A129 gets Stinger as helicopter anti-air missile moves on

Raytheon has been awarded a contract by Italy to integrate the Stinger Block I air-to-air missile (AAM) with the Agusta A129 Mangusta attack helicopter, as the US company prepares to meet the Shorts Missile Systems (SMS) Starstreak in a competitive shoot-out on the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow.

Italy has signed a foreign military sales contract for Raytheon to integrate the Stinger twin missile launcher with the A129's weapon pylon by early 2002. A separate $10 million contract covers delivery of 30 launchers, with an option for 90.

"Integration of the digital launcher and test firings will take place over 18 months and we don't anticipate any problems. The first phase will involve integrating the system with the navigation control and air safety testing," says Mike Crisp, Raytheon director, Stinger programme. An AAM capability will give the A129 a boost on the international sales market.

Meanwhile, Raytheon is awaiting a US Army contract for limited operational testing of the Stinger on the Apache. Work on fitting the missile to the AH-64D is reported to have begun, while SMS and partner Lockheed Martin are finalising a $24 million integration contract for Starstreak that is expected to take 18 months to complete.

"We're in the process of preparing to participate in the side-by-side firing. The degree of difficulty in fitting the Starstreak is more extensive, so it's not necessary for us to have the same length of contract," claims Crisp. The army is budgeting $39 million for the shoot-out, $15 million of which is from the 1999 budget and must be spent by September.

SMS claims to have overcome problems discovered during Starstreak firings from an AH-64A. The missile's discardable sabot and the launcher's clamshell opening are now hinged to reduce debris, while blast overpressure has been lessened. Work is now focused on software integration with the AH-64D and roll compensation for the helicopter-mounted laser sight.o

Source: Flight International