The growing need for reservation systems for helicopters protecting crew members and passengers from small-arms fire weapons, driven by recent and current conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Central Asia, with developers trying to make them as easy as possible.
Helicopter booking, more accurately defined as adding bulletproof components to protect crew and passengers when flying in conflict areas, has always been a compromise between installing an additional security feature and adding weight and, accordingly, reducing the payload. Mass is always a major factor, especially when working at high altitudes, where engine performance deteriorates due to the corresponding lack of oxygen. Due to the nature of modern counterinsurgency operations, helicopters, especially those that carry troops, usually fly at an altitude of about 1000 meters or less, depending on the type of aircraft and tactical requirements. This makes them vulnerable to various ground weapons, from single-shot rifles to specialized large-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns, which are easily transported by rebel groups and may appear in the most unexpected places at the most inopportune moment. Such weapons in past conflicts, as a rule, consisted of a family of towed 14,5-mm anti-aircraft machine-gun systems and Russian-made 12,7-mm machine guns DShK. If such weapons are available, air support in the form of attack helicopters or fighters, usually caused to neutralize the threat, is difficult to obtain, since it is difficult to achieve an acceptable level of ballistic protection against weapons of such calibers, especially when it is reinforced by the damaging effects of ground-to-air missiles. launched from man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
The American company Armor of America has extensive experience in developing helicopter reservation systems, including protection kits for the Mi-17 of the Pakistan Air Force
Typical ballistic protection systems (SBZs) are traditionally made of high-density (suitably heavy) materials that provide protection, but add considerable weight to an aircraft. In recent years, the task was to get the same or better protection, but at the same time use new composite materials that are significantly lighter and more compact. Nowadays, more and more of these lightweight composites are emerging, which makes it possible to increasingly integrate solutions based on them into helicopter and aircraft circuits. “The main adversary of the helicopter's ballistic protection system is always its weight, so we constantly conduct research and development work, create new materials and optimize technological processes in order to reduce the weight of our solutions,” said Nick Baird, director of the British company Permali Gloucester. For many years of its work, the American Army Aviation and Missile Research Center (AMRDEC) has accumulated vast experience in developing ballistic protection for a number of helicopter models, especially for Boeing CH-47 Chinook transport helicopters and medium-sized multi-purpose helicopters Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk family . At the Center, much attention was paid to the development of new versions of the Hybrid Enhanced Ballistic Protection System and Multi-Hit Transparent Armored Seams for the previous CH-47D model and the CH-47F model that replaces it. In order to minimize the mass of the sets, the emphasis in the development was on the use of composite materials, while they provide protection from small arms fire up to the caliber 7,62 mm. On the CH-47D / F helicopter, a new set weighing about 1500 kg allowed to reduce the weight of the SWOD by 909 kg. A complete CH-47D / F helicopter HVAC will typically include cockpit and cargo cabin floor protection, plus side panels along the sides, as well as armored glass systems with multi-impact characteristics for the Multi-Impact Transparent Armor System window. A similar mass reduction was achieved for the UH-60 helicopter SBX. In this case, in comparison with the existing SBZ, it was possible to reduce the mass by about 230 kg.
Permali Gloucester Production Line
The reduction in the weight of the SWOD can occur not only through the use of lightweight materials. “Another key direction of development is the development of ballistic protection of complex shape. Traditionally, helicopter armor panels were flat, but we can optimize the installation of armor on the platform through the production of molded or profile panels (composite and ceramic) that increase protection and reduce weight. In Europe, our ballistic protection solutions are integrated into helicopters operated by Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, ”said Byrd.
As a vivid example, the extra mass of the SSWS created problems for the helicopters of the international coalition in Afghanistan, since they very often had to fly at high altitudes. Even the main coalition bases were at decent heights, for example, Bagram airbase in eastern Afghanistan stood at an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level, while Camp Bastion / Shorabak airbase in the south of the country stood at an altitude of 855 meters above sea level.
After the introduction of the British contingent in Iraq (2003) and in Afghanistan (2001), there was an urgent need to protect transport helicopters CH-47D (British designation NS Mk.2 Chinook). Under the urgent operational needs program for 2003, Permali Gloucester was selected as the contractor for the delivery of the Special Purpose Protection System for this helicopter, as it had extensive experience in the field of composite materials. A tactical and technical assignment for development and certification in the shortest possible time of the SBU was developed, which could protect the cockpit, the cargo compartment and the ramp. Considering the role that CH-47D helicopters had to play in supplying remote bases manned by the airborne regiment after its deployment in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan in 2006, protection of these zones became vital. Upon arrival in the country, the landing regiment was divided into small groups that were deployed at seven main sites, known as "platoon houses." Unfortunately, the small size of the regiment (about 600 fighters) meant that he was seriously limited in his ability to conduct planned operations, since Taliban fighters could not resist the temptation and concentrated in large numbers around these British fortified camps. The eight British CH-47D helicopters deployed at that time were used daily to supply these outposts, often firing from the ground at them, because they were forced to land to unload food and ammunition and evacuate the wounded. Often, in order to accomplish a combat mission, one had to call fire support in the form of attack helicopters Boeing / AgustaWestland AH-64D (the British designation Apache AH.1).
US Army UH-60L Black Hawk and CH-47F Chinook helicopters simultaneously fly from an airfield in southeastern Afghanistan.
