M, testing of which has been underway, he said, and the light single H125M and light twin H145M will be added to the program. Central to Force's "plug and play" concept is the use of a common mission computer, the Rockwell Collins Deutschland FMC-4212, on all aircraft.
With that computer and necessary hard points, Kohn said, the aircraft could be fitted with a range of weapons options. These include the FN Herstal 12.7-mm or 20-mm machine gun pods, Nexter 20-mm cannon, air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles and 70-mm unguided and guided rockets. Qualification testing of guided rockets on the H225M is planned for completion by the end of 2017, he said.
Kuhn said the HForce slate of weapon system options is analogous to a Swiss Army knife. Because of its comprehensiveness and flexibility, he said, “we can cover all the operational spectrum”—from armed scout to light attack and utility/transport.
HForce is built on incremental and modular options.
Option 1 is the armed scout, with the pilot would using a helmet-mounted sighting display to aim ballistic weapons—the 12.7-mm or 20-mm machine gun and unguided rockets.
Option 2 is the ballistic light attack helicopter, which would be equipped with an electro-optic sensor (initially the L-3 Wescam MX-15 or -20). Using the E/O sensor, Kuhn said, “the crew commander, like in an attack helicopter, will be able to aim and shoot day or night.”
Option 3 is what Kuhn called the guided light attack, which builds on Option 2 by adding guided weapons.
A fourth option, which he called Option 0, illustrates HForce’s incremental nature, Kuhn said. Option 0 is the basic aircraft. The customer buys the helicopter when it can afford the aircraft. “Because we can come back to plug and play any kinds of weapons on it, you have potentially a light attack helicopter. You don’t need to buy the weapons to have the ability, because you just have to come back to us to plug and play.”