According to Western expert estimates, after the end of the Iran-Iraq war, about a hundred AN-1J attack helicopters remained in Iran. However, difficulties with the supply of spare parts and not always timely maintenance led to the fact that in the early 90s, hardly half of the available Cobras could take off. Realizing the value of the available combat helicopters, the Iranians at the facilities of the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA) in the city of Shahin Shehr, starting in 1993, organized the refurbishment of machines with a resource sufficient for further operation. Iranian enterprises established production and restoration of a number of key components and assemblies for the AN-1J. However, technical deterioration and flight accidents led to a reduction in the fleet of combat helicopters. There are now about 50 Cobras in flight in Iran. Most of them are concentrated at Shahid Vatan Pour and Badr airbases in Isfahan province, in the immediate vicinity of the repair plant.
The Iranian company Iran Helicopter Support and Renewal Company (IHSRC) based on the Cobra has created a Panha 2091 Toufan combat helicopter. Compared to the American prototype, due to the use of thicker bullet-resistant glass and additional composite armor, the security of the cockpit has increased. Most likely, the Toufan is not a completely new car, built from the ground up. Apparently, when "creating" the Iranian attack helicopter, the restored AN-1J was used.
The helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 4530 kg is equipped with two turboshaft engines with a take-off power of 1530 hp. The maximum speed in level flight is 236 km / h. Practical range - 600 km. Armament includes the Iranian counterpart of the 20-mm three-barreled M197 cannon with up to 750 rounds of ammunition, blocks with 70 or 127-mm NAR.
The Toufan combat helicopter lacks the M65 surveillance and targeting system, and the tests were carried out without guided anti-tank missiles, which seriously reduces the combat capabilities of the vehicle. It can be assumed that Iran did not consider it necessary to reproduce the equipment created in the early 70s. The outdated avionics inherited from the AN-1J, and only unguided weapons did not suit the Iranian military, and they demanded improvements to the vehicle. Apparently, Chinese specialists participated in the creation of an improved version, designated Toufan 2 (Storm 2). In 2013, two copies of the Toufan 2 were shown in the air.
While maintaining the flight data of the first version, a modern optoelectronic system was mounted in the nose of the Toufan 2 helicopter. The cockpits of the pilot and the operator of weapons are equipped with multifunctional LCD monitors. Also on the modernized helicopter, sensors have appeared that record laser and radar exposure. The armament includes the Toophan-5 laser-guided ATGM, created on the basis of the BGM-71 TOW. A missile weighing about 20 kg is capable of hitting targets at a distance of more than 3500 m.
Although the Toufan 2 helicopter for Iran was an unconditional step forward, it is not able to compete with modern attack rotary-wing aircraft. In terms of its characteristics and armament, the Iranian helicopter loses not only to the Apache or the Mi-28, but also to the AN-1W Super Cobra and AH-1Z Viper, with which it has common roots. The flight performance of the Toufan 2 could have been improved by replacing the two-bladed main rotor with a four-bladed one, as on the AH-1Z Viper, but creating an effective main rotor and making changes to the transmission turned out to be too difficult for Iranian engineers. There is a possibility that, by analogy with the Iranian fighters, created on the basis of the American F-5E, Toufan 2 helicopters are assembled several copies a year. However, the actual number of these vehicles in the Iranian armed forces is unknown.
Before the severance of relations with the United States, Iran was supplied with technical documentation for the licensed production of Bell 206 JetRanger. The American company Textron has built an aircraft plant in Shahin Shehra. In addition, as a temporary measure under the Shah, more than 150 light multipurpose helicopters Agusta-Bell 206A-1 and 206B-1, licensed copies of the American Bell 206 JetRanger, were purchased. In the early 90s, several armed Shahed 274 helicopters with ATGM and NAR entered trial operation. This machine, designed on the basis of the Bell 206 JetRanger, was not massively built.
The Iranian version of the American light multipurpose helicopter Bell 206 JetRanger, shown in 2002, received the designation Shahed 278. Composite materials are widely used in the design of the Shahed 278 to reduce the mass of the fuselage, the cockpit is equipped with multifunctional displays. Iranian television showed footage of tests of an armed modification with unguided rockets and a machine gun.
In fact, Iran is repeating the path traveled by the Americans in the 70s. In terms of its characteristics, the Shahed 278 is almost identical to the American light helicopter OH-58C Kiowa. The helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 1450 kg is equipped with an Allison 250-C20 engine with a power of 420 hp. and can reach speeds of up to 230 km / h. An obstacle to the mass production of Shahed 278 was the sanctions imposed on Iran. Allison 250-C20 turboshaft engines were recognized as "dual-use" products and were banned from deliveries to Iran. For this reason, about two dozen Shahed 278s were built in total.
