SOFEX 2018

Upgraded Cobra takes a bow [SOFEX18D2]

09 May 2018

Last month the first two AH- 1F Cobras to be upgraded for the Royal Jordanian Air Force were returned from rework at the Science & Engineering Services (SES) facility at Huntsville, Alabama, and one is on show at SOFEX in the outside display area. Following a competitive process, SES was awarded a contract to perform a far-reaching upgrade on 12 of the RJAF’s original Cobra fleet.

Three more upgrades have been completed and the aircraft are in the US awaiting the completion of flight tests. All 12 are due to be returned to Jordan before the end of the year. Livefire trials are scheduled to begin in the autumn, after which the upgraded AH-1F will be ready for operations.

SES’s upgrade programme encompasses three areas: airframe, avionics and weapons.

First, the aircraft are stripped down and inspected, and repaired as necessary. SES has worked with the airframe OEM, Bell, and the engine support authority, Honeywell, to ensure that the aircraft are in top condition, including new wiring.

Next, they are outfitted with a new avionics suite based on the Northrop Grumman Integrated Avionics System that is installed in the UH-1Ys and AH-1Z Cobras of the US Marine Corps and also in the Sikorsky UH-60V. The cockpits are fitted with two large L-3 multifunction displays and a smaller Rockwell Collins back-up screen. The navigation system has been updated with an embedded GPS/ INS from Northrop Grumman based on the LN-251 system with fibre-optic gyro, while Rockwell Collins ARC-210 radios are installed.

Replacing the AH-1F’s original television sight unit is an L-3 Wescam MX-15D electro-optic/ infrared turret. Defences and countermeasures are added in the form of the Orbital ATK AAR-47 missile approach warning system and Extant Aerospace ALE-47 chaff /fl are dispensers.

The primary weapon for the unmodified Cobra is the BGM-71 TOW, but the upgraded AH-1Fs have Lockheed Martin M310 launchers for the AGM- 114R Hellfire missile. They can also carry standard seven- or 19-round 2.75in (70mm) rocket launchers. The RJAF intends to use the BAE Systems APKWS laser-guided rocket with the upgraded AH-1Fs, and the necessary software is in preparation with an aim of fielding the weapon at the end of the year.

SES designed and engineered the AH-1F modifications itself, and is now promoting its Cobra modernisation capabilities to other operators of the type.

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