15-Jul-2022 Source: Leonardo
In Q4 2021, Leonardo’s AW149 multi-role helicopter undertook weapon firing trials to optimise the military capability of the aircraft. Free-flight unguided rockets and laser guided rocket salvos were fired at a test range in an undisclosed European country. These trials took place during hover, diving flight and forward flight, both day and night.
Over several weeks, the firing trials clocked around 70 flight hours. During this time, over 200 guided and unguided rockets were fired. The firing conducted was undertaken in a variety of conditions and from a standoff distance of 3.5 to 4km, in line with the firing range’s limitations.
Data was gathered using engine, airframe and weapon pylon instrumentation as well as an abundance of external and aircraft mounted cameras. The evidence gathered was used to expand the weapon flight envelope. The firings confirmed excellent clearance between armament and airframe as per the military design of the platform. The data is also used to further enhance the pre-launch aiming algorithms and “weapon solutions” stored within the aircraft’s mission system computer.
Lee Evans, Experimental Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters UK, piloted and conducted some of the firings. He commented, “It was great to test the integrated mission and weapon systems that give the AW149 a true multi-role battlefield capability. The AW149’s tactical radar and EOD enables rapid and efficient acquisition and subsequent prosecution of the target. Furthermore, the AW149 is ideally suited as a weapon platform as its agility allows rapid ‘turn to target’ manoeuvring. The precise handling qualities allow the pilot to rapidly achieve pre-launch constraints and ultimately to successfully engage a target”.
The AW149 is an advanced platform equipped with latest generation system technologies, equipment and weapons to deliver multi-role mission effect on the modern battlefield. Coupled with unparalleled safety and performance, and high levels of survivability and crashworthiness, this provides military customers with a highly effective, survivable and cost-effective capability. An Open Systems Architecture enables the rapid and low cost integration of new equipment to meet evolving military requirements and the rate at which these trials have been able to progress demonstrates the benefits this capability brings.