Airbus Helicopters was marketing its “HForce” weapon system at the Singapore Airshow last week and revealed that Serbia is the first customer.
A deal was signed in late 2016 for nine H145M helicopters, including three for the Serbian Police Force. Deliveries will begin at the end of this year.
The company is also targeting Thailand as an early customer.
HForce is scalable to any commercial helicopter in the Airbus Helicopters portfolio, including the H125, H145, and H225. The HForce offer comprises three tiers of weapon configuration: “armed reconnaissance,” “ballistic light attack,” and “ballistic and guided light attack.” Serbia is taking the light attack option. Airbus Helicopters recently completed a live firing trial of Thales 70-mm FZ275 laser-guided rockets from an H145M. But the core HForce system, including sensors, mission computer, and displays, has been flight-tested over the past 20 months on a larger, H225M testbed.
The company delivered five H145s to the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) in 2016, and similar helicopters are also already in service with the Royal Thai Army (RTA). “The weaponization of the H145 was part of the initial contract negotiations with the RTN,” Christian Fanchini, head of operational marketing, told AIN. “But the issue is always the budget,” he continued.
Airbus Helicopters sold more than 300 H145s to the U.S. Army as the UH-72A Lakota. However, Fanchini said the Lakota’s twin Turbomeca Arriel 1E2 engines are “not powerful enough” for the heaviest, guided-weapon option. But he does not rule out sales of the HForce configuration(s) in the U.S.
The Royal Thai Army has six EC145T2s for VIP transport and another six UH-72A Lakotas from the U.S. under Foreign Military Sales. There are altogether 213 H145 helicopters flying in Asia Pacific, but only 8 percent of these are with military customers.