Modernisation programme will be modular, "weapon independent", and targeted at Visegrad nations and Bulgaria

BAE Systems Avionics has started work on a prototype of its Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter upgrade, which the company aims to have ready for next year's Farnborough air show.

Key campaigns for the upgrade are the four Visegrad (V4) nations - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - and Bulgaria. Meanwhile, BAE last week was holding licensing talks for the upgrade with Mil in Russia.

BAE has acquired an ex-Russian air force Mi-24, which it is modifying at its UK plant in Rochester, southern England. It is investing £3 million ($5 million) in the non-flying prototype, which it believes will remove 90% of the risk. A simulator/demonstration rig has also been built.

A BAE electro-optical (EO) turret has already been fitted on the starboard side at the nose and BAE has begun integrating a new cockpit and other systems.

Jim Field, BAE Avionics head of campaigns battlefield systems, says the upgrade is modular, based around the company's in-service, open-architecture mission computer, and as an initial step will allow customers to make Hinds NATO-interoperable. The upgrade also offers 24h, all-weather capability, enhanced situation awareness, and an improved work split between the gunner in the front and the pilot in the rear cockpit.

Field says BAE is seeking options for other manufacturer's equipment such as control and display units (CDU), displays and communications systems.

It will, however, offer its own IFF interrogator, four-sensor EO turret and Hidass self-protection system.

Field says the upgrade is "weapon independent", allowing the customer to retain existing missiles or acquire new armament.

The pilot will be provided with a head-up display (HUD) and BAE is also offering its I-HUD helmet- mounted display.

Stuart Pike, BAE avionics systems consultant, says the gunner will have a 200 x 150mm (8 x 6in) colour display, combining tactical data with a moving map.

The pilot will have two colour displays as well as the HUD, says Pike. BAE is also discussing with Oto Melara installation of a 20mm turreted cannon that would replace the Russian 12.7mm gun.

In the V4 countries, BAE will act through a local prime contractor, if selected, while in Bulgaria it would take this role, also overseeing airframe life extension work. Offsets of 100-150% - which will include the technology transfer to allow the customer to write software for the mission computer - will be offered, says Field.

Source: Flight International