Aircraft Armaments

In the mid-to-late 1970s, aircraft armament development efforts were consolidated at Picatinny Arsenal. A variety of projects were carried out in R&D and became part of a major aircraft modification program. An example of Picatinny's involvement was the work done in integrating and demonstrating mast mounted sights using UH-1 and OH-58 helicopters. This influenced the formulation and execution of the Army Helicopter Improvement Program (AHIP) and resulted in the OH-58D version of the Kiowa Warrior helicopter. Mast-mounted sights allow acquisition and designation of targets for airborne and ground based weapon systems.

Examples of Aircraft Armaments Being Developed or Fielded by Picatinny


Picatinny's expertise in weapons, ammunition and fire control was apparent in the Apache helicopter program. Experts conducted comparative tests of gun candidates, developed the 30mm ammunition for the aircraft and participated in all phases of the AAH program. These efforts began with the initial development, continued with production and fielding in the 1980s and extended to reliability and fire control accuracy improvement efforts in the 1990s. AH-64 Helicopter Ongoing support includes malfunction investigations and software improvement efforts. The AAH, renamed the Apache Attack Helicopter (AH-64A), includes the M140 Armament System consisting of a turreted 30mm M230 Chain Gun, capable of firing 30mm M789 HEDP (High Explosive Dual Purpose) and M788 TP (Training Projectile) rounds, the Aerial Rocket Control System (ARCS) and the Integrated Helmet and Display Sight System (IHADSS). Two Picatinny-led R&D efforts can be seen on the newest version of the Apache, the AH-64D Longbow Apache. The Integrated Air to Air Weapon/Precision Aircraft Armament Control Experiment (INTAAW/PAACE) resulted in new fire control equations which give the AH-64D air-to-air gun firing capability. The development and demonstration of an automatic uploader, resulted in changes to the way ammunition was delivered to the field (bulk strip) versus linked, and yielded considerably reduced upload times.

The RAH-66 Comanche is the primary development program in the Army's aviation modernization plan to transition to an Objective Force. It will replace the current fleet of AH-1 Cobra and OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and supplement the AH-64 Apache in attack helicopter battalions. The Comanche is specifically designed for armed reconnaissance missions, light attack and air combat. Picatinny's role in developing the Comanche started in the early 1980s with concept exploration and requirements definition. This led to conducting various gun systems trade-off analyses to compare system weight, stow load, and lethality in operational scenarios against current and projected threats. Picatinny provided continuous engineering support during all phases of the design, development and testing of the 20mm Turreted Gun System (TGS) which was designed specifically for the Comanche helicopter.

Hydra 70 Rocket System (2.75-inch) The Hydra 70mm rocket is by far the most common aircraft-launched rocket used by U.S. forces against material, armor and personnel targets. More than 40 million rocket motors, warheads, ordnance components and electronic systems for Hydra 70 air-to-air and air-to-ground applications have been produced since 1965. First employed during the Vietnam War, the rocket has since been re-engineered with a new rocket motor to give the munition increased range and enhanced accuracy. The resultant system includes a family of 2.75-inch warheads and fuzes; practice, illumination and smoke rounds; and fire and control systems developed by the engineers at Picatinny. The Hydra 70 is used by all branches of the service.

Picatinny has long been the acknowledged leader in developing shaped charge warheads of all sizes. They developed large-scale warheads for missile applications such as Hellfire and used the same techniques to produce 20, 30, and 40mm applications throughout the Army. Most important, Picatinny designers understood the power that computer modeling could bring to the design and development process and put it to work to develop more lethal shaped charges that could be applied to smaller weapon systems. Adapting the best technologies from one program to grow another is one of Picatinny's most enduring strengths.