NASHVILLE, Tenn.–MD Helicopters Inc. (MDHI) yesterday displayed its first new helicopter in 15 years, a single engine turbine armed helicopter, the MD 540F, which could be a candidate for a potential Army armed aerial scout.

The 540F is an upgrade to the MD 530F, with a six-bladed, fully articulated rotor blade system made up entirely of composite material and a more rugged landing skid built for heavier takeoff and landing weights.

“This aircraft is going to change the future for MD,” Lynn Tilton, CEO of MDHI told Defense Daily here at the Army Aviation Association of America annual conference.

“The helicopter was designed by the feedback and needs of our soldiers,” she said.

Tilton said the commercial and military markets have long sought an affordable, light, single engine helicopter that can perform exceptionally well at hot and high altitudes while carrying a larger useful load.

“The MD 540F will be that aircraft,” she said.

MDHI engineers have increased max gross takeoff weight and useful load dramatically, she said. This increase will allow the MD 540 F to carry a full avionics and weapons package while hovering at 6,000 feet/95°F, she said.

The MD 540F will be equipped with a fully integrated digital glass cockpit. Information will be displayed to the pilots on large, easy to read, multi-function color displays, and directly onto the pilot’s eyes using a sophisticated Helmet Display and Tracking System (HDTS).

The weapons system will include fixed forward firing rockets and guns, laser guided rockets, and Hellfire missiles. The Targeting FLIR with laser designator, coupled with the HDTS and laser guided rockets or Hellfire missile, will allow the pilot to easily locate and destroy hostile targets–day or night.

 “The 540F will be a lethal fighting machine,” said Tilton. “The 540F will carry much of the same punch as the heavier attack helicopters at a fraction of the acquisition expense and life cycle operation costs. Using precise aim points and laser guided missiles and rockets, the MD 540F will be able to destroy enemy armor and infantry positions with little collateral battle damage.”

The increased useful load will allow the armed version of the 540F to carry an advanced, lightweight weapons platform with four stations. Various mixes of guns, rockets and missiles can be carried simultaneously.

Benjamin Weiser, senior vice president business development and commercial sales for MDHI, said, “we see ourselves being very lethal.”

The system has an integrated fire control system with head tracking and continuous computed impact point (CCIP) that puts a circle on target, then allows pulling the trigger and the weapon goes, he said.

The 530F is an affordable choice, Weiser said, with “extremely low” direct operating costs per hour.

Development of the MD 540F continues and flight tests have begun. Certification is projected for the first quarter of 2013.