After the Orthodox clergy came to power in Iran, it was no longer necessary to count on the legal supply of weapons from the United States. During the war with Iraq, in order to compensate for the losses, the development of its own combat helicopter, designed to provide fire support to ground units, began. In the late 1980s, a helicopter known as the Zafar 300 was handed over for testing. This machine was created by HESA engineers based on the Bell Model 206 JetRanger.
When creating the Zafar 300, Iranian engineers significantly redesigned the fuselage of the Bell Model 206A. The crew was housed in tandem in a two-seater cockpit, with the pilot exceeding the weapon operator. The attack helicopter inherited the Allison 250-C20В turboshaft engine with a power of 317 hp from the multipurpose Bell Model 206. The mass reserve formed after the liquidation of the passenger cabin was used to increase the security of the crew. A movable turret with a six-barreled 7.62 mm GAU-2B / A Minigun machine gun is installed in the bow lower part of the cockpit. Blocks with 70-mm NAR or containers with machine guns could be suspended from both sides of the fuselage.
Compared to the Bell Model 206, flight data has remained virtually unchanged. With a maximum takeoff weight of 1400 kg, with 280 liters of fuel on board, the helicopter had a practical flight range of about 700 km. The maximum speed is 220 km / h. There is no reliable data on the security of the Zafar 300. It can be assumed that the cockpit was covered with light armor, which protected it from rifle caliber bullets. The lack of guided anti-tank weapons on board reduced the combat value of the first Iranian attack helicopter. In fact, the Zafar 300 was a wartime ersatz, but it did not have time for the war, and after the end of hostilities, the helicopter was not serially built.
In May 2009, in an Iranian television report, prototypes of the Shahed 285 helicopter were demonstrated. This machine is also based on the Bell Model 206A and outwardly strongly resembles the Zafar 300. But according to Iranian sources, composite materials are widely used in the construction of the helicopter. In order to save weight and increase security, the helicopter was made single.
The Shahed 285 variant, also known as the AH-85A, is intended for army aviation and is armed with two 70-mm NAR blocks and a 7.62-mm PKT machine gun in a movable turret. However, later, the movable turret was abandoned, and the machine gun was rigidly fixed.
Modification AH-85C designed for the Iranian Navy. Instead of a machine gun mount, there is a search radar in the bow. Two Kowsar anti-ship missiles with a launch range of up to 20 km are suspended on the pylons of the AH-85C naval helicopter. The rocket weighs 100 kg, each anti-ship missile carries a 29 kg warhead.
A multifunctional display is installed in the cockpit to search for targets and use weapons. However, it is not clear why a helicopter carrying guided anti-ship missiles needs armor, what is the need to build it in a single seat and overload the pilot with navigation, target search and missile guidance.
The Shahed 285 is the world's lightest dedicated attack helicopter. Its maximum take-off weight is only 1450 kg. At the same time, it is stated that the practical flight range exceeds 800 km. The helicopter is equipped with one Allison 250-C20 engine, and is capable of accelerating to 225 km / h.
The Shahed 285 helicopters are currently being assembled in limited quantities. The main obstacle to their mass production is the inability to legally purchase Allison 250-C20 aircraft engines. The Iranians have to go to various tricks and purchase helicopter engines through intermediaries in third countries.
In 2010, at the air show held on Kish Island, the Shahed 285C light attack helicopter with Sadid-1 ATGM mock-ups was presented. At the end of September 2013, a new version of the Shahed 285 with a large-caliber 12, 7-mm machine gun and NAR blocks was demonstrated at an arms exhibition in Tehran.
It cannot be said that the creation of the Shahed 285 helicopter significantly increased the combat potential of the Iranian armed forces. Although options with guided weapons are being worked out, it is extremely unlikely that Iran will be able to create a compact and lightweight highly automated weapons complex, combined with an effective sighting and search system. And without this, it is simply impossible to search for targets and effectively use guided weapons on a single-seater vehicle. By and large, the Shahed 285 is a fairly primitive light rotary-wing attack aircraft, the combat value of which, when used against an enemy with modern military air defense, raises great doubts. The Iranians themselves say that the Shahed 285 should only conduct reconnaissance in the interests of the Toufan 2 attack helicopters and act against single weakly protected targets. However, very few helicopters have been delivered to the troops so far, and they will not be able to have a noticeable effect on the course of hostilities.
In the first half of the 80s, Soviet Mi-25 attack helicopters (export version of the Mi-24D) were delivered to India. In general, they have proven themselves positively, but nevertheless the "crocodile" turned out to be too heavy a machine, which was especially evident in high altitude conditions. For operations in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Indian armed forces needed a helicopter with good altitude characteristics.
