MD Helicopters showed off its prototype MD540A armed scout helicopter last week at the Sofex show in Jordan, marking the type’s first appearance outside the U.S. The choice of venue was made to highlight the type’s credentials in an area where its hot-and-high performance is of considerable interest, at a show where its special forces support capability is highly relevant, and in a country that has a requirement for a new armed helicopter.
A further evolution of the popular MD530, the MD540 promises significantly improved performance thanks to new dynamics and a new engine. Currently the prototype is powered by the MD530’s 425-shp Rolls-Royce 250-C30, but following its return to the U.S. from Jordan it will receive its intended powerplant, the Rolls-Royce 250-C47E/3. This has dual Fadec and is rated at 600 shp. The more powerful engine drives a six-blade main rotor mounted on a stronger rotor head inherited from the MD600N. The extra power and new rotor provide a significant payload and performance increase, with stronger landing skids, again taken from the MD600N, accommodating the extra weight.
Developed partly for the U.S. Army’s now shelved armed aerial scout program, the MD540A has a comprehensive mission fit, at the heart of which is a Moog mission system. Target acquisition is provided by an L-3 Wescam MX-10D electro-optical turret, presenting data on a Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted display.
The rear cabin can be used for passengers, or can be fitted with an extended-range weapon wing (ER2W) from Mace Aviation. This airfoil-shaped stub wing fits across the rear cabin, and contains extra fuel to help offset the range decrease caused by the drag and weight of ordnance. On its four pylons it can carry an array of weapons, including guns, rocket pods and Hellfire missiles. Rocket options include laser-guided weapons such as the Lockheed Martin DAGR, Raytheon Talon and BAE Systems APKWS.
The MD540A has a lot of testing to undergo once the new engine is fitted, and will not be available for sale until summer next year. In the interim, MD Helicopters is in the process of certifying the MD530G, a version of the MD530 with most elements of the MD540A’s advanced weapon system. A final series of weapon trials to be undertaken in June should clear the MD530G for sale this summer.
In the meantime, Jordan continues to evaluate armed scout helicopters while operating MD530Fs in the special-forces support role, and Bell AH-1 Cobras for anti-armor duties. The country announced a letter of intent to purchase the rival Boeing AH-6i Little Bird four years ago, but that has not led to any contract. Having secured a sale to Iraq, Bell is also pitching its 407 in the region.