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MD Helicopters MD 540F Armed Helicopter Spotlighted at Heli-Expo 2013

Among the military platforms highlighted at this month’s “Heli-Expo 2013” was the MD 540F from MD Helicopters. Described by its manufacturer as an upgrade to the MD 530F, the MD 540F includes enhancements ranging from a six-blade, fully articulated composite rotor blade system to a more rugged landing skid built for heavier takeoff and landing weights.

In September 2012 the MD 540F participated in the U.S. Army’s voluntary flight demonstration (VFD) effort designed to allow industry to validate responses provided to an earlier Request for Information (RFI) for a possible Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) platform.

Summarizing the system’s performance during the September 2012 VFD element of the AAS decision process, Matt Swisher, director of military business development for MD Helicopters, offered, “The aircraft performed great. We had no significant issues with the aircraft mechanically or anything like that. We were able to demonstrate the performance that we stated in our [response to the government] RFI. In fact, the Army told us that it may have even been a little bit better than what we stated in our RFI.”

Swisher said that some of the performance projections involved extrapolation, based on the fact that the company plans to enhance the 540F with a new engine in the near future.

“We flew it with a ‘C30’ [Rolls Royce 250-C30] engine during the flight demo,” Swisher said. “But it’s going to be equipped with the C47E [Rolls Royce M250-C47E].”

The company expects to receive the new engine for integration “early next year.”

Although the VFD did not involve weapons firing, Swisher said that the entire flight demo was performed with the weapons platform installed.

According to a company announcement released during Heli-Expo, the aircraft completed the first phase of live fire exercises over the last few weeks.

Describing those exercises as “one milestone in a development plan to complete overall validation and eventual FAA certification of the new aircraft,” the announcement elaborated, “During the week of Feb. 25, the MD 540F was put to the test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Grounds to commence qualification of its weapons platform. The 540F is engineered to support an advanced, lightweight weapons platform with four stations. Various mixes of guns, rockets and missiles can be carried simultaneously. The aircraft successfully completed the first phase of live fire exercises, including fifteen engagements with M3P .50-caliber guns. Additional validation testing was completed on the L3 Wescam MX-10D sensor and the Mace Aviation weapons platform. The aircraft responded extremely well and demonstrated exceptional performance during hover, diving and running fire engagements. Subsequent weapons platform testing will be conducted later this year to confirm MD 540F performance and precision strike capabilities with laser-guided rockets and Hellfire missiles.”


Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...