MD Helicopters Inc (MDH) has equipped its recently revealed MD 969 Combat Explorer with a precision-guided munition (PGM) capability.
The capability, which was showcased at the 2019 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit held in Nashville from 14–16 April, is a first for a helicopter and involves the internal installation by Systima Technologies of a seven-shot Common Launch Tube (CLT) system for the Raytheon AGM-176 Griffin PGM. The missiles are ejected out of the main cabin rear access hatch.
The Griffin is a relatively lightweight (15 kg) and low-yield (5.9 kg) missile equipped with a dual-mode INS/GPS and semi-active laser (SAL) seeker. Developed by the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) under its Stand-Off Operations Precision Guided Munition (SOPGM) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) programme, the missile has been integrated for use on the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) Lockheed Martin AC-130W Dragon Spear/Stinger II and the US Marine Corpsʼ (USMC) Lockheed KC-130J Harvest HAWK gunship platforms, and has been trialled on other aircraft, such as the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
There are currently two versions of the Griffin missile in production, with the version carried by the MD 969 being the Griffin A, which is designed to be rear-launched from ramp-equipped aircraft (the Griffin B is a forward-firing missile).
The MD 969 Combat Explorer is a military derivative of the twin-engined MD 902 Explorer that was first showcased at the HELI-EXPO event in early March. The Griffin missiles add to an already powerful weapons package for the MD 969, which is carried on four hardpoints mounted on an integrated weapons plank. The helicopter at HELI-EXPO was displayed carrying a mix of 70 mm rocket pods and 12.7 mm heavy machine gun pods, while a promotional video released by MDHI showed it fitted with AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and 7.62 mm door-mounted Gatling-guns.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options at ihsmarkit.com/janes