Miguel Candeal, marketing manager for ISR military aircraft at Airbus DS, told Shephard at the SOFINS special forces exhibition that the company was now finalising work on the integration of a new weapon system onto the C295.
The development of the weapon fit was undertaken at the behest of an undisclosed Middle-Eastern customer and delivery to the client is expected to take place in mid-2017.
The system comprises a pair of .50/12.7 mm heavy machine-guns mounted aboard the aircraft with one on each side firing through the rear fuselage doors normally used for parachuting. The weapons are installed on pintle-mounts which are bolted to the aircraft floor rails.
This system has been used instead of a palletised load as using the latter would have resulted in vibrations affecting the weapons' precision during firing. Specific protections have also been added to the airframe to protect it against the weapons' blast.
Each machine-gun is manually manned and does not feature any aiming aids other than the weapon sights.
As Candeal noted, this weapon system is a low-cost solution which can be fitted to any C295 aircraft.
Due to its simplicity and cost-efficiency, Airbus DS expects the solution to attract strong interest from other clients on the short term.
However, Airbus DS also has more ambitious plans for arming the C295. Candeal explained that the company has identified a growing trend amongst its customers considering the possibility of adding fire-support capabilities to their transport aircraft.
Indeed, Jordan received two CN235s modified as gunships by ATK with a side-mounted canon and sponson-mounted missiles and rocket launchers in 2014.
Candeal said the C295 offers better capabilities for the fire-support role than the CN235 as it is a larger aircraft, with 3m of additional cabin space, 50% more payload and a much longer endurance.
As the OEM, Airbus DS is best positioned to offer a solution for weapons' integration onto the C295, a fact which 'clients are very much aware of', Candeal explained.
With customers looking for heavier weapon fits for their aircraft, Airbus DS has begun conducting a series of studies on the possibility of mounting a 20/30 mm door firing canon into the cabin as well as guided rockets such as the Roketsan Cirit; air-to-ground missiles in the Hellfire or L-UMTAS range; or laser-guided ordnance such as the GBU-12 or Roketsan TEBER under four under-wing hardpoints.
The aircraft would be fitted with a pair of gimbaled EO/IR turrets, with the one under the nose being used for surveillance and designating targets for the laser-guided weapons while the one under the aircraft's fuselage would be used as an aiming device for the canon.
The entire weapon system's operation would be coordinated through the Airbus DS Fully Integrated Tactical System (FITS) and the possibility would remain of having the aircraft equipped with a full ISR suite, including a synthetic aperture radar should the customer request it.
Candeal explained that the complete development work integrating such an extensive weapons package on the C295 will only move forward after a contract was signed with a customer. Nevertheless, he highlighted that the company was moving ahead with the testing of new armed configurations to reduce integration leadtime and that a series of captive flight tests are slated to begin in the summer of 2017 to validate the C295 capability to carry missiles under its inner-wing weapon stations.
While he declined to name any of the potential clients for the system, he did mention that there are some strong prospects which Airbus DS is working on.