Making its Dubai Airshow debut here is the NorthStar Aviation 407MRH, an armed ISR version of the Bell 407 commercial helicopter. Based in Abu Dhabi, NorthStar also has a facility in Florida, where the prototype 407MRH conversion was developed and test-flown. The program was first announced at the “Quad-A” show in the U.S. last fall, and a technology demonstrator was shown at the IDEX show in Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
Now, NorthStar is well advanced in fulfilling an order for 30 from the UAE Armed Forces, and deliveries are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. A local media photo released recently suggests that the helicopters are already seeing action in Yemen.
NorthStar Aviation was established in 2011 as a full-spectrum MRO organization working primarily with government and military customers. It has the ability to rapidly prototype and field advanced modifications. The 407MRH (multi-role helicopter) was developed to answer the needs of customers who may require an armed ISR capability but at a much lower cost than is associated with full attack helicopters. As well as the UAE order, the 407MRH is receiving considerable customer interest in the Gulf region.
Based on the civilian Bell 407GXP model, the 407MRH is fitted out by NorthStar with a full military system package including a mission management system, embedded IMU/GPS, TACAN, and a FalconView moving map. Military communications systems include dual integrated tactical ARC-210 multi-band radios; Tetra radio; APX-121 Mode IV IFF transponder; and a BMS Helicoder 4 microwave video downlink system. An L-3 Avionics Systsems 3900.2 electronic standby instrumentation system is installed.
The custom-designed cockpit is compatible with the use of NVGs (night vision goggles), and the helicopter is fitted with infrared navigation lights and a dual-mode IR/white light searchlight. A lightweight modular cockpit armor system has been developed, as well as custom-built carbon fiber doors and covers for mission equipment and antenna mounts.
NorthStar has integrated a weapons management system that can support a variety of munitions, such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, laser-guided rockets and podded armament such as GAU-19 0.50-caliber or M134D 7.62mm Minigun and unguided rockets. Weapons are carried on a lightweight weapons platform. Targeting and ISR functions are made possible through the installation of a FLIR Systems Star SAFIRE 260-HLD in a stabilized nose turret, offering electro-optical/infrared, high-definition color day TV, mid-wave IR and low-light imaging capabilities. The turret also accommodates laser designator and rangefinder, and a near-IR laser illuminator visible to NVGs.