During the MSPO International Defence Industry Exhibition, PZL Mielec, a Lockheed Martin company displayed an S-70i Armed Black Hawk helicopter fitted with a single-station external stores pylon. Designed at PZL Mielec as a lighter weight, lower cost alternative to currently fielded dual-station external wings, a single-station pylon attached to one or both sides of the aircraft will be compatible with the advanced weapon system that allows Black Hawk pilot gunners to support battlefield operations using forward firing guns, rockets and air-to-ground missiles.
«We’re developing the single-station pylon in response to requests by militaries across Europe, Latin America and Asia for a battlefield support helicopter that can be armed for different types of missions that may not always need four weapons stations», said Janusz Zakręcki, president, general director of PZL Mielec. «Operators can arm the aircraft for suppressive fire, surveillance, armed reconnaissance, armed escort and air assault missions, and still carry out other utility roles whenever pylons and stores must remain on the aircraft».
At a quarter the cost and weight of a dual-station wing, a pylon can be removed or attached by two people in 15 minutes, produces less drag during flight, offers a wider field of fire to window or door gunners, and opens more space to hoist a litter into the aircraft while in a hover.
For large targets, a pylon will be able to carry HELLFIRE or Spike air-to-ground missile launchers. A pylon also can extend aircraft range with an 80-gallon/303-liters external fuel tank.
As a complementary option for the S-70i/S-70M Armed Black Hawk with dual-station wings, the single station pylon will integrate with the aircraft’s weapons management system that calculates the range and complex ballistics required for pilot gunners to engage targets with high accuracy and reliability from stand-off distances during day and night operations.
PZL Mielec expects to begin airworthiness flight testing of the prototype pylon design in 2020.
Lockheed Martin is exploring options to bring its weapons integration expertise to bear on the European S-70 Black Hawk helicopters made by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company. The goal is to produce an armed kit scalable to the requirements of customers that procure Black Hawk aircraft direct from Lockheed Martin.
«Last year’s acquisition of Sikorsky by Lockheed Martin has widened the aperture of possibilities for arming the Black Hawk helicopter», said Bill Gostic, vice president, Sikorsky Global Military Systems & Services. «Lockheed Martin brings integration expertise that will allow us to customize an armed configuration – for defensive or offensive operations – to the specific preferences of current and future Black Hawk customers, and with weapons of their choice».
During the ongoing Farnborough International Airshow, Lockheed Martin is displaying outside its pavilion an armed Black Hawk aircraft manufactured at Sikorsky’s PZL Mielec factory in Poland, and with the cockpit section manufactured at Aero Vodochody in the Czech Republic. The display represents the types of weapons Lockheed Martin can integrate onto the medium-lift military utility platform that’s renowned for its multirole capabilities.
Armed external wings on either side of the displayed aircraft feature a total of four weapons stations for fire suppression and elimination of armored targets, with launchers for a mix of Hellfire and Direct Attack Guided Rocket (DAGR) air-to-ground missiles, a 19-shot Hydra-70 rocket pod, and an FN Herstal Belgium manufactured rocket machine gun pod. For laser designating of a future weapons system, the aircraft’s cockpit chin features the INFIRNO sensor system.
Crew-served weapons inside the displayed aircraft include an FN Herstal .50-caliber (12.7-mm) machine gun mounted to the cabin floor, and window-mounted 7.62-mm mini-guns. The mini-guns can also swing into a fixed forward firing position to be for operated by the pilot.
Depending on the chosen weapons configuration, the cabin can seat troops for armed assault and close air support of ground troop missions. Alternatively, the cabin can store additional ammunition for the guns and rocket pods, and an internal 200 gallon/757 L auxiliary fuel tank system for extended range and endurance required for armed escort missions.