Airbus Military is studying possible new variants of its CN-235 and C-295 medium transports adapted for tasks including combat support and battlefield surveillance, along with performance enhancements for the latter type.
Revealing the company's investigation of a gunship development, head of market development for light and medium transport aircraft Jerónimo Amador says: "We have seen a growing interest from customers." This has been prompted by a need to perform counter-piracy operations, participate in low-intensity conflict and provide protection for critical national infrastructure, he adds.
Amador confirms that Airbus Military has held talks with ATK over the US company's work to modify two ex-Spanish air force CN-235s as gunships for Jordan, and that it is "looking for a partner to allow us to offer an efficient solution".
Both images © Airbus Military
Gunship versions of the CN-235 (top) and C-295 could be offered
Aircraft could be manufactured in a dedicated armed reconnaissance and combat support configuration, to include an electro-optical/infrared sensor, fuselage-housed 30mm (1.2in) cannon and potentially laser-guided rockets and missiles. A surveillance radar could also be carried, along with intelligence-gathering equipment and up to four onboard operator stations. Alternatively, customers could be offered elements of this system as a removable kit.
Potential customers exist in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, Amador says.
Other applications now being considered for the C-295 include a model equipped with a ground surveillance radar and up to eight onboard operator workstations, a signals intelligence-gathering development and a VVIP transport. Airbus Military is also eyeing a palletised kit, which would enable the aircraft to serve as an inflight refuelling platform for combat helicopters.
Meanwhile, Amador says near-term enhancements to the aircraft could include aerodynamic improvements - winglets were considered as part of a proposed airborne early warning and control system version being offered with Elta Systems - and using more power from its Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127G engines. The latter move could boost the type's rate of climb and cruise speed and offer increased mission flexibility, he says.