MIDRAND, South Africa: Eurocopter, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer, and Advanced Technologies & Engineering (ATE), South Africa’s aerospace systems integrator, have begun flight test firing a new Stand Alone Weapons System (SAWS) for light and medium helicopters.
Initial test flights with the SAWS-equipped Eurocopter EC635 have taken place at the Murray Hill Test Range, a South African weapons test facility near Pretoria.
The trials follow Eurocopter and ATE’s decision to jointly design, develop, manufacture and support a modern SAWS that can be installed on any of Eurocopter’s light and medium helicopter products.
Eurocopter and ATE described the firing trials as the successful completion of the initial phase of the system’s flight test and development programme.
The EC635 participating in the flight test programme is fitted with a Belgian FN Herstal HMP–400 12.7mm machine gun and a French Nexter NC-621 20mm cannon.
The first phase of the trials involved firing the Herstal machine gun. This was followed closely by firing of the Nexter cannon.
The initial EC635 SAWS configuration for International Customers will also feature Denel’s Ingwe Anti-Tank Missile. Integration of the missile is currently in its design and development phase at ATE’s state-of the art facilities in Midrand. Future weapons to be integrated on these helicopters include missiles and guided rockets of various international suppliers.
“Eurocopter’s partnership with ATE on SAWS is a joint response to an increasing market demand for helicopters equipped with a suitably credible weapon system able to counter evolving threats and both current and future conflict mission scenarios. While we have proven capabilities producing multi-role military helicopters, ATE is unrivalled in weapon system development and sub-systems integration on fixed and rotary wing aircraft. This venture and our partnership make perfect sense,” explained Olivier Lambert, Eurocopter’s Senior Vice President Sales & Customers Relations.
Describing the SAWS programme’s significance, ATE CEO, Jean-Marc Pizano said: “The successful completion of this major international project will position ATE and South Africa as the world’s leading integrator of a variety of weapons on foreign aircraft. It also has the potential to place ATE and its South African suppliers as part of an international supply chain at systems level with the world’s number one helicopter manufacturer.”
The SAWS will allow light and medium helicopters to perform in a range of missions, including:
- — Surveillance and armed reconnaissance
- — Airborne Command and Control
- — Close Air Support
- — Maritime patrol, littoral warfare (anti piracy), Coast Guard
- — Counter insurgency
- — Anti-terrorism
- — Potential for light ASuW and ASW
The SAWS typically comprises:
- — A core element including a Mission & Firing Control Computer, together with controls and components to interface the crew and the platform.
- — A choice of sensors: FLIR, TV, HUD, HMSD.
- — A choice of guided weapons providing the necessary flexibility for a given mission.
- — A choice of unguided weapons.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion Euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors.
Established in 1984 by a group of French aeronautical engineers, ATE, which specialises in Systems Integration, has built up an international track record of being able to integrate the most Modern Weapons Systems on new or operational aircraft. ATE has developed the Rooivalk Avionics Suite, developed a new Navigation and Weapons System for the Spanish Mirage F1s, upgraded Mi-24s and Mi-17s with new day/night sighting and weapons systems and has recently secured a System Engineering contract with a Specialist Company in Malaysia for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Recently, ATE has completed the development and production of the Hawk Mk 120 Navigation and Weapons Systems for the new SAAF Advanced Trainer, whilst developing Tactical and Mini Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for the South African Army Artillery Formation and International Customers.