Exint cleared for AH-64 as production starts

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UK advanced design firm Avpro has cleared its Exint transport pod for use with the Boeing AH-64 Apache. Certification to carry personnel is required. The pylon-mounted Exint is designed for combat search and rescue and special forces insertion.

Avpro director Mike Ryan says that 17 countries have expressed an interest in Exint - which has also been fit-checked on the British Aerospace Harrier - and that one is close to placing an order. The US Marine Corps and special forces are interested parties, says Ryan.

In the special forces insertion role, an AH-64 can carry four pods, which in turn can carry 226kg (500lb) each.

Hunting will build the predominately composite structure and is embarking on a 50-unit initial production batch. The first pod is due for completion in April. Ryan predicts that the market could be worth £800 million ($1.3 billion).

Avpro is to issue shares in the Exint to fund remaining certification work. Ryan says the Exint is compatible with other attack helicopters such as Bell AH-1Cobras, Denel Rooivalks and Eurocopter Tigers.

Ryan declines to name the first customer, but it is believed to be Israel, which has a long history of using its attack helicopters to rescue downed pilots, usually lifting them out on the skids of its AH-1s. It requires a similar capability for its Apaches.