Upgraded versions of the Bell AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopter have entered flight test in Huntsville, Alabama, and soon will provide the Royal Jordanian what manufacturer Northrop Grumman says is a cost-effective way of modernizing legacy helicopters compared to purchasing brand new aircraft.
Northrop and Science and Engineering Services (SES) LLC have modified Jordan’s helicopters to extend their operational lives by at least 20 years. Each aircraft was rewired and reconditioned by SES to ensure quality and integrity. As avionics systems integrator for the helicopters, Northrop Grumman is overseeing the design and incorporation of the avionics solution.
The aircraft avionics received a digital conversion to Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Mission Equipment package (iMEP), which includes a commercially available FlightPro Gen III mission computer, a full suite of LCD multifunction displays, an embedded software digital map and navigation controls.
Scalable and fully integrated, the iMEP is based upon a modular, open architecture that supports rapid integration of third-party hardware and software. This flexible approach counters obsolescence and simplifies mission growth now and into the future. The iMEP is also adding new weapons capabilities to the helicopter, including advanced missiles, rockets and a rotary cannon.
“By providing a highly adaptable mission equipment package and critical integration support, we are reinvigorating older platforms with the capabilities of modern-day attack helicopters,” Robert Fleming, VP of programs for Northrop’s land and avionics C4ISR division, said in a prepared statement. “Because of our open-architecture approach to avionics solutions, the increases in capability that we are providing on this contract can be delivered to other customers around the world.”
The first modified AH-1F aircraft have been shipped to Jordan for weapons testing and final acceptance by the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
This program marks the first global customer to modernize the avionics equipment on the AH-1F/S helicopters since their production during the early 1980s. Northrop Grumman’s baseline configuration can be customized for other global customers and platforms through rapid software-only updates, as an alternative to the lengthy traditional model of upgrading hardware. The mission equipment package cockpit features a flexible software package designed to be implemented across multiple platforms.
Additionally, the mission equipment package’s integrated design and lightweight components cut the aircraft’s weight by 300 pounds when compared with the current systems installed on the Jordanian AH-1F/S.