SOFEX 2016

Cost-effective armed ISR [SOFEX16D1]

10 May 2016

Making its SOFEX debut is the 407MRH multirole armed ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) helicopter, modified from a standard civilian Bell Helicopters 407GXP by NorthStar Aviation of Abu Dhabi.

The company developed the aircraft at its US facility to offer a high-performance multirole platform at a lower price than more traditional military helicopters. Bell fully supports the initiative, and the aircraft is being shown outside the OEM’s chalet (CD8).

NorthStar is well advanced in fulfilling its initial order for 30 407MRHs from the UAE Armed Forces, the last of which is due for delivery in the first quarter of next year. These aircraft were preceded by the supply of 15 partially modified 407s being used as advanced trainers by the Horizon Flight Academy at Al Ain in Abu Dhabi.

The 407MRH has a Garmin G1000H avionics system with dual GPS, Mode S transponder, radar altimeter and a synthetic vision system. NorthStar has installed a full military systems package, including a mission management system, embedded IMU/GPS, TACAN and a FalconView moving map with mission planning capability.

Military communications systems include dual integrated tactical ARC-210 multiband radios, Tetra radio, APX-121 Mode IV IFF transponder, and a BMS Helicoder 4 microwave video downlink system. An L-3 Avionics Systems 3900.2 electronic standby instrumentation system is installed.

The custom-designed cockpit is compatible with the use of night vision goggles, and the helicopter is fitted with infrared navigation lights and a dual-mode IR/white light searchlight. A lightweight modular cockpit armour system has been developed, as well as custom-built carbon fibre doors and covers for mission equipment, including a new tail rotor drive fairing that incorporates a shelf for mounting antennas.

NorthStar has integrated a weapons management system that can support a variety of munitions, such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, laser-guided rockets and podded armament such as GAU-19 0.50in (12.7mm) calibre or M134D 7.62mm Minigun and unguided rockets.

Weapons are carried on a lightweight weapons platform.

Targeting and ISR functions are made possible through the installation of a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE 260-HLD in a stabilised nose turret, offering electro-optical/infrared, high-definition colour day TV, mid-wave IR and low-light imaging capabilities. The turret also accommodates laser designator and rangefinder, and a near-IR laser illuminator visible to night vision goggles.

NorthStar has received strong interest from several nations in the region, having displayed the 407MRH at a number of shows, including one held late last month in Marrakech. A number of potential customers have expressed an interest in a twine-ngined helicopter, and NorthStar is studying a similar MRH modification of the Bell 429.

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