Romanian helicopter manufacturer IAR Brasov has presented the first prototype Anti-Tank Optronic Search and Combat System (SOCAT) combat upgrade for the IAR-330 Puma at this year's Paris air show.

According to Carciga Dragos, SOCAT programme manager in the procurement department of the Romanian defence ministry, the helicopter was rolled out at the beginning of June. It will be followed by a second prototype within five months. Series production is to begin in 1998.

The Romanian air force has ordered 24 of the upgraded helicopters, which incorporate a substantial amount of Israeli avionics technology.

Together with Romania's expected order for 96 IAR AH-1RO Dracula combat helicopters - a type derived from the Bell AH-1W SuperCobra - this will bring Romania up to its combat-helicopter limit as specified in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. SOCAT systems will also be fitted in AH-1ROs.

While IAR is the prime contractor, much of the avionics are supplied by a recently founded joint venture, called AE Electronics, formed by Bacau-based Aerostar and Israel's Elbit.

The avionics include monochrome multi-function displays for pilot and gunner, a centrally mounted colour digital moving-map display, and an integrated inertial-navigation/global-positioning system based on the global-positioning system. The helicopter also has a nose-mounted laser range-finder, close-coupled device camera and forward-looking infra-red sensor.

A helicopter multi-role computer and a 1553 digital databus, linking the avionics and weapons systems, are also included.

Weapons include a nose-mounted Giat THL 20 20mm gun turret, Romanian-manufactured 57mm unguided rockets, an as-yet-unspecified anti-tank missile, and A-95-MH infra-red guided air-to-air missiles, built at a Romanian weapons plant in Ploest.

The A-95-MH is based on the Ruyssian Vympel R-60 infra-red guided missile, although Dragos says that the seeker and rocket motor both incorporate Romanian technology.

Source: Flight International