Avionics upgrade extends AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopter’s life and mission capabilities


Flight testing is underway on the modified Royal Jordanian Air Force AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopters at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Huntsville, Alabama.

Northrop Grumman and Huntsville-based engineering firm Science and Engineering Services (SES) have significantly modified the AH-1F/S Cobra attack helicopters used by the Royal Jordanian Air Force to extend their life by at least 20 years.

As the average age of aircraft inventories rises, military services worldwide are increasingly embracing the cost-effective solution of modernizing existing platforms as an alternative to purchasing brand new aircraft.

The helicopters were rewired and reconditioned by SES to ensure their quality and integrity. Meanwhile, as the avionics systems integrator for the helicopters, Northrop Grumman is overseeing the design and incorporation of upgraded avionics.

The aircraft avionics received a digital conversion via Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Mission Equipment package (iMEP), which includes a commercially available FlightPro Gen III mission computer, a suite of LCD multifunction displays, an embedded software digital map and navigation controls.

“By providing a highly adaptable mission equipment package and critical integration support, we are reinvigorating older platforms with the capabilities of modern-day attack helicopters,” said Robert Fleming, vice president of programs, land and avionics C4ISR division, Northrop Grumman.

“Because of our open-architecture approach to avionics solutions, the increases in capability that we are providing on this contract can be delivered to other customers around the world.”

The first modified AH-1F aircraft has been shipped to Jordan for Weapons Testing and Final Acceptance by the Royal Jordanian Air Force.

This program marks the first global customer to modernize the avionics equipment on the AH-1F/S helicopters since their production during the early 1980s. Northrop Grumman’s baseline configuration can be customized through rapid software-only updates, as an alternative to the lengthy traditional model of upgrading hardware. The mission equipment package cockpit features a flexible software package designed to be implemented across multiple platforms.

Additionally, the mission equipment package’s integrated design and lightweight components offer a significant weight savings of nearly 300 lb (136kg) when compared with the current systems installed on the Jordanian AH-1F/S.

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About Author


Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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