MBDA is carrying out a feasibility study for the UK Ministry of Defence into the possibility of integrating its dual-mode Brimstone air-to-surface missile onto the Boeing AH-64E Guardian attack rotorcraft.
The one-year sub-£10 million ($14 million) study contract was awarded to MBDA and sub-contractor Boeing on 3 September 2015, and will see a live firing test carried out in the third quarter of 2016, said David Armstrong, managing director of MBDA UK, speaking at an annual results briefing on 17 March.
“We are under a study contract with Boeing to explore the fit of it on the Apache,” Armstrong says. “That will result in a live test firing later this year.”
He says this is likely to be carried out in the USA using one of Boeing’s E-model test aircraft, but could also use a US Army example, if required.
The UK Army Air Corps is in the process of deciding how to upgrade its Apache capability, currently in a UK-specific AH1 configuration that carries Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfires as its air-to-surface missile.
It will either upgrade these to the US Army’s E-standard or acquire brand new rotorcraft. US government approval for a $3 billion upgrade package was granted in August.
Armstrong notes the integration risk for Brimstone on the Apache is low, as it already carries the Hellfire, and a large amount of the work surrounds modifying the fire control software.
Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database shows the Army Air Corps has 49 Apache AH1s in service, plus 17 in storage.
The company is also anticipating a follow-on contract for the UK’s SPEAR 3 next-generation air-to-surface missile development. It will be for the continuation of the development phase, but could involve a demonstration element, Armstrong says. A contract is expected in the second quarter of this year.