Airbus Defence and Space (Chalet P10, Stand 552) is showing off its Armed ISR version of the C295 tactical transport for the first time at the Dubai Air Show 2017. The aircraft has generated significant interest in the MENA region from customers seeking a long-endurance ISR and light attack capability. The use of a tactical transport as a platform rather than a dedicated light attack aircraft permits a greater range of sensors, self-protection defenses and weapons to be carried, as well as roughly doubling the patrol endurance.
Development by Airbus of an armed C295 was driven by customer desires to have OEM involvement in such a complex engineering exercise, not only to keep costs down by being able to incorporate any necessary modifications during production, but with particular regard to the load/fatigue issues encountered when routinely firing weapons.
At the heart of the Armed ISR C295 is the Airbus FITS (fully integrated tactical system) mission system that has been installed in over 90 overland/maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The latest generation of FITS can be fitted in the C295 in either fixed or roll-on/roll-off configurations, and can manage both sensor and weapons operation.
Led by customer requirements, development of the armed C295 has pursued two distinct avenues, a lightly armed version and a heavy weaponized aircraft. Both can be fitted with electro-optic sensors in an undernose turret, surveillance radar under the fuselage and comprehensive communications and self-protection suites.
In the light version, the first of which is due for customer delivery later this year, the aircraft has a roll-on/roll-off FITS and two manually-aimed machine-guns mounted in the rear paratroop doorways. As shown on the aircraft at Dubai, the lightly-armed version employs the 0.5-in (12.7-mm) M3D gun with a 950-rpm rate of fire. The guns are fitted to Nobles mounts that can be installed in around 30 minutes onto the cargo hold floor. Up to 1,250 rounds can be carried per gun, which can be used for fire suppression during assaults. Installing the door guns requires some minor local modification to the parachute doors to attenuate blast effects, and these modifications will be applied to all future production C295s. Machine gun test firing has already been conducted.
In the heavy weapons version the aircraft is proposed with a fixed FITS installation. The aircraft is intended to have four underwing hardpoints, two of which have already been fully developed for the maritime versions that carry torpedoes or anti-ship missiles. A second pair of hardpoints is to be added further outboard, with development work due to be completed next year. Only minor strengthening modifications are required to accept the hardpoints, and can be accomplished on the final assembly line.
Airbus has teamed with Roketsan to provide the initial guided weapon suite, although other weapons can be integrated. Each hardpoint can carry up to four L-UMTAS missiles, pods for the Cirit laser-guided rocket, and the Teber-82 laser-guided bomb with Expal warhead. Additionally the C295 can carry seven-round Equipaer pods for firing the Expal CAT-70 unguided rocket. Armed with a full load of 16 L-UMTAS missiles the C295 has an endurance of eight to nine hours.
Giving the C295 a true “gunship” capability is a Mauser BK 27 auto-cannon on a mount engineered specially for the C295 by Escribano. This is slaved to a second electro-optic turret mounted under the port side of the fuselage. The gun fires FAP-DS discarding sabot ammunition that offers high muzzle velocity, in turn translating into high accuracy at ranges of up to 2.5 miles (4 km).
A critical design review is due to be completed before the end of the year, with ground tests due to begin next summer. Some of the elements, such as the four-round launcher for L-UMTAS, have already been fit-checked. Flight test is scheduled to begin in the late summer/early fall of 2018 using a company-owned testbed. That aircraft is currently testing the modifications required by the Canadian Fixed-Wing SAR program, and will then be adapted for Armed ISR trials requirements when FWSAR work is completed. Flight testing of the armed version is due to be completed by summer 2019.