Arming the AW109s: the Easy Way

SHAH ALAM: THE Philippine Navy (PN) has taken the normal route or the easy way in weaponising or arming its AW109 helicopters unlike our own Malaysian Army. They simply used gun pods which is already certified for the helicopter by the manufacturer.

According to a Janes report, the two of the PN’s AW109s had been weaponised and are now ready for deployment on board its Pilar (Hamilton and Hero)-class frigates.

For the full story go here.. The Philippine Navy procured five AW109s, with two examples weaponised or armed.

Philippine Navy armed AW109s.
Philippine Navy armed AW109s.

According to the same report “The weaponised versions carry two 12.7 mm machine gun pods, each with launchers for three 70 mm laser-guided rockets.” It did not specify the type of gun pod but most likely it is the FN RMP LC.

The Philippine Navy AW109. Note the gun pods.
The Philippine Navy AW109. Note the gun pods.

From the FN website: The RMP LC is a self-contained airborne weapon system that includes a .50 cal FN M3P (1,100 RPM) combat-proven machine gun, 250-round ammunition box, firing actuator and cocking device in one casing, allowing outstanding performance in all environments. The FN RMP can also accept guided or unguided 2.75” rockets.

The FN RMP LC gun pod.
The FN RMP LC gun pod.

It is also likely the Philippine Army which also bought 8 AW109s will go the same route as its sister service when it come to weaponise their helicopters.

As reported before, the Army has also armed some of its AW109s. Instead with gun pods like the RMP LC, a number of the PUTD AW109s – at least six – are armed with a 7.62mm Gatling gun fitted inside the cabin.

A visitor posing with an Army AW109 LOH fitted with a mini gun at LIMA 2015
A visitor posing with an Army AW109 LOH fitted with a mini gun at LIMA 2015

The Gatling gun armed AW109s are now based in Semporna, Sabah as part of the security build-up in response to the 2013 incursion in Lahad Datu and the continuing kidnap for ransom activities. Apart from the AW109s, RMAF Nuri and Cougars operating in the ESSCOM area will also be armed with pintle mounted machine guns.

A Nuri armed with a 12.7mm machinegun during a visit by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammudin Hussein in late 2014.
A Nuri armed with a 12.7mm machinegun during a visit by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammudin Hussein in late 2014.

The Nuri will be armed with the 12.7mm machine-gun while the Cougars with FN MAG. Once RMAF Blackhawks are deployed to the area, they will also be armed with the Gatling guns.

By the way, I am not disparaging the Philippine Navy in any way for taking the easy way. Far from it, the easy way is probably the best thing in most human pursuits.

— Malaysian Defence

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About Marhalim Abas 1162 Articles
Shah Alam

26 Comments

  1. For those interested, one gets a good aerial view of the PN base at Cavite (on the port side) when the plane goes on approach to Manila. I have tremendous respect for the PN’s maintenance and support people. It takes a lot of ingenuity, commitment and improvisation to maintain ships that are more than 60 years old.

    Robert Kaplan has a new book out. In it he quotes a U.S. military official who says people laughed when the PN got so excited about getting ships that were laid down in the 1960’s but in actual fact it was an progress as it transformed the PN from a WW2 navy into one with 1980’s capabilities – a bit of an exaggeration but it has an element of truth.

    Marhalim, any idea why the army never went down the Giat (Nexter) 20mm pod and Zebrugge rocket pod route? I always assumed it was just a matter of time after seeing both on an A-109 at DSA 2006. I understand why there is a need to arm the A-109 but I have mixed feelings about it; especially since an armed A-109 may be misused for a role it’s not intended to perform, for want of anything better.

    Reply
    I believed they did not go down the 20mm gun pods due to financial woes back in 2007/08 period.

  2. The way Army and AF put weapons onboard their heli is different from Navy due to the fact that Navy helis comes from factory with gun mounts (thus certified) while its counterparts installed guns on their own without certification. Looks like this certification matter is not a big issue as long as nothing bad happen to those heli.

    Why go for gatling in cabin instead for gun pods for AW109?

  3. Well this is malaysia. The tak boleh land. Why put rockets on the 109. Very expensive. Just put the gatling and spray away. Cheaper. Hey. It got the job done in the movie predator

  4. Well, each MG system, forward fixed or pintle, has its pros and cons I suppose — flexibility, arc of fire, ammo, etc.

    MAF seem to favour door guns, perhaps due to their experience with them. Most likely the AFP opted for forward fixed pods out of expediency — they need armed helis fast but of course it could just be that’s their preferred way and they like the MG-missile mix.

    The only thing for me is, for the Phil Navy helis, they’ll probably work alone unless the two heli-embarked ships sail in company, and there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of ammo on the helis although there’s a lot of firepower. For Phil AF helis there’s less of a problem in terms of numbers in a sortie and the corresponding duration of fire.

