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MD Helicopters Unveils Drone-Launching Attack Helicopter


MD Helicopters Unveils Drone-Launching Attack Helicopter


American aerospace manufacturer MD Helicopters just unveiled its latest MD 969 Twin Attack Helicopter at a military trade show in Nashville, Tennessee.

In the rear of the MD 969 fuselage a munitions guiding system pops out to deploy seven payloads ranging from powered missiles to small drones that could carry out their own missions independently from the copter using a Common Launch Tube, or CLT, which can accommodate a wide variety of payloads, including small drones.

CLT-maker Systima Technologies customized the system for the MD 969 which was showcased at the Army Aviation Association of America’s 2019 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit on Apr. 14, 2019.

Lynn Tilton, MD Helicopter’s CEO, said in a press release, “Powerful, agile and elegant, the MD 969 is first and foremost an advanced twin-engine light attack helicopter that delivers impressive endurance, speed, maneuverability, and unmatched safety,” adding,  “With the integration of this innovative and adaptable Common Launch Tube System – a capability not currently offered on any light attack helicopter – the MD 969 will be a true force multiplier; creating the performance and capability benchmark for future twin-engine light attack helicopter advancements.”

The CLT launcher for the MD 969 mounted in the helicopter’s main cabin means it could be re-loadable in the flight, too. The extra loaded tubes however would also limit the space available inside for other systems.

The MD Helicopters put on display at the Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit had tubes marked as if they were loaded with seven of Raytheon’s AGM-176 Griffins. Functioning as powered missiles or unpowered glide bombs these weapons feature a multi-mode guidance system laser spot homing capability or even hit a specific set of coordinates using its GPS-assisted Inertial Navigation System giving it the ability to engage moving vehicles or strike fixed targets, even in poor weather.

Sistema has been offering these tubes as a common launch mechanism for various payloads from both rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, including drones, for almost a decade. The tube can serve as a way for aircraft to deploy small drones, such as Raytheon’s Coyote, in mid-air.

According to the company’s press release this capability of the new CLT weapon system will enable  the MD 969 to deploy unmanned aircraft “provide increased situational awareness for both ground and air-based war fighters” and that this “will be a game-changer for light attack helicopter operations,”.

As with all the other variants of the Explorer, the MD 969 uses MD Helicopter’s No Tail Rotor (NOTAR) system, which allows for quieter operation, eliminates the danger of the tail rotor hitting something during low-level flight, and reduces the overall size of the helicopter’s tail for better operations in constrained spaces.

The light attack helicopters also a modular, open-architecture glass cockpit that is customizable to meet customer demands and can readily accept upgrades and improvements in the future.

CLT launchers could well become an option for various helicopters, as well as fixed-wing aircraft.

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Cite this article as: Vidi Nene, "MD Helicopters Unveils Drone-Launching Attack Helicopter," in, April 19, 2019,

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