Since 1973, the Indian Army has operated a licensed copy of the Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama helicopter. The machine, which has a lot in common with the light helicopter Alouette III, was equipped with a Turbomeca Artouste IIIB engine with a takeoff power of 870 hp. Maximum takeoff weight - 2300 kg. Although the maximum flight speed was relatively low - 192 km / h, the helicopter had excellent altitude characteristics. In 1972, an absolute record of flight altitude was set on it - 12,422 m. No helicopter has ever climbed higher until now.
In India, the SA 315B Lama helicopter was manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under the name Cheetah. In total, more than 300 Chetak helicopters have been built in India over 25 years of serial production. Some of the vehicles in the second half of the 70s were equipped with the AS.11 ATGM purchased in France.
Optical sensors of the ATGM guidance system were installed above the cockpit. However, due to the lack of even light armor, the helicopter was very vulnerable to fire from the ground. Several vehicles were lost during border conflicts with Pakistan.
In 1995, at the Le Bourget air show, the attack version of the Chetak-Lancer helicopter was demonstrated. This machine was created in the mid-80s as part of the LAH program (Light Attack Helicopter - Russian. Light attack helicopter).
The Lancer light combat helicopter is based on the Cheetah strike modification. During the design of Lancer, a lot of attention was paid to reducing vulnerability. The front of the cockpit is made of bulletproof transparent panels. On the sides, the crew is covered with Kevlar armor. To protect the fuel tanks and helicopter controls, lightweight composite ceramic-polymer armor plates were used, capable of holding a rifle bullet from a distance of 300 m. However, the engine compartment, as in the Chetak helicopter, is not covered by anything. The Lancer is powered by the same engine as the Cheetah. By reducing the volume of the fuel tank and the abandonment of the passenger cabin, the maximum take-off weight has been reduced to 1,500 kg. This, in turn, made it possible to increase the rate of climb and bring the maximum flight speed to 215 km / h - that is, in comparison with the Chetak multi-purpose helicopter, the maximum speed has increased by 27 km / h. At the same time, the attack helicopter retained good altitude data - its practical "ceiling" is more than 5000 m.
Weapons weighing up to 360 kg can be placed on two external hardpoints. As a rule, these are containers with 12, 7-mm machine guns and 70-mm NAR launchers. Since the "Lancer" was created to combat insurgents in mountainous areas and the jungle, they deliberately did not mount a complex of guided weapons on the helicopter. Although for the mid-90s, the light combat helicopter did not shine with high data, it was serially built, albeit in small quantities. In total, a dozen Lancers were transferred to the special operations forces. The history of the military use of these machines in India has not been disclosed, but the media leaked information about the use of Indian light attack helicopters in the early 2000s, during the battles with the Maoists in Nepal.
In 1985, the HAL company, together with the West German Messerschmitt Bölkow Blohm GmbH, began work on the creation of a modern light helicopter. As part of the ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter - Russian. Multipurpose light helicopter) program, the Dhruv helicopter was created. The first flight of the new rotorcraft took place in 1992, however, due to the implementation of Indian nuclear tests in 1998, international sanctions were imposed on the country, and since European companies suspended cooperation, the refinement process slowed down. The deliveries of serial helicopters began only in 2002. The car was built in both civilian and military versions. The Indian army officially adopted the helicopter in 2007.
On military modifications, a number of measures have been implemented to increase combat survivability. The fuselage has a high proportion of composite materials. The most vulnerable spots are covered with keramo-kevlar armor. The helicopter tanks are sealed and filled with neutral gas. To reduce the temperature of the exhaust gases, devices are installed on the nozzles of the engines that mix the exhaust gases with cold outboard air.
Simultaneously with the preparation for the production of the transport and landing modification, work was carried out to create a shock version. It is known about the construction of at least one vehicle with a movable 20-mm three-barreled M197 cannon. An infrared sighting and search system was installed in the nose of the helicopter. The armament was to include ATGM and NAR.
The first serial modifications of the Mk I and Mk II were equipped with two Turbomeca TM 333 engines with a takeoff power of 1080 hp. each. A helicopter with a maximum takeoff weight of 5500 kg can take on board 12 paratroopers or a load weighing up to 2000 kg. The maximum flight speed is 265 km / h. The rate of climb is 10.3 m / s. Service ceiling - 6000 m. Combat radius - 390 km.
The Indian military has ordered 159 helicopters. There are troop, anti-submarine and coast guard modifications. Some of the helicopters ordered by the army are armed with NAR blocks and machine guns in the doorways.
The Dhruv helicopter at a cost depending on the configuration of $ 7-12 million was in demand in the foreign market. To date, more than 50 machines have been delivered to foreign customers. However, "Dhruv" after commissioning in 2005 showed a fairly high accident rate. As of September 2017, two dozen aircraft were lost or seriously damaged in flight accidents.
