The Swiss Air Force on Wednesday 28 September endured it third crash in three months, as a AS532 Super Puma crashed in the Gotthard area. Images on social media show a burning helicopter. Two fatalities were confirmed by the Swiss Ministry of Defense several hours after the accident. The crash follows that of an F-5 Tiger in June and an F-18 Hornet in August.
The cause of today’s crash is not yet clear, but it took place in a relatively flat area in the otherwise mountainous Gotthard region in Switzerland. The Swiss have been operating Puma and Super Puma helicopters for decades.
The crash of an F-5 Tiger on 9 June was the result of an collision with another F-5 of the Patrouille Suisse display team during an airshow over Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. The pilot ejected while his jet came down in a small lake.
The crash of an F-18 Hornet took place near Meiringen air base in central Switzerland. The pilot was unfortunately killed as his jet impacted the side of a mountain. The accident is still being investigated, but preliminary results say the aircraft was flying lower than was required.
It seems very unlikely the recent crashes are in anyway connected. Nevertheless, re-checking safety procedures may be a wise thing to do for the Swiss. The US Navy recently did a similar thing after a quick string of crashes with military aircraft.
Russia this week officially confirmed it has based Tu-22M Backfire bombers at Hamedan airbase in Iran for strike missions over Syria. Pictures show several Backfires being prepared on the ground in surroundings resembling those of the Iranian desert.
Backfires have seen use over Syria a number of times already, supporting forces loyal to president Assad in their fight against rebel forces. A number of videos showed up of the Backfires apparently ‘carpet’ bombing rebel positions, which raises fear of even more civilian casualties in war torn Syria.
Previously, the bombers flew all the way from Russia for missions over the area. Basing the aircraft in Iran allows for much shorter missions.
The basing of the bombers also means Moscow is getting a stronger foothold in the area, which wil be reinforced when the sole Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov supposedly arrives in the Mediterranean this Fall. The ship should bring Ka-52 attack helicopters in theater,m according to sources in Moscow.
The movements are also concerning in light of the flickering conflict in South East Ukraine, where Russian and Ukranian weapons and personnel are facing each other. Russia’s latest movement could be seen as a way to shield off the entire Black Sea from any Western militaries taking an interest in the Ukrainian situation.
The Iraqi Air Force’s Mil Mi-28NE Night Hunter fleet is now complete, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. That means that 15 of these dedicated attack helicopters are now operating from air bases and forward operation bases somewhere in the Southwest Asian nation.
Officially the aircraft, a product of the Mil design bureau and manufacturer Russian Helicopters, will be used for so-called “anti-terrorist operations”. In reality that means fighting the war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS / ISIL / Daesh) forces.
Sources in Baghdad say that some of the Mi-28NEs delivered earlier were enrolled in supporting ground forces in the Fallujah and Ramadi areas, where the Iraqi army is pushing back the ISIS troops. Some of the 28 Mi-35M Hind choppers have been deployed as well.
Reports say that this year alone six Iraqi Air Force helicopters were lost in combat, giving hopes to Russian Helicopters to deliver even more choppers to Baghdad in the future. Although the rotary wing lost may have been some of the six remaining Aérospatiale SA342 Gazelles or ten Bell 206s.
Just two weeks after the Turkish Government announced the start of the Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP) to build a fleet of multi-role T70 utility helicopters based on the S-70i Black Hawk, Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky has accepted the program’s prototype aircraft produced by its Polish subsidiary, PZL Mielec.
Sikorsky accepted the TUHP prototype aircraft from PZL Mielec during a ceremony on 22 June. The chopper is the 37th S-70i helicopter built in Poland. Among the modifications that PZL Mielec added to the aircraft are a rescue hoist, internal auxiliary fuel tank, cargo hook, Integrated Vehicle Health Management System, a blade de-icing system, and a rotor brake.
Early next year, Sikorsky will fly the prototype to Ankara where it will become the engineering development test bed for a new avionics suite being co-developed by Sikorsky and Turkish defense electronics company Aselsan. The two companies will use the helicopter to integrate, flight-test, and qualify the avionics suite, which is designed to the preferences of the T70 user community.
Contractual agreements approved by the U.S. and Turkish governments license TAI to build and deliver a total of 300 T70 helicopters (109 baseline + 191 options) to six Turkish agencies: the Land Forces, Air Force, Gendarme, Special Forces, National Police, and the Directorate General of Forestry. The first Turkish-built T70 aircraft will be certified and qualified for delivery to the Turkish Government in 2021.
Over the next two years, PZL will manufacture the first five cabin structures that TAI will assemble onto the first five T70 aircraft. PZL personnel also will provide technical and manufacturing assistance and training to TAI both in Turkey and Poland. The PZL facility is the largest manufacturing facility outside the United States owned by Lockheed Martin.
Turkey and United States have confirmed earlier agreements to let Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) build 109 TAI/Sikorsky T70 Black Hawk helicopters, the Turkish version of the S70i.
Both the US helicopter manufacturer and TAI have now activated the contractual agreements. The machines of the so-called Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP) will be produced over the next decade in Turkey. The Turks will even manufacture a 109 additional baseline S70i choppers to Sikorsky over the next 30 years, aimed for export markets in Southwest Asia, Central Asia and Africa.
Black Hawks to the forces
Of the 109 new Black Hawks to be rolling out of the factory in Turkish Ankara the coming decade the Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı, JGK) will get the most, with 30 helicopters. Each 20 T-70s will go to the Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri, TKK), the General Directorate of Security (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü, EGM) to be flown by the National Police, and the Ministry of Forest and Water Management (Orman ve Su İşleri Bakanlığı, OSİB). The latter will be equipped for fire-fighting duties. The Special Forces Command (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, ÖKK) will get eleven, the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) six. Finally, a pair of T-70s will go the Gölbaşi command unit of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT).
Co-develop the T70
Production at the new TAI assembly line will commence in 2018 with five kit aircraft shipped from the US. From assembly TAI will move forward to become a full production plant, including the local manufacturing of entire airframe structures and rotor blades. Alp Aviation, a Sikorsky joint venture, will precision-machine the dynamic components and flight controls and assemble landing gear and transmissions. Aselsan and Sikorsky will co-develop an enhanced digital cockpit known as the Integrated Modular Avionics System (IMAS); and Turkish Engine Industries (TEI) will build engines under license from General Electric (GE).
To facilitate the development and integration of the IMAS, Sikorsky will transfer to Aselsan a new S-70i helicopter to be utilized as the Prototype Turkish Utility Helicopter for the qualification of the new avionics system in 2019.
The first T70s are planned to be operational in 2021, with the final of 109 machines scheduled for delivery by 2026. The total program is worth 3.5 billion US dollars.
The government and defence services of Turkey already fly many older S-70 derivatives, with 106 with the Land Forces and 28 with the Gendarmerie. The Turkish Naval Forces (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri, TDK) ordering 17 new S-70B Seahawks back in 2006 to complement the seven it already had.