That weight is a crucial limitation of aircraft efficiency is a truism. Although combat helicopters traditionally give up some manoeuvrability for protection, their transport brethren, supplying the front line with troops, ammunition and supplies, are often neglected in this regard, despite the fact they, too, come under hostile fire. Their utility and flexibility lend them to roles such as combat search and rescue (CSAR), medical evacuation and airborne C2 as well as medium lift supply: their protection is therefore of the utmost importance.
Given their vulnerability to small arms and automatic weapons fire, areas such as the fuselage belly, cockpit floor and sides, chin bubble, engine mountings, including transmission/tail boom and fuel compartments are all areas of concern when considering ballistic protection. Even modest improvements in protection can enhance aircraft survivability to a disproportionate degree.
Barriers to achieving simple solutions include the cost impact: several hundred thousand dollars per shipset in some cases. Armour also carries a significant weight penalty, affecting the aircraft’s performance and payload characteristics. In addition, structural changes can adversely impact aerodynamics as well as making re-certification of the aircraft a regulatory necessity.
In order to address some of these conflicting priorities, the simple solution of retro-fitting armour ‘kits’ can be adopted, modernising whole fleets of helicopters while maximising their utility for specific missions. Add-on armour kits can be fitted for missions such as CSAR, or removed for missions such as humanitarian or relief operations, thus maximising payload capacity.
Focusing on the challenge of providing efficient protection while minimising the weight burden, MKU has introduced 6th generation armouring technologies to the helicopter market. Use of the company’s pioneering POLYSHIELD V6 technology brings some of the world’s most advanced composite materials and techniques into play, reducing the specific unit weight of solutions by almost 40% in some cases. In addition, the company’s “Modular Schutz Technik” (MoST) system, which uses precision-engineered composite armour panels in combination with patented aero-grade attachment systems, can be fitted to existing helicopter structures without affecting the aircraft’s aerodynamics.
When MKU’s advanced protection solutions are applied to helicopters, they result in improved action radius, enhanced climb performance, improved engine performance, higher hovering ceiling and most importantly, the capability to ferry more troops in the degree of safety they deserve.