Helibras flew the first upgraded Brazilian Army Eurocopter AS550A2 Fennec (EB-1019) at its factory in Itajubá on 19 December 2013.
Another three aircraft are already inside the Helibras plant for the modernisation that includes upgraded avionics, autopilot, new radios, new NavCom mission equipment, new seats, new ballistic protection and new weaponry options (side-mounted, f.e. missile launchers) to increase is light attack capabilities.
Clearly visible on the released press photo of the first flight of the modernized HA-1, the Fennec’s designation in Brazilian military service, is the almost complete disassembly of the chopper Helibras undertook as first step in the machine’s upgrading process. During the test flight the Helibras crew checked all basic functions. The chopper will then return to the workshop for the paint job and final upgrades in order to clear military certification.
The first of the new Fennecs is expected to re-entry Exército Brasileiro service in April 2014, with the other three currently at Helibras following later in the year.
Helibras has been contracted to upgrade a total of 34 Brazilian Army helicopters, comprising of 15 HB350L1 Esquilo light utility helicopters and 19 HA-1 Fennecs. The last modernized chopper is planned to be back on the job in 2018.