    But it could change because according to Janes, the long term plan is to embark the AW-109 on the Makassar-class ships they’re getting from Indonesia.

    Reply
    Actually the Philippines have more experience with door and forward firing guns, they still are operating the Hueys and Little Birds, not the Navy but the Air Force.

  5. i believe Malaysia aw109 are being bought for a specific mission and due to that equipment on board making installing gun pod will put the heli too heavy? or what sort of reason i don’t remember, its what someone said the defense forum.

    Reply
    With the gun pods, the helicopter could still carry passengers, not six but at least two passengers, with the Gatling gun, it could only carry the gunner. The AW109 was certified to carry the gun pods by the OEM, dont you think they would have thought about the weight then?

  6. Well in Bolehland who pay commision more win it. Same goes with arming the nuri saga. The reason for not installing two mg for full coverage of suppresing fire is they need two aqm. As far as I know, aqm intended for assist the pilot in heli winching, landing, and assist in vertrep. Door gunner is picked from normal soldier.

    Reply
    You are firing blanks here. They could only install one gun on the Nuri, on the right side where the sliding door is located. Of course they could put two guns there but it will be FN MAGs not the Ma Deuce, due to its size. The other door is the entrance and exit on the left side next to the cockpit. of course you cannot put a gun there!

    The gunner on the Nuri is a member of the Paskau. I am not sure about the Cougar and the Blackhawks, they could get Paskau operators to be the door gunners as well.

  7. Firing off rockets vs machine guns or gatling guns, rockets once launched no control and more of a one off kind of shot..for guns , the operator in full control..bursts, directions etc ..guns are better ..

    Reply
    On the AW109, the Gatling gun is fitted for firing to the left, so the helicopter need to be in a constant left circle to get the gunner on target. With a box of 3,000 round ammunition, the Gatling gun will go Winchester in a three three-second bursts, probably half a circle! With forward firing gun pods, the helicopter pilots can choose from which angle they can attack.

  8. I have seen the Minigun in Mythbusters! it is one impressive weapon.

    Reply
    Yes its a doozy gun. But you need a lot of ammo box. Unlikely in the confined space of the AW109!

  9. Going for the gatling route requires us to strafe in circle. It gives a heavy support fire onto the squad if they ever need it. But seeing pods would go as well as the pilot can just chose the target instead of letting the helicopter to spin around.

    But still, all what we can do is look onto it\’s performance…

  10. I did asked previously why we didn’t purchase the Gun Pod when our A109 was already wired for such equipments.
    IF the gun pods was purchase together with the A109, our army would have been much more better prepared overall for Lahad Datu.
    For suppressive fire, I cannot understand how we end up with the gatling gun.
    A trigger happy door gunner would make the A109 toothless in second..

    I am glad Marhalim brought this topic up.

  11. Steelshot – ”IF the gun pods was purchase together with the A109, our army would have been much more better prepared overall for Lahad Datu.”

    No ………

    We faced many issues at Lahad Dato but lack of firepower was not one of them. The problem was having enough men to seal the bad guys in, sorting out the bad guys from the bona fide locals and actually finding and fixing them : NOT a lack of firepower. Even if we had 10 Hinds or Apaches at Lahad Dato it would have not made a key difference.

    Steelshot – ”For suppressive fire, I cannot understand how we end up with the gatling gun.A trigger happy door gunner would make the A109 toothless in second.”

    Gunners are trained to fire in bursts. There are merits in using a gatling over a GPMG and vice versa.

  12. I’m quite surprised too when they said we arm out a109s with gatling guns instead of the rocket pods, i think there’s a photo of our A109s with her rocket pods on.

    I personally think the gatling guns are more suitable on the Nuri or black hawk as they have more spaces in the chopper to store the ammo.

    It’s not like we are getting the attack helicopters, nor the little birds with rocket pods, or the Kiowa Warriors which can perform attack helicopter roles. Why don’t arm the A109 with the rocket pods so they could carry out the same/almost same role as a light attack helicopter?

  13. When the TDM bought the A109 as LOHs, I thought these helos were to be fitted with ISR equipment. Due to cost prohibitions,A109 were just miltarised camo version of the civilian type without the bells and whistles. It just a helo in camo carrying a pilot and co-pilot (certified to fly by a single pilot or flyer) with or without a QM. It can carry a max of 4 fully equipped soldiers to perform fast roping technique (without a QM). So if you add a Gatling gun in the cabin, together with the fuel.The helo can\’t carry much as the (single or twin?) engine(s) is(are) not powerful enough to lift all these weights. The decision to armed a Gatling gun in the A109 cabin is due to the experience of arming the Alouette with a Mauser cannon inside the Alouette cabin facing towards left during the 2nd Malayan or Malaysian Emergency. You can read it at Heli Escorte a web page written by a former RMAF WO or QM. Nowadays, ATK has produced Precision Guided Missiles (PGMs) from Zuni rockets or Free Flight Aerial Rockets which allows ordinary 70mm rockets to be guided to its target via laser beam pointing.

