Deck landings: getting your adrenaline up

Ok, so maybe today doesn’t offer the most challenging weather for deck landings in an NH90 helicopter. But when you’re in that same NH90 and you’re facing a wind and rain swept deck in high seas, it will get you adrenaline running and you’ll be thankful for every last bit of training you’ve had. And so, the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) regularly heads out to sea for deck landings aboard Dutch navy vessels. Even on a perfectly calm day such as this one.

Related reading: Dutch NH90 – ready to run. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Location: the North Sea, aboard the Royal Netherlands Navy’s 108 meter long Ocean-going Patrol Vessel (OPV) Zr. Ms. Groningen. Job at hand: landing an eleven tonnes NH90 helicopter on the 16 by 30 meter landing deck  over the stern of the ship. Inbound for doing exactly that is Neptune 11, an NH90  from De Kooy air station near Den Helder, which is also the Royal Netherlands Navy’s home port.

Approach

As Neptune 11 approaches the ship, it becomes clear that these deck landings provide training to more than just the helicopter crew. It’s the flight deck crew who also are being put to work to gain experience in getting the helicopter down on the deck safely, which never is a routine task given ever changing winds and waves.

Suddenly, things are not so calm anymore. The flight deck becomes a flurry of noise, wind and rotor blades going around a high speed.The one braving the elements in particular is the flight deck officer, who has to withstand the gale-force downwash from the NH90’s main rotor.  Using forceful handsignals and clear commands over the radio, the flight deck officer direct Neptune towards the desired landing spot.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Vincent Kok)

Landing

Taking the flight deck officer’s directions and using other visual clues, the NH90 pilot seemingly without too much effort lands his helicopter aboard Zr. Ms Groningen and is immediately secured in place with chains. The NH90 is a hugely automated helo, but a landing like this mostly depends on pilot skills and smooth interaction between the helo’s crew and the folks on the flight deck.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Take off

The helo is not here to stay, however. Shortly after landing and after another bit of hand signalling, the NH90 takes off while creating more hurricane-force winds for the deck crew to battle. Throughout the rest of the day, this scene will be repeats itself many times as the cycle of approaching, landing and taking off continues.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Anti-submarine

The NH90 has been in Dutch service for seven years now, first in what was called a Meaningful Operational Capability since upon delivery not all helicopter were fully equipped for  all task. In their Final Radar Configuration, the helicopters are also capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The first ASW-qualified Dutch crew recently took part in large scale exercise Joint Warrior. in which the crew succesfully managed to find and track a Norwegian submarine.

And yes, during an exercise in the waters around Scotland, you are certainly glad that you’ve working on deck landings, adds NH90 pilot Tim. “As soon as you see the deck rolling, and you see the waves and the wind, that will certainly get your adrenaline up. You’ll be glad to know that you are properly trained and perfectly capable of landing that eleven tonnes helicopter on that ship.”

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming & editing by Vincent Kok – www.imagingthelight.com

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Vincent Kok)

 

Kazakhstan very happy with Airbus C295

The Kazakhstan Air Force is apparently very happy with the Airbus C295. With Summer on the horizon the Asian country ordered another two of these light medium-haul airlifters from the European aircraft giant.

The agreement, which includes a spares and support package, covers the final two aircraft included in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2012. Both aircraft will be delivered in the second half of this year and will take the Kazakhstan Air Defence Forces’ C295 fleet to eight.

Two C295 were already delivered in 2013, number three came in 2014, four in 2015, with five and six delivered after that.

Source: Airbus
Featured image: The first Airbus (f.k.a. EADS f.k.a. CASA) C295 of the Kazakhstan Air Force (Image © Airbus Military)

Boeing drops out of the Belgian race

Boeing has dropped out of the race to replace the F-16 in Belgian service. The aircaft manufacturer, which offered its F/A-18 Sper Hornet, claims the competition is unfair and the playing field ‘not even’. The move comes as nu surprise, since the odds in Belgium seem very much in favour of the Lockheed Martin F-35.

The Belgian government in Brussels has put aside 3.5 billion EUR to replace 54 F-16 with a total of 34 new jets. The first new fighter jet should enter service in 2023.

Still in competition are the Lockheed Martin F-35, Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon.  A final decision is expected in 2018.

Belgium will use the F-16 until 2028. Of the original European Participating Air Forces (EPAF) in the seventies, Belgium will use the F-16 the longest. The other participating countries – the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark – all already selected the F-35 as their F-16 replacement. Norway is expected to loose its F-16 by 2021, with the Netherlands following in 2023. Denmark should not be far behind.

F-35 dragchute tests start at Edwards

At Edwards Air Force Base in California, tests of the F-35A dragchute system have started, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Defense. Both Norway and the Netherlands have ordered the system, which helps slowing down on runways in bad weather, icy conditions or emergencies,  to be installed on their F-35s.

Norwegian F-35 pilot: ‘We are on track.’ (Image © Forsvaret)

The tests are performed with F-35 test aircraft AF-02, which is specially instrumented for this purpose. The tests at Edwards are designed to see how the jet behaves in the air with a fitted parachute fairing. The fairing is made of composite and metal materials and is mounted on the F-35’s aft fuselage. It houses the dragchute, which is deployed after landing if needed.

At Edwards, the actual chute will be tested on a  dry and wet runway. A second test phase is planned in 2018 at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, where tests will be conducted in winter conditions similar to Norway. Tests have already been performed in simulators.

Brake monitor

Norwegian jets will also feature a brake monitor in the cockpit, which will provide pilots with information on braking action on the runway. In November 2017, the first Norwegian F-35s will arrive in-country, and they are to be fitted with this integrated brake monitor. The testing of the brake monitor will however continue until spring 2018.

Norway eyes 52 F-35s, while the Netherlands is looking for 37 jets. According to Norwegian MoD, the dragchute system and brake monitor are also avaliable to other countries.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An impression of the drag chute pod on top of the F-35 fuselage. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

US Air Force F-35s head to Europe

UPDATED 15 April | The US Department of Defense on Friday announced it is sending a small number of US Air Force F-35s to Europe ‘as part of a long-planned training deployment’. The jets are to arrive this weekend and will most likely head to Lakenheath airbase in the UK, with Spangdahlem airbase in Germany as a secondary option.

Update 15 april | Six F-35s arrived at Lakenheath in the UK
at 1:45 pm local time, supported by two KC-135 tankers. Video of their arrival is below.

The F-35s – indications are eight jets are involved – will be part of the US Air Force’s 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. In August 2016, the wing was the first to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on the new jet. A deployment to Europe was mentioned on several occasions before, but the Pentagon never said when this would actually happen.

Lakenheath in the UK seems a likely destination, since the F-35 is to be based here also in the future.

US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command have said they will release additional information once the 5th generation fighter jets arrive in Europe,

The deployment marks the second time this year the US is sending its latest generation fighter jet abroad. United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs deployed to Iwakuni in Japan earlier this year.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: One of the F-35s is caught here while arriving at Lakenheath airbase on 15 April. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Eric Burks)