On the basis of the multipurpose version, the shock modification Dhruv (ALH Mk.4) was created in 2007. After entering service in 2012, this machine was named Rudra. An optoelectronic sighting and surveillance system with sensors on a gyro-stabilized spherical platform installed in the bow was introduced into the avionics of the Rudra helicopter.
The elongated nose cone, which also improves aerodynamics, houses additional equipment. Thanks to this, the helicopter is able to operate in poor visibility conditions and at night. Its cockpit has a so-called "glass architecture"; the pilots have shock-resistant liquid crystal displays measuring 229x279 mm. Specialists from the Israeli company Elbit Systems participated in the creation of night vision, reconnaissance, target designation and weapons control equipment. Defensive systems recording the operation of enemy radars, laser rangefinders, target designators and countermeasures were created by the American-Swedish company Saab Barracuda LLC. The COMPASS optoelectronic system from Elbit Systems includes a high-definition color TV camera, a daylight TV camera, a thermal imaging surveillance system, a laser rangefinder-target designator with the ability to automatically track a target. All COMPASS components are currently manufactured in India under license from Bharat Electronics Limited.
The use of turboshaft engines Turbomeca Shakti III with a total take-off power of 2600 hp, despite the maximum take-off weight increased to 2700 kg, made it possible to maintain flight data at the level of the Dhruv helicopter. Simultaneously with the suspension of weapons, it is possible to transport paratroopers and cargo on an external sling. The four-bladed main rotor can withstand a chamber shot with 12.7 mm bullets, but the cockpit is protected only by local armor.
The Rudra combat helicopter is planned to be armed with Helina anti-tank guided missiles (HELIicopter-mounted NAg), developed on the basis of the Nag ground-based ATGM. The missile weighing 42 kg and a diameter of 190 mm is equipped with an infrared seeker and operates in the “fire and forget” mode. During tests conducted in the Rajasthan desert, a steady target acquisition, which was played by a T-55 tank, occurred at a distance of 5 km.
The average speed on the trajectory is 240 m / s. The launch range is 7 km. It was reported that since 2012, they have been testing a modification with a millimeter-wave radar seeker with a launch range of 10 km. The adoption of the Rudra helicopters into service followed in October 2012, when the command of the Indian Ministry of Defense decided to introduce attack helicopters into the army aviation. In 2017, 38 Rudra helicopters were to be delivered to the Indian Army aviation, and the Air Force will receive another 16 aircraft.
An alternative version of guided missile weapons is the LAHAT light ATGM with a semi-active laser homing head. It was developed by MBT Missiles Division, part of the Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries. The mass of the LAHAT ATGM quad launcher is 75 kg. The launch range is up to 10 km. The average flight speed of the rocket is 285 m / s. Armor penetration: 800 mm of homogeneous armor.
In addition to promising ATGMs, the Rudra helicopter's armament includes blocks with 70-mm NAR and Mistral air combat missiles, and a movable turret with a 20-mm French THL-20 cannon is located in the elongated nose section. Ammunition can be 600 rounds.
Weapon control is carried out using a helmet-mounted sighting system. The Rudra combat helicopter is equipped with very modern electronic systems and is capable of operating effectively at night. But this machine is still poorly protected even from small arms fire, which in full-scale hostilities is fraught with heavy losses.
On March 29, 2010, the first flight of the newest Indian light combat helicopter HAL LCH (Light Combat Helicopter - Rus. Light combat helicopter).
This vehicle with a tandem crew location uses components and assemblies worked out on the Dhruv helicopter, and the aiming and navigation equipment, weapons and defense systems are completely borrowed from the Rudra attack helicopter. The operator's seat is located in the front cockpit, the cockpit is separated from it by an armored partition. To search for targets and use weapons, the COMPASS optoelectronic system, developed in Israel, is used. Currently, together with the British company BAE Systems, a defensive laser system is being created to counter missiles with a thermal guidance head. The amount of the contract was not disclosed, but according to expert estimates, the purchase price of one set of protective helicopter equipment may exceed $ 1 million. The system includes optoelectronic missile detection sensors, laser radiation sources and control equipment operating in automatic mode. After detecting an approaching MANPADS or air-to-air missile, the pulsed lasers of the defense system should blind the IR seeker and disrupt targeting. In 2017, the Indian government demanded that BAE Systems should soon complete the adaptation of the laser defense system and begin field tests. In the future, it is planned to equip most of the Indian combat helicopters with protective laser equipment.
The LCH helicopter is equipped with two Turbomeca Shakti III engines - the same as on the Dhruv and Rudra. Thanks to the use of composite materials, the “dry weight” was reduced by 200 kg on the fourth prototype in comparison with the head prototype. During the design process, much attention was paid to reducing unmasking factors: acoustic, thermal and radar signature. The pre-production LCH helicopter carries a "digital camouflage". Representatives of the HAL company say that their machine surpasses the American AH-64E Apache, the Russian Mi-28 and the Chinese Z-19 in terms of stealth.
