A Modular Cost-Effective Attack Platform
Most armed forces have neither the financial nor the doctrinal experience to procure and operate attack helicopters, no matter how pressing the tactical case made by service chiefs. Philippe Kohn, Operational Marketing Manager at Airbus Helicopters, likened the helicopter to a toolbox, however, with the operator selecting which tools (such as weapons or search and rescue equipment, for example) to fit for a specific mission.
Experience in Afghanistan proved to the company there is a lack of attack helicopters in many armed forces that have potential need for them. They therefore began to consider solutions for these potential customers – particularly those with smaller armed forces, such as many of those in Latin America. “Airbus has the experience with all kind of armament and against all kind of threats,” observed Kohn, adding that it was this philosophy that persuaded Airbus to start with what was available and find a new solution for the problem. After a request from Brazilian Army Aviation to modernise its ECUREUIL helicopter fleet, Airbus developed the H FORCE concept – a solution for smaller armed forces to own and operate attack helicopters with as great a capability as possible.
The fundamental concept is to deliver helicopters in a state ready to be armed, with all the installations required to receive weapons, targeting systems and sights, but which can also be used for other purposes. H FORCE is currently being offered on the H125M, H145M and H225, though it could be expanded to embrace any other type according to customer requirements.
H FORCE Option Zero is to deliver a helicopter ready to be armed but without weapons or systems. Option One – not the company’s preferred route to market – is simply to arm the helicopter with 12.7mm machine guns, a 20mm gun or unguided rockets, but with a single pilot who has to fly the helicopter and manage the weapons, something very hard to achieve when operating at night. Option Two envisions two crew members, one to fly the helicopter and one to manage the weapons, with an optical sensor turret to enable operations in all conditions. The final option furnishes the helicopter with guided rockets or missiles, adding greater capacity and precision more powerful targets and at longer ranges.
The basic idea of H FORCE is to provide operators with a helicopter applicable to a wide range of utility and transport missions, which can be transformed into an efficient attack platform in a matter of hours.