Abu Dhabi-based NorthStar Aviation has developed a new military derivative of the Bell 407, and has received an order for 30 of the helicopters from the UAE Armed Forces.
NorthStar has already delivered 11 production models of its Model 407MRH (MRH standing for Multi- Role Helicopter) and plans to deliver the remainder at a rate of about one per month through to the end of 2016. The company has received expressions of interest from potential customers in the Middle East, Europe and South America.
Founded in January 2011 and owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, NorthStar Aviation is a flexible, full-spectrum aviation modification, maintenance, repair and overhaul organisation working with government and military clients.
The company is run by a management team that has a decade of experience of delivering complex aviation projects, specialising in the rapid design, prototyping and testing of systems. The company claims that it is able to go from initial concept to a fielded-capability aircraft more quickly than an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) would be able to.
NorthStar is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, and has a US subsidiary in Washington DC. The NorthStar 407MRH prototype was developed and test-flown in Florida. The type was first unveiled at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual ‘Quad A’ conference in May 2014. An example is on display at NorthStar’s display (Stand 02-B30) at IDEX.
The 407MRH is based on the improved Bell 407GX, which features the Garmin G1000HTM flight deck, with dual VHF and GPS, and Garmin’s Synthetic Vision System, but also adds a plethora of military systems.
Most obviously, the aircraft is fitted with a reconfigurable, modular two-, three- or four-station Light Weight Weapons Platform, and has a corresponding Integrated Weapons Management System capable of supporting AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, a .50 cal GAU-19 machine gun, a 7.62mm M134 Minigun, or Hydra 70 rocket pods.
A FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE 260- HLD is turret-mounted below the nose. This is optimised for light attack platforms and incorporates a stabilised EO/IR sensor, an HD colour day camera, a mid-wave imaging infrared sensor, a solid-state lowlight imaging system, a laser designator and tactical laser rangefinder, an eye-safe laser rangefinder, and a near-infrared laser illuminator visible to night vision goggles.
Both cockpit and cabin are armoured, and the aircraft has a new Mission Management System, an integrated moving map, embedded IMU/GPS and navigation processing software, integrated tactical multi-band radios, an integrated Mode IV IFF transponder, a Microwave Downlink System, TACAN, and NVG-compatible interior and exterior lighting.
The result is a high-performance, low-cost, lightweight multi-role military helicopter capable of light attack, CAS (close air support), ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) and light assault.
“Not everybody has $80 million to buy an Apache,” said Adam Gunn, the company’s technical director, pointing out that the NorthStar Aviation 407MRH’s price tag is around $9 million.