One of the main criteria voiced when drawing up the terms of reference for the development of Light Combat Helicopter was the ability to operate in high altitude conditions. In this regard, the practical ceiling of the helicopter is 6500 m, and the rate of climb is 12 m / s. The aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 5800 kg has a practical flight range of 550 km. The maximum flight speed is 268 km / h.
Four LCH prototypes were built to carry out flight tests and testing in various climatic conditions. They were tested in the heat of the Rajasthan desert and on the Siachen glacier, near the Indo-Pakistani border. When landing on the glacier, the altitude was 4.8 km above sea level. In the second half of 2016, the helicopter was found to meet the requirements and standards of the Indian Armed Forces. In August 2017, the Indian Ministry of Defense placed an order for the serial production of LCH helicopters. In the future, 65 aircraft should receive the Air Force and 114 will go to the army aviation. Deliveries to combat squadrons are scheduled to begin in 2018. The main purpose of the LCH light combat helicopters is day and night operations against all kinds of insurgent groups in difficult terrain. At the same time, if equipped with an ATGM, the helicopter is capable of armored vehicles.
Conceptually, the Indian LCH is similar to the Chinese Z-19 helicopter. Although the maximum take-off weight of the Indian machine is about a ton more, the protection of the LCH is approximately the same - it is stated that the LCH helicopter is capable of withstanding single 12.7 mm bullets. The promotional materials say that this was achieved through the use of ceramic armor, reinforced with Kevlar. Allegedly, this original light armor, developed in India, is not inferior to the best world analogues.
It is assumed that the lighter LCH, when faced with a strong enemy, will act in conjunction with the technologically more advanced and better protected AH-64E Apache. However, the preliminary Indian order for "Apaches" was only 22 units, and such an amount for India will not make much of a difference. After the start of serial construction of the LCH, this helicopter can be attractive to foreign buyers from the poor countries of the Third World and repeat the success of the Dhruv multi-purpose helicopter. This is facilitated by the relatively low cost - $ 21 million. However, the Chinese offer their strike-reconnaissance Z-19E even cheaper - for $ 15 million.
In the post-war period, the Japan Self-Defense Forces were mainly equipped with American-made equipment and weapons. A number of samples of American aircraft were built under license. So, from 1984 to 2000, Fuji Heavy Industries built 89 AH-1SJ Cobra for the aviation of the Ground Self-Defense Forces. In 2016, the Self-Defense Forces had 16 Cobras. In 2006, Fuji Heavy Industries began supplying licensed AH-64DJPs to the army aviation strike squadrons. A total of 50 Japanese-assembled Apaches were supposed to be transferred to the troops. However, due to the increase in the cost of the program, it was suspended. As of 2017, the Japanese military operates 13 Apache helicopters. Kawasaki Heavy Industries, in turn, produced 387 OH-6D Cayuse light reconnaissance and attack helicopters. Until now, there are about a hundred Keyius in service in Japan, but the helicopter, created in the first half of the 60s, no longer meets modern requirements. Back in the 80s, the command of the Ground Self-Defense Forces formulated the terms of reference for the shock-reconnaissance rotorcraft. Since a significant part of the Japanese islands has mountainous terrain, the military needed a relatively light reconnaissance helicopter with a good altitude, capable of quickly changing direction and flight altitude and with a flight duration of at least two hours. A prerequisite was the presence of two engines, which increased the safety of operation in peacetime and survivability in the event of combat damage. The most vulnerable parts of the structure had to be duplicated or covered with light armor.
Initially, in order to reduce R&D and operation costs, it was planned to create a new helicopter based on the Bell UH-1J Iroquois, which was also built in Japan under license, but after analyzing all the options, this path was recognized as a dead end. The Japanese anti-tank squadrons already had a helicopter designed on the basis of the Iroquois, and the customer did not understand the creation of the machine in terms of its characteristics close to the American Cobra. In addition, the construction of a new modern helicopter based on components and assemblies designed in Japan promised great benefits for the national industry and stimulated the development of its own scientific and technical potential. By 1992, it was possible to come to a consensus between the customer, represented by the command of the army aviation, the government, which allocated money for the creation and serial production of a new helicopter, and industrialists. Kawasaki, which already had experience in the construction of the OH-6D Cayuse, was appointed the general contractor for the program of the promising light attack and reconnaissance helicopter ON-X. Kawasaki was responsible for the overall layout of the machine, the design of the rotor and transmission, and received 60% of the funding. Mitsubishi and Fuji, engaged in the development of engines, electronics and the manufacture of external fuselage fragments, shared the remaining 40% of the funds allocated for development equally.
