Eurocopter and South Africa's Advanced Technologies & Engineering (ATE) began flight test firing a new Stand Alone Weapons System (SAWS) for light and medium helicopters.
Initial test flights with the SAWS-equipped Eurocopter EC635 took place at the Murray Hill Test Range, a South African weapons test facility near Pretoria.
The trials follow Eurocopter and ATE’s decision to jointly design, develop, manufacture and support a modern SAWS that can be installed on any of Eurocopter’s light and medium helicopter products.
Eurocopter and ATE described the firing trials as the successful completion of the initial phase of the system’s flight test and development program.
The EC635 participating in the flight test program is fitted with a Belgian FN Herstal HMP–400 12.7mm machine gun and a French Nexter NC-621 20mm cannon.
The first phase of the trials involved firing the Herstal machine gun. This was followed closely by firing of the Nexter cannon.
The initial EC635 SAWS configuration for International Customers will also feature Denel’s Ingwe Anti-Tank Missile. Integration of the missile is currently in its design and development phase at ATE’s state-of the art facilities in Midrand. Future weapons to be integrated on these helicopters include missiles and guided rockets of various international suppliers.
“Eurocopter’s partnership with ATE on SAWS is a joint response to an increasing market demand for helicopters equipped with a suitably credible weapon system able to counter evolving threats and both current and future conflict mission scenarios. While we have proven capabilities producing multi-role military helicopters, ATE is unrivalled in weapon system development and sub-systems integration on fixed and rotary wing aircraft. This venture and our partnership make perfect sense,” explained Olivier Lambert, Eurocopter’s Senior Vice President, Sales & Customers Relations.
Describing the SAWS program’s significance, ATE CEO, Jean-Marc Pizano said: “The successful completion of this major international project will position ATE and South Africa as the world’s leading integrator of a variety of weapons on foreign aircraft. It also has the potential to place ATE and its South African suppliers as part of an international supply chain at systems level with the world’s number one helicopter manufacturer.”
The SAWS will allow light and medium helicopters to perform in a range of missions, including: Surveillance and armed reconnaissance, Airborne Command and Control, close Air Support, Maritime Patrol, Littoral Warfare (anti piracy), Coast Guard, Counter insurgency, Anti-terrorism, and a potential for light ASuW and ASW.
The SAWS typically comprises a core element including a Mission & Firing Control Computer, together with controls and components to interface the crew and the platform, as well as a choice of sensors (FLIR, TV, HUD, HMSD) and guided weapons providing the necessary flexibility for a given mission, in addition to a choice of unguided weapons.