Budget pressures sometimes create trends. A recent one in some countries is to use a very basic helicopter and give it capabilities that were not in the list that guided its developers.
So how do you give a transport helicopter the capability to perform attacks on ground targets as a main or secondary mission? The answer is a relatively cheap weapons system that can easily be installed on the rotary wing platform.
Companies have identified the need and some have come up with solutions. Israel Aerospace Industries recently completed a successful series of demonstrations of its Laser Homing Attack (LAHAT) missiles, launched from helicopters.
According to the company, the demonstration involved eight launches, carried out at ranges of up to 5.4nm (10km) and altitudes of 300ft to 6,000ft, from moving as well as hovering helicopters, targeting fixed and moving targets.
According to IAI, these tests included highly realistic operational scenarios, including a direct hit scored from 5.4nm, using the helicopter’s observation capability and laser designation by a ground force.
LAHAT is an accurate, lightweight missile, homing in on a laser spot. It has a ground launch range of 4.3nm and a range of 5.4nm from helicopters and can be supplied with a variety of warheads. The missiles and launcher do not adversely affect the helicopter’s effective mission time. The LAHAT System can be adapted to almost all helicopter types, even the lightest ones.
The system comprises IAI’s MOSP3000D observation payload with designation capabilities, a weapons control system and two quad pack missile launchers.
An IAI source said on 9 June that the missile has already been sold to a customer and installed on a helicopter. He said that eight missiles can be carried at a time as each missile weighs only 12kg (26lb). The laser designator can be carried by the armed helicopter or by another manned or unmanned aerial platform.