The Permali company subsequently delivered the SBK for the CH-47D / F helicopters of the Netherlands Air Force and, together with Boeing, developed several different versions of similar systems for other foreign customers, Byrd explained that the nature of the operational deployment does not affect the types of ballistic protection. “We do not see any changes in requirements due to the type of military campaign. Requirements, one way or another, are always associated with restrictions on the mass, so there is a limit on the level of protection that a helicopter can accept. For passengers in the cockpit, as a rule, protection from small arms fire, and for pilots protection of a higher level (up to heavy machine guns). ” Baird noted that the ballistic protection does not fit into the concept of “one design fits all”, arguing that “our ballistic protection for helicopters is not interchangeable, for each type of aircraft it is different: the integration with the airframe is too individual and specific ... Armor panels, in which hit occurred, usually not subject to repair. Our panels, as a rule, have "multi-impact" characteristics. This means that they are able to stop a variety of bullets from entering and to maintain their structural integrity within reasonable limits. In some circumstances, a damaged panel can be left on the helicopter (with a limited level of protection) until the panel becomes available to replace it. ”
Lightweight one-piece side door panel to protect the shooter. TenCate Advanced Armor makes extensive use of composite materials in its products.
The Iraqi army is currently armed with 25 light multipurpose Bell 407 helicopters, some of which are used in operations against the Islamic state (prohibited in the Russian Federation), as the country seeks to squeeze them out of the last strongholds. These helicopters are distinguished by anti-bullet protection of the cabin floor and crew seats. In the 2013 year, when Bell 407 helicopters were delivered to the Iraqi army, Aeronautical Accessories, a division of Textron, announced it would supply sets of pre-fabricated fuel tanks and a passenger protection system for these machines. The kit includes protection of the front, main and auxiliary protected fuel tanks.
Aeronautical Accessories, a division of Textron, supplied protective fuel tanks and ballistic protection for Beli407 helicopters acquired by the Iraqi army
SBK for the Bell 407 helicopter was developed by LifePort, a member of Sikorsky at that time. A lightweight system designed to protect the crew and passengers is covered with the LifeGard brand coating, which effectively seals and protects the armor, thereby increasing its service life; in addition, it allows all surfaces inside the cabin to be completely non-slip. This SBR is made of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber and armored steel, which makes it possible, with a relatively small mass, to provide acceptable ballistic protection and crew comfort. It is certified in accordance with the first level of protection of the 0108.01 standard according to the classification of the National Institute of Justice (USA), which determines the ballistic protection with multi-impact characteristics that can withstand 7.62 mm bullets with all-metal shells.
According to a report by Research and Markets, the global ballistic protective materials market in 2015 was estimated at about $ 8,8 billion, with an expected annual growth of 2022 percent by 5,2. Although the first places here belong, of course, to individual ballistic protection and ballistic protection of vehicles, nevertheless, there is a great need for ballistic protection of aircraft. For example, the Indian company MKU Airborne Systems, which manufactures security systems for aircraft and helicopters, is qualified in accordance with the American Standard AS-9100 of the Society of Automotive and Transportation Engineers, which allows the design and development of lightweight security systems for aviation. The company claims that its protection can be installed on board the aircraft without modifying the existing platform. MKU supplies protection systems for the crew seats, floor and walls of the main cockpit and protection systems for other vulnerable areas, such as the lower glazing of the bow and the arrow in the doorway. In 2014, she introduced a new product called Polyshield V6, developed jointly by India and Germany. The company claims that this new armor provides a weight reduction of about 40 percent, which translates into additional carrying capacity of a helicopter equipped with this armor. “The sixth generation technology uses the most advanced materials and latest manufacturing processes to produce very lightweight armored panels.
MKU offers several improved helicopter safety kits for helicopters. Among them is the Polyshield V6 system, which the company began to produce in 2014
According to the director of the MKU company, Mr. Gupta, the new lightweight panels add just 12 kg per square meter. "Since the mass is one of the most important parameters that directly affect the characteristics of the helicopter, this development is of great importance." At the presentation of the Polyshield V6 ballistic protection at the Aero India 2016 exhibition held in Bangalore, Gupta said that his company is capable of supplying protection systems not only to the Indian armed forces, but it can also supply the SBZ for various airplanes and helicopters, including Russian multi-purpose transport helicopters Mi-8 / 17; military transport aircraft C-130; Pilatus PC-6 turboprop family; CH-47D / F Chinook helicopters; VO-105 light helicopters and the UH-60 Black Hawk multipurpose helicopter family.
The American company Armor of America has developed a reservation kit for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter
Australian company CCA Protect has delivered ballistic protection for helicopters CH47D / F and UH-60 of the Australian and New Zealand armed forces. The SSA has all the capabilities to quickly produce an SBU for aircraft, but it always keeps the stock of components in order to shorten the production cycle to a minimum. Over the past 35 years, the American company Armor of America has supplied booking kits for more than 300 military and civilian helicopters from most well-known manufacturers. The company uses computer-aided design when developing kits and therefore can customize them for any helicopter of any modification and any operator. The main areas covered by the mounted armor are the floor and walls of the cargo compartment, the cockpit, the crew seats, the location of the gunner and the walls of the engine compartment. Finally, TenCate Advanced Armor uses composite materials extensively when building its SBX, paying particular attention to the ability to quickly install and remove ballistic panels.
Australian company CCA Protect (Combat Clothing Australia) is engaged in the reservation of transport helicopters CH47D / F Chinook armed forces of his country
It is unlikely that the demand for higher levels of helicopter protection with a relatively small increase in mass will decrease in the near future. Since its first mass use in combat by American forces in the Korean 1950-1953 warrior, helicopters have been deployed regularly to support counterinsurgency operations, as well as in traditional combat operations. Helicopters will continue to be actively used in conflicts of all types, therefore the threat posed by these aircraft to small arms is unlikely to diminish.