Air Platforms

Afghan MD 530F helos to receive safety, range, and endurance upgrades

17 January 2019

The US Army is to upgrade the fuel systems of 25 of the Afghan Air Force’s MD 530F helicopters to improve safety and performance. Source: 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

The MD Helicopters Inc. (MDHI) MD 530F Cayuse Warrior light attack and reconnaissance rotorcraft operated by Afghanistan are to be upgraded to improve their safety, range, and endurance.

The US Army disclosed on 16 January that it is seeking vendors to supply and install crashworthy and auxiliary fuel tanks in 25 of the 'Little Bird'-derivative helicopters delivered so far to the Afghan Air Force (AAF).

"The US Army Contracting Command - Redstone is issuing this sources-sought notice as a means of conducting market research to identify parties having an interest in and the resources to provide up to 25 MD 530F Robertson Crashworthy Fuel System (CWFS) and Little Bird Auxiliary Tank System (LBATS) kits, and three support equipment packages for the Afghanistan Air Force", the solicitation said.

The AAF currently fields 30 MD 530F helicopters, and will receive a further 25 before the end of the year. The first 25 helicopters received have been fitted with the Enhanced Mission Equipment Package (EMEP) that includes the baseline Robertson Fuel System, while the initial five of the 30 follow-on helicopters were delivered with the Ballistic Tolerant Crashworthy Fuel System (BTCWFS) developed by Robertson (this will be fitted to the remaining 25 helicopters also). As such, this latest US Army request for information (RFI) is for a retrofit of the first 25 helicopters delivered to the AAF.

While the Afghan helicopters are adapted for 'hot and high' operations with an uprated 650-shp Rolls-Royce 250-C30 turbine engine and longer main and tail rotor blades, when operating at altitude with a full weapon load they currently lack the range to venture too far beyond their operating base or the endurance to remain on station for any significant length of time; MDHI figures give the baseline MD 530F a range of 400 km and an endurance of 2.2 hours at sea level.

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