Raytheon will offer the US Army common sensor payload (CSP) for several emerging requirements, including the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and future manned turboprops operated by the US Air Force.

The 40cm (16in)-electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) turret will begin flight tests in mid-May on a Sikorsky UH-60 acting as a surrogate aircraft for the programme's sole customer - the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-1C Sky Warrior, said Neil Peterson, Raytheon business development director.

The CSP lost its biggest order last year when the army terminated a contract to buy 522 Bell Helicopter ARH-70 Arapahos.

The lost order means the unit cost to install the CSP on about 130 planned MQ-1Cs is likely to increase.

However, Peterson said, the cost issue is mitigated by the CSP's 80% commonality with the multi-spectral targeting system-A (MTS-A) turret, which is already in service with the MQ-1B Predator.

But the Pentagon's new emphasis on intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance and the target acquisition mission means Raytheon can pursue several new potential opportunities.

For example, the ARH-70's demise has created a new requirement to replace the "obsolete" mast-mounted sensor on the OH-58D. The army now wants a modern, nose-mounted turret, Brig Gen Tim Crosby, programme executive officer for army aviation, said on 5 May at the Quad-A convention.

The CSP and the FLIR Systems Talon turret are known competitors for the OH-58D sensor replacement programme. The Talon is already in service aboard the US Coast Guard HH-65 Dauphin helicopter fleet.

Meanwhile, Raytheon also believes the USAF's recent requirement for 37 MC-12 "Project Liberty" manned surveillance turboprops is only the beginning. The MC-12 is being equipped with the L-3 Communications MX-15 EO/IR sensor. But the USAF is likely to pursue a next-generation capability for which the CSP may qualify, Peterson said.

Source: Flight International