Since the machine was created from scratch, and the Japanese aircraft building companies by the beginning of the 90s had accumulated significant experience in licensed construction of foreign models and already had their own original designs, the new helicopter had a high coefficient of technical novelty. When creating components and assemblies, in most cases, several options were worked out with the full-scale creation of samples and their comparison with each other. A very significant research work has been carried out. Thus, the specialists of the Kawasaki company have developed two alternative versions of the tail steering device: a reactive torque compensation system and a propeller of the “fenestron” type. The advantage of the NOTAR type rocket system (No Tail Rotor - rus. Without a tail rotor) is the absence of rotating parts on the tail boom, which increases the safety and ease of operation of the helicopter. The NOTAR system compensates for the reactive moment of the main rotor and controls the yaw with a fan mounted in the aft fuselage and a system of air nozzles on the tail boom. However, it was recognized that the NOTAR was inferior in efficiency to the fenestron tail rotor. Kawasaki also developed the original pivotless composite hub and composite four-bladed rotor. With a "dry weight" of the helicopter of 2450 kg, more than 40% of the structure is made of modern composite materials. Thanks to this, the weight perfection of the machine is great enough.
OH-X is built according to the traditional scheme for modern attack helicopters. The fuselage of the helicopter is rather narrow, its width is 1 m. The crew is located in a tandem cockpit. In front is the pilot's workplace, behind and above there is an observer pilot's seat. Behind the cockpit, on the fuselage, wings of a small span, with four hardpoints. Each unit can be hung with weapons weighing up to 132 kg, or additional fuel tanks.
The helicopter is equipped with two TS1 turboshaft engines with a takeoff power of 890 hp. The motors and digital control system are designed by Mitsubishi. As alternative options, in case of failure with Japanese-designed engines, the American LHTEC T800 with a capacity of 1560 hp was considered. and the 1465 hp MTR 390 used on the Eurocopter Tiger. But if foreign motors with large dimensions were used, only one engine could be installed on the helicopter.
The OH-X helicopter took off for the first time on August 6, 1996 from the airfield of the self-defense forces test center in Gifu. In total, four flight prototypes were built, flying over 400 hours in total. In 2000, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces adopted the helicopter under the name OH-1 Ninja (Russian "Ninja"). To date, more than 40 vehicles have been sent to the troops. The cost of one helicopter is approximately $ 25 million. The total order provides for the supply of more than 100 helicopters to the Self-Defense Forces. However, there is information that in 2013 the production of rotary-wing "Ninja" was discontinued.
An attack and reconnaissance helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 4000 kg, in horizontal flight, it is capable of reaching a speed of 278 km / h. Cruising speed - 220 km. Combat radius - 250 km. Ferry flight range - 720 km.
Even at the design stage, it was envisaged that the avionics of the Ninja helicopter would include equipment that would provide the use of guided anti-tank missiles with laser or thermal guidance. Above the cockpit in a rotating gyro-stabilized spherical platform, sensors of an optoelectronic combined system are installed, providing all-day combat use, with a view of 120 ° in azimuth and 45 ° in elevation. The observation and sighting OES includes: a color television camera capable of operating in low light conditions, a laser rangefinder-target designator and a thermal imager. Information output from optoelectronic sensors is carried out on multifunctional liquid crystal displays connected to the MIL-STD 1533B data bus.
Nothing is known about the presence of electronic reconnaissance and jamming equipment on board the reconnaissance helicopter. However, there is no doubt about the ability of the Japanese to create a built-in system of sensors, generators and devices for shooting heat and radar traps or a suspended container version of electronic warfare equipment.
Initially, the combat load of the helicopter consisted of only four Type 91 air combat missiles. This missile was developed in Japan in 1993 to replace the American FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS. Since 2007, an improved version of the Type 91 Kai has been supplied to the troops. Compared to the "Stinger", this is a lighter and more anti-jamming anti-aircraft weapon.
The armament composition of the first version of the OH-1 reflects the views of the Japanese army command on the place and role of the OH-1 light helicopter. This vehicle is primarily intended for reconnaissance and escort of AH-1SJ and AH-64DJP combat helicopters to protect them from enemy air. Some of the Japanese combat helicopters are painted with anime cartoon characters. Obviously, the calculation is made on the fact that the enemy simply will not raise a hand to shoot down such a work of art.
In 2012, it became known about the development of a new modification of the "Ninja". The helicopter was equipped with a TS1-M-10A with a takeoff power of 990 hp. The armament included ATGM, 70-mm NAR and containers with 12, 7-mm machine guns. The type of anti-tank missiles with which the helicopter was supposed to be armed was not disclosed, but most likely we are talking about the Type 87 or Type 01 LMAT.
