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DSEI 2021: Teledyne FLIR opens talks with New Medium Helicopter competitors

14th September 2021 - 11:47 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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An AW149 multirole helicopter fitted with FLIR’s Star SAFIRE 380-HDc gyro-stabilised EO/IR system. (Photo: FLIR)

Teledyne FLIR has started discussions with NMH airframers as industry awaits firm requirements to be released by the UK MoD.

EO/IR systems manufacturer Teledyne FLIR says it has entered into discussions with all four New Medium Helicopter (NMH) competitors in a bid to learn how the company can ‘best support’ airframer needs.

The UK MoD has not yet released NMH requirements to industry but the acquisition has already attracted interest from Airbus Helicopters UK, Leonardo UK, Lockheed Martin UK and Bell.

‘We are having dialogue with all of them,’ confirmed Roelof van der Spuy, VP Surveillance UK at Teledyne FLIR. ‘We are approaching talks from a point of view of asking “how can we best support you to be successful?”’

Speaking to Shephard on 14 September during DSEI 2021, he suggested that competitors could seek support from FLIR to convince the UK MoD that an EO/IR solution might be needed for NMH, as opposed to any talks where specific EO/IR solutions are offered by FLIR to industry.

Spuy noted that the RAF’s Puma helicopter, set for replacement under NMH, does not have an EO/IR capability.

‘I think the UK or any other government planning on buying a utility airframe has to think about versatility,’ he added. ‘I am convinced an EO/IR solution will be needed [for NMH], because you don’t know how mission needs will change in 10 to 15 years from now.’ 

Should FLIR systems go on to be selected for NMH, they would be produced in the US with all programme management and product support based in the UK, Spuy confirmed.

‘Whether we talk to Leonardo, Airbus, Sikorsky or others, it’s an open game and none of those companies will have any exclusivity with an [EO/IR] supplier, which I think is the correct thing to do,’ he explained to Shephard.

‘If an OEM is pursuing a particular programme where there are pressure points from a political perspective, a price perspective, a logistics supply perspective, it's staying in step with that, which [enables] us to be successful.’

FLIR’s Star SAFIRE 380-HDc gyro-stabilised EO/IR system is used on Leonardo’s AW149 multirole helicopter, an aircraft on offer to the RAF for NMH.

Weighing 45kg, the Star SAFIRE 380 fits under the nose of the helicopter and has six-axis stabilisation with 120x magnification optics for extended detection range, according to Shephard Defence Insight.

Sensor and geospatial data are also embedded within the systems digital video stream and an internal navigation capability can be used to support precise targeting.

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