Air Warfare

Airbus says extra development needed for US-made, armed AH-125 helicopter

Airbus have brought the new helicopters to market in a bid to “capture advantages of the US export system” and the Foreign Military Sales process, said Scott Tumpak, vice president of military helicopters at Airbus US.


Airbus H125M helicopters have inspired the launch of two US manufactured rotorcraft configured for light attack and multirole missions (Airbus Helicopters on Twitter)

BELFAST — European giant Airbus has said that more “development” is required on the recently launched AH-125 Ares armed light attack helicopter, and it will take at least another two years before customer deliveries can begin.

The admission comes on the heels of the company launching the rotorcraft, as well as the multirole MH-125 variant, in April with the expectation that producing the helos in the US could lead to an influx of Foreign Military Sales (FMS).

“When we look at the weapons version [AH-125] there’s still development to complete there,” said Scott Tumpak, vice president of military helicopters at Airbus US, during a media briefing with reporters today.

On that front, certification of the helicopter’s weapons pylon remains outstanding.

“A typical user will want a qualification to include weapons release and things like that, which are outside of a civil certification threshold,” he added. “But the items that are not certified today are very small.”

Outside of weapon qualifications, the “basic aircraft” design of both the AH-125 and the MH-125 is already certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), noted Tumpak.

Both aircraft will be produced from the manufacturer’s Columbus, Miss., facility, which currently assembles UH-72B Lakota light utility helicopters for the US Army National Guard. The civilian version of the H-125 has been in service around the world for more than three decades, and an H125M military version, fielded in light attack and special operations configurations, has been sold to 30 countries, covering production of 270 aircraft.

Airbus have brought the new helicopters to market from US facilities in a bid to “capture advantages of the US export system” and the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process, said Tumpak.

“When we step back and survey the market around the world, where we see a gap that is not being served right now is a multi-mission capability that could cover not just light attack, but also missions such as special ops, firefighting and search and rescue.”

Common to both aircraft are communications systems, downlinks for data sharing, a 15’ EO/IR sensor and cockpit and cargo area ballistic protection features. They can also be reconfigured to accommodate different missions in under 30 minutes, the company says.

The armed AH-125 hosts a 50-caliber (12.7-millimeter) gun and unguided rockets as standard. Airbus has also partnered with Virginia-based MAG Aerospace for weapons integration activities. Such a selection distinguishes the aircraft from the H125M light helicopter produced in France, which uses the Airbus-developed HForce weapons management system. Tumpak said that the decision not to integrate the AH-125 with HForce was based around affordability.

The multirole MH-125 will be capable of carrying up to four internal and four external personnel, and a fast rope attachment, searchlight, cargo swing and an optional 600lbs (272 kilogram) hoist, the company says.

“What we’re proposing here [with the Ares line] is a very mature, high-performing aircraft, married up to a weapon system through a proven partner to provide an affordable low-risk, but highly capable solution for the worldwide market,” added Tumpak.

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