  14. I think what PN did with their AW109 is a good move considering their operational requirement and their light military budget. The Philippines are battling a well equipped insurgency that is well entrenched in their home turf. In this case the 109 with gun pods and rocket could pick a suitable angle of attack and quickly strafe enemy position, having not need to circle around would make the 109 less vulnerable to AA. Besides, because of its limited budget, the Philippines is still lacking in firepower on all its armed forces branches, so it needs a quick and cheap solution to bring firepower to bear. Malaysia on the other hand has enough firepower in case of a Lahad Datu style aggression, I can’t see in the foreseeable future that we would storm the bases of Sulu militia in Philippine. With the plethora of offensive equipments we have in our inventory, I don’t think that an addition of dedicated attack helicopters would provide a significant boost to our capability. Helis with pintle-mounted guns will suffice for providing cover fire for infantries or to intercept small boats and deliver warning shots, though the decision to mount the gatling gun on the 109 still baffles me.

    I agree with Azlan that to deal with Lahad Datu style aggression, we have ample firepower as it is. A Hawk can more or less do what attack heli can though may not as effectively. What we need more is a more human intel and psyops, just like how we handled the communist insurgency. Identifying friends or foe in case of ESSZONE is very difficult. I’m from Sabah and even I have difficulty distinguishing local Bajaus and Sulus from their Filipino counterpart. Some of them have been living in Sabah for a long time that they can speak local slang fluently. The demographics in West and East coast of Sabah is very different, West coast Sabah has more population of KDM ethnic group while East coast has more population of Bajau and Suluk. Even the Bajaus and Suluks from West coast looks different than their East Coast counterpart, which was due to inter-marriage. So knowing the enemy is a real problem.

  15. nuri its to big.just suitable for utility..very good for enemies target..i think A109 is better for gatling gun because its small..so,its giving more agility n faster than nuri..

  16. Well actually the guns on the helis are used for suppressive fire ie mainly to make the enemy keep their head down and disrupt their plans. This will then enable friendlies on the ground to execute certain movements, generally to advance, withdraw, or redeploy to a new position. They are not usually used to snipe ie picking individual targets unless they spot a target of opportunity — an MG nest or a mortar crew for example.

    Suppressive fire requires a certain weight of fire delivered in a short amount of time in order to be effective. Door guns allow a wide arc of fire while axially mounted ones have a narrow arc unless the pilot keeps on yawing his heli while discharging his weapon. The Fennec in Op Fajar would have a difficult time to point its weapon constantly on the pirates had it been armed with an axial gun.

    There are various tactics involved and heli operators are nothing if not creative — there’s a well known video of a Brit Apache flying a soldier sitting on the weapons mount in order to fly in and rescue a wounded comrade. AFAIK the helis usually do not fire in the hover, they keep moving to defeat AA fire. Helis also usually do not operate alone — for example, in line astern, while the lead heli is firing and flying in a circle, the trailing heli pours fire on the area surrounding the target. Axially armed helis may fly line abreast to increase the arc of fire, come in different directions, etc, etc.

    Like I said earlier, both mountings have their pros and cons. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to stop PN from fixing pintle guns and PUTD from using pods. Like Eric Clapton says, “It all depends.”

  17. Ahmad Zaki,

    There was never any intent to fit any ISR sensors on the A-109s. Our A109s actually came with quite a few “bells and whistles”. We spared no expense fitting them out; even taking into account that they are only armed with guns; they are the most high spec A-109s operated by any military user. They have IR jammers and a MAWS and have recently been fitted with new navigation displays.

    Before debating how the A-109s should be armed, how they should be employed and it’s limitations; we really should ask ourselves what did the A-109 originally start life as and after a military variant was made available. what kind of roles was it intended to perform as a lightweight helicopter?

    Anas,

    The decision by the PN to arm it’s A-109s is largely due to the fact that they can’t afford to do anything else at the moment and is also coloured by the fact that over the decades, the Filipinos have successfully employed armed aircraft in the counter insurgency role. Starting with the Huk rebellion in the 1950’s, the NPA rebellion (which like the Huks controlled large numbers of real estate in Luzon and had widespread support) and the later campaigns against the MNLF, MILF and ASG; armed aircraft have played a major role.

