As the most common aviation platform operated by military and government agencies, helicopters are utilised extensively, in large numbers and on different types of missions. Tens of thousands of helicopters, such as the American-made Sikorsky/ Lockheed Martin Blackhawk UH-60, the Airbus ‘Puma’, and Russian Helicopters Mi-8/17/171 have proven to be robust, reliable and long-living platforms that have remained in service for decades. From an airworthiness perspective, these platforms are still completely functional, but their long life-span has led to a new problem. As the years pass and demand grows for new systems that can perform increasingly complex missions, the systems on these platforms no longer meet current demands .
To give these helicopters a new lease on life, IAI has developed programmes that upgrade them into modern and potent platforms. The company informed that it takes these incredibly reliable helicopters and turn them into modern, combat-ready platforms suitable for the 2030s. As per the company, such upgrades may include a complete overhauling of the platform, like the one carried out on the UH-60A/L for example. An avionics upgrade may also standardise helicopters fleets, and IAI also offers mission-specific conversion packages for helicopters. With the US Army replacing its Blackhawk UH-60 A/L models with the new UH-60M, plenty of helicopters are now available as US military surplus.
Such a package includes an avionic upgrade that converts the analog instruments and avionics into a modern ‘glass cockpit’, with a moving map display, command, control, and communications management systems, full mission planning, and management capability. With these systems, the modernised helicopter operates better in both day and night, safely pursues formation flight at night, and tightens cooperation with other aircraft or ground forces through improved situational awareness. Additionally, the package may include integration of weapons management systems and self-defence measures, with optional weapons carriage, improving the Blackhawk’s role in combat support.
IAI also offers avionic modernisation for other helicopters, such as the Mi-8 and 17, utilising its Integrated Avionic & Display System (IDAS). Based on an open system design and powerful Display and Mission Computers (DMCs), IDAS enables helicopter upgrade packages to be tailored to users’ specific requirements. Designed with modern modular open architecture utilising Mil-Std 1553B and other commonly used interfaces, the system integrates multiple colour displays and moving map systems showing advanced tactical situation pictures along with essential instrument readings. The cockpit and displays are compatible with aviator night vision system (ANVIS) goggles.