NorthStar Turns Commercial Helo into Gunship

407MRH Hover

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — U.S. helicopter pilots and maintainers couldn’t stop gawking at NorthStar Aviation’s new light-attack helicopter, the 407MRH, at the Army Aviation Association of America’s annual conference.

“This is amazing,” Spc. Jessica Sanford, 26, an unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer who previously worked on OH-58 Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopter, gushed on Tuesday at the event, known as Quad A.

The Abu Dhabi-based company took a standard commercial Bell 407GH helicopter and transformed it with state-of-the-art sensors, electronic avionics and weapons systems to create the 407MRH, according to Adam Gunn, the company’s technical director.

407MRH Instrument Panel

The platform can perform any number of missions — from light attack to close air support to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — thanks in part to the FLIR 260HLD electro-optical/infrared sensor beneath the nose, a four-station weapons set-up beneath the wings and an electronic mission-management system in the cockpit.

It also features night-vision compatible interior and exterior lighting, meaning those without night-vision goggles can’t see the illumination.

The price tag: $9 million. “Not everybody has $80 million to buy an Apache,” Gunn explained.

HellFire - M134

The company, which is owned by a member of the United Arab Emirates’ royal family, has a contract to supply the UAE armed forces with 30 aircraft. It has already delivered two production models and plans to deliver about one a month through 2016. (The model on display was a prototype that was flown from the company’s hangar in Florida.) It has received interest at the show from potential customers in Europe, South America and the Middle East, Gunn said.

Sanford, the soldier, said she liked the fact that there was so much room in the front of the cockpit. She once had to squeeze under the chin bubble compartment in a Kiowa to replace a radar component that failed. Another time, one of the maintainers had to crawl up on the top of the aircraft to replace a sensor payload.

“Everything is so clear and easy to access,” she said.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

24 Comments on "NorthStar Turns Commercial Helo into Gunship"

  1. But…we just canned all of our Bell 406s! (The OH-58 and the TH-57)

    Stop teasing us.

    That said, the Kiowas had less room because they had more hardware. If you just want to rain rockets on people, should've gone with the ARH-70. Though when the ARH-70 blew up its overruns, it was estimated at 14.5 M/unit (perhaps the Army cut the buy to make the program costs appear lower at skewing per unit costs?)

    Not sure how they're getting 9m if the ARH-70 started at 8.5 and went north from there.

  2. Seems like we need to keep our Kiowa's we can replace Apaches with them at a fraction of the price! Or maybe we should leave our helos alone. Time to can idiots like Gen Odienaro!

  3. It's not expensive enough for the DoD too buy. The DoD has a minimum $ amount for equipment.

  4. Can we fit these with unmanned flight control systems like they've been doing with the K-MAX and Blackhawk? An unmanned helicopter gunship would be awesome.

  5. I don't know about the OH-58 but the TH-57 had pretty terrible legs. I know the new version of the firescout (these are all the same model of helicopter in case you weren't aware) took care of that problem by filling up what used to be the back seat with full cells but I would imagine that room would be taken up in this helo by weapons hardware and I don't see any mounting point for an external fuel tank. Anyone know how much fuel this helo is supposed to carry?

  6. Northrop Grumman has a version of the OH-58 that is unmanned, as well as a version of the OH-6 .

  7. If someone is shooting at it is it a sitting duck? Does it even know it is being shot at? There is no pilot to notice and evade or counterattack. Doesn't seem like it could replace an Apache.

  8. Four questions:

    1. What does it have in terms of defensive countermeasures against RPGs and MANPADs?

    2. It's probably lightly armored. How much damage can it take?

    3. What capacity does it have for upgrades in weapons and sensors?

    4. Why are we not funding this? We could build about 9 of these for every Apache. In force, this could be an effective weapon against low end threats. terminating the enemy at a cheap cost to us.

    Also, for some reason I am just glad to see dual mini-guns back. I don't know why, but they are just a favorite loadout of mine.

  9. So glad to see a Middle East dictator branch out from oil to mass murder machines.

  10. That baby looks like it could deliver a lot of MRE's to the Ukraine.

  11. Ghee Wiz……

    They just put the thing together, eh?

    I'd bet the thing doesn't cost a BILLION each?

    This just PROVED how the American process of obtaining equipment is BROKEN….

  12. Bell already currently offers an armed commercial 407 called the 407AH. Its been to dozens of shows for the past 3 years.

    How is anyone at all amazed by this UAE-modded version of the EXACT SAME THING?

  13. I wanna wipe out everything in range of my minigun and Hellfires. I'm hungry for WAR.

  14. Nothing on this surprises me. Its fielded by people who don't hold life to dear, so they're not concerned with surivability. And if they do sell a bunch to potential adversaries of ours, so much the better, it doesn't stand much of a chance against a real military helo. Its like the say with ships, anything can be a minesweeper 'once'. You can be a combat helo once even though you should have remained a scout or lifeflight helo.

  15. David Powell | May 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm | Reply

    Airwolf~!

  16. Why would the U.S. Army buy a helicopter that costs only 9 million dollars? The taxpayers
    would then have money to spend on stupid things like healthcare, feed their children, keep a roof over their heads and stupid stuff like that. Besides, everybody knows that you
    need a high tech billion dollar helicopter to kill about 50 Taliban that"s left in Afghanistan , After all, let's face it the Taliban have AK 47 rifles and knives. Nuff said.

  17. Let's face it, the billion dollar Apache helicopter is well named. It scalps the tax paying
    public.

  18. I wonder if the administration has considered having several of this type aircraft in conjunction with Apache's. We could have many of these and more is sometimes better. I support any of these aircraft as they are basically to support boots on the ground which is what wins conflict.

  19. Look at it like this: what scares you the most, a couple of hawks or a very large swarm of ring tailed pissedoff hornets?

  20. looks like they'd be a good fit for the canadian armed forces. hear that steven harper , they're cheep…

  21. We should just call it an armed helicopter and leave it at that.

    It is probably minimally armored with a minimal electronics loadout and is skewed towards weapons delivery.

    If the Army wants something with top-notch radar or FLIR for long range scouting a la Kiowa Warrior or Apache: this is not it.
    If the Army wants something that can take hits: this is not it.
    If SOCOM or SOAR wants something small that can run and gun: this might be it.
    If the Army is thinking of adding more light helicopters for gunning down technicals and guys with small arms to take the load off of its more expensive Apaches: this might be it.
    If the Army needs a light observation craft, this could be it.

  22. It looks good and tough to me ,,good light chopper feared chopper.and there is a pilot flying it!?

  23. Looks like a Bell based copy of the Hughes Defender 500 civilian based light gunship. .

  24. Let's bring back the UH-1B/C gunships (if there are any left outside of a museum). We didn't have much armor (just the pilots), and it could take multiple small arms hits (including 50 cal), as long as it didn't hit any flight controls.

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