Category Archives: Helicopters

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 hand signals 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 with. Throughout the rest of the day, this scene will be repeated 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 successfully 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)

 

Costly King Stallion ready for low rate production

Lockheed Martin on Tuesday announced the CH-53K King Stallion is ready for low rate initial production. The Pentagon is looking to buy at least 200 of these heavy lift helicopters, which at a unit price of 85 million USD is almost as costly as the F-35. 

Aircraft maturity has been established with well over 400 flight hours achieved, Lockheed Martin reports. An initial Operational Assessment by the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in October 2016 fully established the ability of the King Stallion to achieve critical mission flight and ground scenarios in the hands of active duty Marines.

The CH-53K King Stallion provides heavy lift capability with three times the lift of the CH-53E that it replaces.  With more than triple the payload capability and a 12-inch wider internal cabin compared to the predecessor, the King Stallion’s payload has increased significantly in size and volume. The CH-53K also offers enhanced safety features, including full authority fly-by-wire flight controls and mission management that reduce pilot workload and enable the crew to focus on mission execution.  Other features include advanced stability augmentation, flight control modes that include attitude command-velocity hold, automated approach to a stabilized hover, position hold and precision tasks in degraded visual environments, and tactile cueing that all permit the pilot to focus on the mission at hand.

Further, the CH-53K King Stallion has improved reliability and maintainability that exceeds 89 percent mission reliability with a smaller shipboard logistics footprint than the legacy CH-53E.

The US Department of Defense’s need remains at 200 CH-53K aircraft, Lockheed Martin claims. The first six of the 200 are under contract and scheduled to start delivery next year to the USMC. Two additional aircraft, the first LRIP aircraft, are under long lead procurement for parts and materials, with deliveries scheduled to start in 2020.

The Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

Brand new Russian attack helo unit combat ready

Russia’s newest military helicopter unit has gone through its final testing phase to be officially “combat ready”. Equipped with the Ka-52 Alligator, the Mi-28N Night Hunter and the Mi-35M Hind the military attack helicopter squadron of the Southern Military District underwent its flight-tactical exercise near Kuban in the Krasnodar District.

The unit’s Ka-52s arrived late 2016 to reinforce Mil choppers and get a total combat strength of 20 rotary wing, plus reserves. Flown by 60 pilots and navigators combined, and supported by 150 ground crew and other personnel, the full squadron embarked on relocation exercises, tactical airborne assaults in mountainous areas as well as attack of armoured and soft targets using the onboard guns and missile systems.

The Russian Ministry of Defence is not elaborating too much on details other then saying 60 unguided missiles were fired on 20 different kind of targets.

Russian War games

Also at other locations in Russia, attack helicopter units are engaged in war games. An army aviation brigade in the Pskov region (Western Military District) was brought to the highest state of alert, flying 30 sorties a day for four days in row with its Ka-52 and Mil Mi-8AMTSH helicopters.

It is believed that in the case of an armed conflict Russia will be able to quickly attack and control large areas – for example cities like Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius or parts of Kiev – by flying its very mobile assault helicopter units in from forward operating locations in Russia or Belarus, supported by Russian Air Force combat fighter jets and jamming capability.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Russian Army Aviation Ka-52 Alligator during an earlier military exercise (Image © Russian Ministry of Defence)

Order for 268 AH-64E Apache Guardians

Boeing and the US government have signed a five-year, 3.4 billion USD contract through which the Army, plus a customer outside the US, will acquire the latest Apache attack helicopter at a significant savings to taxpayers.

This is the first multi-year agreement for the Apache E variant, also dubbed Apache Guardian. The army will receive 244 remanufactured Apaches while 24 new ones will go to the international customer.

“This agreement is great news for our army, our soldiers, the American taxpayers, our industry partners and numerous international partners,” said U.S. Army Col. Joseph Hoecherl, the Apache project manager. “It is a direct result of the professional dedication and diligent efforts by government and industry teammates to provide the much needed capabilities of the world’s best attack helicopter – the AH-64E Apache – at a fair and affordable price that results in year over year savings to the taxpayer. In the hands of our trained U.S. soldiers, the Apache’s technologies and resulting capabilities are essential to Army operations around the globe.”

Boeing builds the Apache in Mesa, Arizona. Deliveries of the E model began in October 2011. Seven customers outside the US have ordered this variant. Including this latest version, the US and 15 other countries have relied on the Apache during the past three decades.

“The Apache has made a tremendous impact in the defense of the nations that have flown it for the last 37 years,” said Kim Smith, Boeing Attack Helicopters vice president and program manager. “Our team understands the responsibility we have to deliver the best aircraft on time at an affordable price every day, and we are committed to maintaining that well established tradition of excellence.”

France: Airbus H160 as new tri-service chopper

France on Friday announced the selection of the Airbus H160 as the new helicopter for its  air force, army and navy. Around 170 new helicopters are needed to replace many dozens of older rotorcraft of various types. Deliveries of the H160, which currently is still under development, should start in 2024.

France is looking to replace many dozens of AS342 Gazelle, AS365 Dauphin, armed AS365 Panthers and AS555 Fennecs, plus SA330 Pumas.

The choice for the H160 is somewhat surprising, given the fact that Airbus only presented this new helicopter last year and is still busy developing the new chopper. The H160 includes many innovative features, including oddly shaped main rotor blades, which according to the manufacturer reduce noise and increase payload lift.