May - 2013 ISSUE

Force Magazine
Seek to Defend - June 2012
Indian rotorcraft will require large numbers of weapon and EW systems
By Atul Chandra

India has a huge requirement for new helicopters in the coming years and there will be a need to procure offensive weapon systems and self protection equipment for these platforms. Companies are looking at supporting the foreign acquisitions and some are already supplying systems for indigenously designed and developed helicopters.

Nexter Systems is a company that is well placed in the area of gun turrets with the company already supplying gun turrets for indigenous programmes from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). A number of European manufacturers bidding for Indian helicopter contracts could also offer its gun turrets on their platforms. The possibility of having a common gun system would certainly offer operators here in India benefits in terms of spares, maintenance and operational use.

The company scored its first success in India, when HAL awarded Nexter Systems a contract for THL 20 qualification on the ‘Dhruv’ ALH helicopter and delivery of 84 turret gun systems. The first deliveries were made in 2011 and 20 turrets have been delivered to HAL till now, according to Bruno Labrousse Sales manager, Weapons and Turrets Domain Nexter. Nexter Systems is also looking at the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) programme as a real opportunity and has confirmed that it will be in competition for sale of approximately 70 THL 20 gun turrets for the LCH programme.

The THL20 is a very light Turret Gun System (164 kg overall, including 49 kg for the gun) and hence easy to integrate on different types of helicopters without modifying the structure. The low recoil force of the 20 mm cannon, allows easy integration of the THL 20 on the nose of the helicopter with no constraints for firing during flight. The NC 621 gun pod could also see use on helicopters or trainer aircraft acquired by the Indian armed forces and according to Nexter remains the most powerful gun system to be integrated and qualified on light aircraft and helicopters.

The two Turret Gun Systems (THL 20 and THL 30), have already been integrated on platforms such as the Eurocopter Puma and Tiger, HAL ‘Dhruv’ and the Sikorsky Blackhawk and more than 150 turrets are currently in service. The turrets are fully servo-controlled by the sighting systems (Electro-Optical (EO), pilot and co-pilot helmets), which allow for particularly fast combat engagement. The THL 20 offers all the advantages of the THL 30 and was designed around the 20 mm M 621 gun. Nexter Systems also offers the NC 621 gun pod that is a light and autonomous, ‘plug and play’ type system with a low recoil force. The NC621 can easily be integrated on a NATO standard pylon, on any type of platform (helicopter or light aircraft) and more than 150 pods are now in service. All three weapon systems are equipped with a mono-barrel gun, allowing high accuracy.

Helicopter EW systems
The design and development of EW systems for helicopters has proved to be challenging due to the slower speeds and much lower altitudes that helicopters operate at. While dropping troops, a helicopter has to be in a stationary hover for a period of time rendering it extremely vulnerable to a number of threats, of which arguably the most dangerous are Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS). Since the reaction time is of the order of a few seconds, an effective EW system must be able to automatically detect threats and deploy appropriate countermeasures. In fact EW systems going forward must be able to detect, compile and provide a comprehensive picture to the pilot while making a co-ordinated response to the threat. Most importantly for high altitude operations in helicopters the weight, volume and power of EW suites play an important role.

SAAB Electronic Defence
Saab was chosen to supply the EW self protection equipment for the IAF and Army variants of HAL’S ‘Dhruv’ helicopter and is working with HAL to integrate the system on the Dhruv. The Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS) and Compact Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (CIDAS) have been designed from the outset as fully integrated modular systems. IDAS combines radar, laser, missile approach warning and countermeasures dispensing functions using a single system controller. CIDAS has optical sensors and countermeasures dispensing.

The company is also looking to future programmes such as the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), etc. In the case of EW system integration on the Dhruv it has taken time and there has been a learning curve for HAL, but this will make the task easier for its other helicopter programmes. HAL being the OEM had full control over the placement of the EW system components for optimal performance on the Dhruv.

SAAB has completed the development phase and is gearing up for series production and will also be supplying the maintenance and support infrastructure for the EW systems, both at HAL and at the end users if required. This will ensure that this sensitive equipment can be maintained and supported in India through its operational life. The company is also in discussions with HAL with regards to local manufacturing of some components.

Selex Galileo
It is still early days for Selex Galileo in the EW business in India. At present the company is building relationships with indigenous companies and research establishments. The company has supplied more than 500 stand‐alone Defensive Aids Systems (DAS) Controllers to domestic and international customers — more than any other company world‐wide. It moved into helicopter EW systems, 10 to 15 years ago when the British army brought the Apache attack helicopter and SELEX Galileo was chosen as the integrator.

Selex Galileo would also be looking at the IAF’s Block 3 Apaches where it has an operationally proven integrated EW system which has already been exported to 2 international customers. The DASS controller developed by Selex Galileo for its customers has been so successful, that Boeing is buying it to fit to all new Apaches including those that are likely to be ordered by the IAF.

The Aircraft Gateway Processor (AGP) allows all future versions of ASE to be applied and fully integrated into the aircraft processors and displays and is another feature of the Block III concept: to allow future technology to be applied to the aircraft in the most efficient and timely manner and will be a great benefit for the US government and international customers.

Selex Galileo is now working with the UK ministry of defence (MOD) on a programme called the Common Defensive Aids System (CDAS). While the actual equipment may differ from platform to platform, the need for platform protection remains the same across equipment. Derived from HIDAS and coherent with the DAS on the UK Apache, Wildcat, Chinook, and Puma Life Extension Programme, it builds on the company’s extensive trials and in-service experience.


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