Bell has begun marketing a variant of the AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopter configured for reconnaissance and armed escort. The "multi-mission" MH-1W is aimed principally at Latin America, where there is growing demand for armed helicopters to support anti-drug and counter-insurgency operations.
The US manufacturer argues that the MH-1W is more suitable for reconnaissance, escort and fire support missions than the armed transport helicopters now used, because of its small silhouette and high survivability.
The MH-1W configuration includes a nose-mounted sighting system, with steerable forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, laser rangefinder, video recorder and automatic target tracker. This gives the aircraft a reconnaissance and combat capability at night and in poor weather, Bell says.
The aircraft is armed with a 20mm turreted gun and can carry up to four 70mm rocket pods on the stub wings. The MH-1W, additionally, is able to carry anti-tank and air to air missiles.
Bell highlights the extent to which transport helicopters have been armed in Latin America as evidence of demand for a machine such as the MH-1W. Colombia, which is fighting rebel forces, has armed its Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks with 0.50-calibre Gatling guns and is now similarly arming its Bell UH-1s.
Bell has got Latin American countries in its sights with avariant of its SuperCobra
General Dynamics Armament Systems has supplied GAU-19/A Gatling guns for installation on the Colombian Black Hawks. The standard configuration is one pintle-mounted gun per side, but some aircraft additionally carry forward-firing guns on stores pylons. GD is now supplying Colombia with the UH-1 Plank weapon system, which mounts a GAU-19/A and a 40mm grenade launcher on either side of the cabin. Rocket pods will be added later.
Several Latin American countries operate the UH-1, as well as the lighter Boeing MD500-series helicopter. Standard armament for the latter includes guns and rockets but, at the recent FIDAE show in Chile, Israel's Rafael displayed an MD500 carrying eight anti-tank missiles based on its NT-D fire-and-forget weapon. The NT-D is being offered for export to countries including Poland, where the missile would provide the anti-armour weapon for its Huzar.
The mock-up installation also included the company's Topaz targeting FLIR and Guitar-300 missile warning system. Bell says it has briefed Chile, as well as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, on the MH-1W, which has been approved by the US Navy.
Source: Flight International