    A major problem we face is that we have closer ties and influence with the MILF but it is the MNLF which controls areas which are closer to Sabah, such as Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi (the traditional stronghold of the MILF is in Mindanao). As you know, our ties with the MNLF (a non Tausug dominated organisation) was strained after we deported Nur Misuari (he’s actually not Tausug but Sama). Unlike the MNLF the MILF is not bothered about the Sabah claim, mainly because the MILF is a non Tausug led and dominated organisation. The term “Sulu” is mainly used by foreigners: the locals call themselves Tausugs and many of the people we assume to be Tausugs are actually Sama, Meranau and various other sub groups.

    Another problem is that local commanders have very little control of their men. If a shabu influenced commander in the Sulu archipelago( who hasn’t been paid in months but needs to feed himself and his men) decides he wants to launch a raid into Sabah, there is very little his leadership can do to stop him. Most of the time, the leadership has no idea that local commanders have left to Sabah!

  18. I\’m not too sure and please correct me if I\’m wrong… For all I know Gatling Guns were mainly used during the American Civil War and the WW1. Is it still reliable and suitable for modern warfare?

    Reply
    Yes it is. It is IMHO that it is not suitable for the AW109

  19. Azlan,
    As I know, Nur Misuari’s father is a Tausug who came from a descendent of the Sulu Sultanate luminaries. Her mother might be Sama, but i’m not very sure of that. Sama people are more related to the Bajaus. Yes, it is very hard to distinguish between the various ethnic group there because the look kinda the same, but the Suluks has a very distinct dialect from the Bajaus and the Visayas, but still needs quite discerning ears to tell which is which. This is further exacerbated by the Spanish decision to collectively call Muslim Filipinos as Moro entirely dismissing the diverse and distinct ethnic groups that made up the southern society (again, white men folly).

  20. Ted,

    It traces it’s roots back to tdesigns by Hiram Maxim and Richard Gatling. In British service it was first used in West Africa. If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend Don Chiver’s “The Gun”.

    If gatling guns were not suitable for modern warfare then obviously they would not still be produced and many countries would not be using them.

    Anas,

    I have been to Mindanao several times and also to Basilan; to my ears the lingo sounds the same but Tausug (as you indicated) is different to the other languages spoken by the Muslim minorities in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. Having said that, all the languages/dialects, not only in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago but also in Luzon and the Visayas, have key words that are common to Tagalog. Not surprising given that Tagalog was basically invented by the Spanish to give their colony a common lingua franca and as you well know Tagalog shares many words thag are common to Malay; do.e have different meanings, e.g. “mahal” is “love” but can also mean “expensive” and “kita” is “you”. .

    The Spanish may have lumped the Muslims as “Moros” but the MNLF leadership also lumped everyone as “Bangsa Moro” to unite people and as a rallying cry.

  21. Aw109 loh helicopters are equipped with FLIR turrets but it is seldom seen as it can be fully retractable and the location of this FLIR turret is not as per most other helicopters.

    Even in the 1st 2 picture in this article, you can see the helicopters deploying their flir turret.

    The majalah 3 show on the putd also shows this system in action.

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_I0dsHd3sA6k/S9JwAMXwwBI/AAAAAAAAAAk/pUMISNFtqaA/s1600/17166_102778543083851_100000551182685_75958_6567746_n.jpg

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_En-sxfOkXP8/SyT5-Kz5j4I/AAAAAAAAEM4/hViSVWjEfhg/s400/A-109_KBMYAF.bmp

    http://www.deagel.com/library1/medium/2008/m02008030600006.jpg

  22. Ahmad Zaki,
    A190LOH is and always will be a rugged civil E model. The so called mission kit is of course some specific equipment and some flight pattern in the AP. Much like the SAR gets searchlight, winch and hold and search flight pattern loaded.

    nimitz,
    There is no such thing as “OEM” certified if is an afterthought equipment. Especially mil spec equipment which is usually carrying an experimental tag. This is the same reason why some equipment was transferred to civil agency without M reg stripped off. At best they are “OEM offering” or “OEM recognized”. OEM will support if and only if they get a piece of the cake.

    arif,
    Nuri is not too big, its just too delicate to do high torque dash.

    Marhalim,
    OEM thought about it but they offer it only because you ask for it. Chopper are simple. Range or payload, you decide.

  23. I’m surprised why our A-109s are not fitted with wire cutters, given that they often go low and in areas where there is wire. In the South African ones, the wire cutter is very visible, forward of the cockpit. A few years ago an AAC Lynx in the Czech Republic went down when it hit a wire; all died. Not sure if wire cutters would have made a difference though.

    According to a former pilot I spoke to, for low approaches at night, NVGs are used as FLIR is not suitable for this. There were plans to replace the monocular and monochrome NVGs with NVIS 9.

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