ATGM Type 87 has a laser guidance system. This fairly light rocket weighs only 12 kg, the launch range from ground platforms is limited to a distance of 2000 m. The Type 01 LMAT ATGM has such a launch range and weight, but is equipped with an IR seeker. For use from a helicopter, modifications with a mass of 20-25 kg with a launch range of 4-5 kg can be created. Also, the possibility of using American ATGM AGM-114A Hellfire is not excluded. These missiles are used on the Apache helicopters available in Japan. In addition, the avionics should include automatic data transmission equipment, which will allow the exchange of information with other strike vehicles and ground command posts.
After the adoption of the OH-1 Ninja into service, the issue of developing a purely anti-tank version of the AN-1 was studied. This car was to be powered by XTS2 engines. Due to a reduction in the resource, the power of the engines during takeoff was brought to 1226 hp. Thanks to a more powerful power plant, the helicopter designed to replace the aging Cobras should have had better protection and enhanced armament. However, the military chose to purchase a licensed version of the American Apache with an overhead radar and the AN-1 program was curtailed.
To date, the Japanese OH-1 Ninja light combat helicopter has great modernization potential. Due to the use of more powerful engines, advanced avionics and guided missile weapons, its combat capabilities can be significantly enhanced. By and large, Japan is currently capable of creating any weapon, be it a nuclear warhead, an intercontinental ballistic missile, an aircraft carrier or an atomic submarine. If such a decision is made, the technological, industrial, scientific and technical potential will make it possible to do this within a fairly short time. If there is political will, Japanese engineers are able to design and the aviation industry to independently organize the serial construction of attack helicopters that meet high international standards.
At the end of this protracted cycle, I would like to consider the anti-tank capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles. On the pages of the Military Review, in the comments to publications on the aviation topic, the participants in the discussions repeatedly expressed the idea that manned combat aircraft in general, and combat helicopters in particular, in the near future will leave the scene and will be replaced by remotely piloted aircraft. The main argument in this case was the examples of the rather high efficiency of combat drones in various kinds of "counterterrorism" and "counterinsurgency" operations. However, supporters of unconditional domination in the air of drones forget that in most cases the targets of their strikes were single targets: small groups of militants, poorly protected structures and structures, or unarmored vehicles lacking effective anti-aircraft cover.
It is worth recognizing that shock-reconnaissance UAVs are already a rather formidable means of armed struggle. Thus, the American combat drone MQ-9 Reaper, which is a further development of the MQ-1 Predator UAV, unlike its "ancestor" with a relatively low-power piston engine, is equipped with a Honeywell TPE331-10 900 hp turboprop engine. Thanks to this, the device with a maximum take-off weight of 4760 kg is capable of accelerating in horizontal flight to 482 km / h, which is significantly higher than the maximum speed developed by modern combat helicopters, which are being built in series. The cruising speed is 310 km / h. The drone, loaded to capacity with fuel, can hover in the sky for 14 hours at an altitude of 15,000 m. The practical flight range is 1,800 km. Internal fuel tank capacity - 1800 kg. The Reaper's payload is 1700 kg. Of these, 1,300 kg can be accommodated on six external units. Instead of weapons, it is possible to suspend external fuel tanks, which allows the flight duration to be increased to 42 hours.
According to Global Security, the MQ-9 can carry four AGM-114 Hellfire ATGMs with laser or radar guidance, two 500-pound GBU-12 Paveway II bombs with laser guidance, or two GBU-38 JDAMs with guidance using satellite positioning system signals. GPS. The reconnaissance and sighting equipment includes high-resolution television cameras, a thermal imager, a millimeter-wave radar and a laser rangefinder-target designator.
While in the United States, MQ-9 drones are used by the Air Force, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA, they are of greatest value to special operations forces. If necessary, "Reapers" with ground control points and service infrastructure can be airlifted on C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft within 8-10 hours to anywhere in the world, and operated at field airfields. A sufficiently high range and flight speed and the presence on board of perfect sighting and surveillance equipment and guided anti-tank missiles allows the MQ-9 to be used against enemy armored vehicles. However, in practice, Hellfire missiles with a thermobaric warhead are most often used to eliminate high-ranking extremists, destroy vehicles, single samples of military equipment, or pinpoint strikes against ammunition and weapons depots.
Modern armed UAVs are quite capable of fighting single tanks and armored vehicles in the hands of the Islamists, as was the case in Iraq, Syria and Somalia, or to conduct hostilities in conditions of suppressed air defense, as in Libya. But when faced with technologically advanced opponents with modern air control and electronic suppression systems, advanced air defense systems, combat helicopters and fighter-interceptors, drones equipped with even the most advanced guided weapon systems are doomed to rapid destruction. The practice of using drones in Iraq and Afghanistan indicates that in terms of flexibility of use, they are inferior to manned combat aircraft and helicopters. This is especially evident when you have to act in adverse weather conditions and under enemy fire. UAVs in service carry expensive high-precision ammunition, but often, in order to press the enemy to the ground, this is not enough, since unguided rockets and machine-gun and cannon armament are required. In this respect, the MQ-9 Reaper stuffed with expensive electronics is hopelessly inferior to even the light AH-6 Little Bird helicopters and the A-29A Super Tucano turboprop attack aircraft.
It should be understood that the information awareness of UAV operators is, as a rule, worse than that of the crew of a modern combat helicopter or attack aircraft. In addition, the response time to operator commands located hundreds or even thousands of kilometers from the battlefield is significantly longer. The military unmanned aerial vehicles in service, in comparison with manned attack helicopters and aircraft, have significant restrictions on overload, which directly affects their maneuverability. The extremely lightweight glider and the inability of drones to perform sharp anti-aircraft maneuvers, combined with a narrow camera field of view and significant response time to commands, make them very susceptible to even minor damage, in which a more durable manned attack aircraft or attack helicopter would return to its base without any problems.
However, the developers are constantly improving the percussion UAVs. Thus, the "Reaper" of the latest Block 5 modification is equipped with the new ARC-210 equipment, which allows the exchange of information over broadband protected radio channels with air and ground points. To counteract air defense systems, the upgraded MQ-9 Block 5 can carry ALR-69A RWR electronic warfare equipment in a suspended container or false targets such as ADM-160 MALD. However, the use of very expensive decoys and electronic jamming equipment reduces the weight of the combat load and shortens the flight duration.
It must be said that the Americans' concern about the high vulnerability of their UAVs from air defense systems is not groundless. Most recently, on October 2, 2017, the United States Air Force admitted that their MQ-9 had been shot down by the Houthis over Sanna. And this despite the fact that the Yemenis, opposing the forces of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, have practically no other air defense weapons, except for MANPADS and small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery. Although the United States has officially denied involvement in the Yemeni conflict, MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs have been deployed in Djibouti at Chabelley airbase for several years now, acting in the interests of the Saudis.
The high losses of American UAVs in the combat zone are associated not only with the armed opposition of the enemy. Most of the lost drones crashed due to operator errors, technical failures and adverse weather conditions. According to the official data of the US military department in Afghanistan, Iraq and other "hot spots" as of 2015, more than 80 drones were lost with a total value of about $ 350 million.
Only the newest MQ-9 Reaper, belonging to the Air Force, according to official American reports, 7 units have been lost over the past 6 years. But drones in the United States are used not only in the Air Force, so it can be argued with confidence that the list of Reapers shot down and crashed in flight accidents is much larger. In some cases, the Americans are forced to destroy their drones themselves. So, on September 13, 2009 in Afghanistan, the operator lost control of the MQ-9. An unguided vehicle flying towards Tajikistan was intercepted by an F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bomber and struck in the air by an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. It is reliably known that on July 5, 2016, the US Air Force Reaper made an emergency landing in northern Syria during a combat mission. Subsequently, the drone was destroyed by a specially organized air strike in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Islamists.
After in 2012, during operations in Afghanistan, it became clear that a picture transmitted from a UAV could be intercepted using relatively simple and inexpensive commercial equipment available on the market, the Americans did a great job of encrypting the transmitted information. However, many experts still have doubts about the ability of remotely controlled drones to operate over the battlefield in conditions of intense high-tech electronic suppression. Armed drones are ideal for operations against all sorts of insurgents who do not have modern anti-aircraft weapons and electronic warfare equipment. But they are not yet suitable for a "big war" with a strong enemy. UAVs of medium and heavy class are not capable of operating without satellite positioning navigation systems and satellite communication channels. It is known that during combat missions performed by the US Air Force MQ-9 UAVs in different parts of the world, they are controlled from the American Creech airbase in Nevada. Ground equipment deployed in the field is typically used for takeoff and landing from forward airfields. It is naive to hope that, say, in the event of a large-scale clash with the armed forces of Russia or the PRC, American navigation and satellite communication channels will function reliably in the area of hostilities. The solution to this problem is the creation of autonomous flying combat robots with elements of artificial intelligence. Which will be able to independently search for and destroy enemy armored vehicles, without constant communication with ground command posts and in case of blocking satellite positioning channels, carry out astronavigation or navigate the terrain according to the features of the relief. However, the main problem in this case may be the reliability of target identification on the battlefield, because the slightest failure in the "friend or foe" identification system is fraught with a high probability of striking friendly troops. While fully autonomous armed drones are not expected to appear. The leading aircraft-building powers are simultaneously developing unmanned and manned military aviation and are not going to abandon the presence of the crew in the cockpits of combat aircraft and helicopters in the near future.