Window shopping again, or more than that this time? After several failed attempts and growing friction with suppliers, Poland is having another go at beefing up its helicopter capabilities. The country is looking for eight anti-submarine choppers plus another eight helos for use by special forces, the ministry of Defense in Warsaw said on Monday 20 February.
Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Lockheed Martin have been asked to come up with bids. The new choppers should replace ageing Mi-8 Hip and Mi-14 Haze helicopters that have been in Polish services for decades already, dating back to Eastern Bloc-times.
For Airbus Helicopters, this newest Polish tender will breng back the headaches that came with the selection of the H225 Caracal by Poland back in April 2015. After much hassle, that 3 billion USD deal was finally scrapped last year. Lockheed Martin (after taking over helicopters manufacturer Sikorsky first) then seemed to have the best cards for a Polish helicopter deal. However, that too appeared to be window shopping in the end.
So that’s 2016 almost over and done with. This past year saw military aviation headlines wizz by in a record and sometimes worrying tempo. Donald Trump’s pending presidency along with Putin’s neverending desire to show Russia’s potential will decide the pace for 2017. But for now, let’s look back at a year that wothout a doubt had it’s moments here at Airheadsfly.com. And for all readers: thanks for doing so and a happy new year to you all!
The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford saw the F-35 for the first time. But this supposed star of the show was outstaged by the fabulous F-22 Raptor. Seeing is believing.
Early in the year, we flew the Airbus Helicopters UH-72A Lakota helicopter, courtesy of the US Army in Germany. They come in green but also in this wild combination of colours, which stands out against the German countryside…. like a bruised banana. Because that’s what these machines are nicknamed.
A Lightning in blue skies. Early June, we boarded a Royal netherlands Air Force KDC-10 tanker aircraft for a sortie alongside the F-35A Lightning II over the North Sea. It’s in the air where the beast becomes a beauty.
A beast, that is also what this Eurofighter Typhoon was at Fairford in July. Fully tooled up and piloted by BAE Systems test pilot Nat Makepeace, this jet gave all other Typhoon diplays at the same airshow – and there were plenty- a run for their money.
Airheadsfly.com was also on scene on when both Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) touched Dutch soil for the first time on 23 May 2016. The weather did not cooperate in any way, but as both jets came to rest and festivities ended, all was well. “An awesome experience”, recounted one of the pilots.
Between 21 February and 4 March, Portugal was the stage of annual exervise Real Thaw. Our contributor Jorge Ruivo was there to provide you with some much needed burner action. These burners belong to a US Air Force F-15C Eagle.
So yeah, of course our flight in the Leonardo Aircraft M-346 Master has to be in this. With hundreds of pictures taken, it’s a pity that we can show only a small selection. Here’s one of formation leader Cobra 1 over a fine turqoise Italian coastline.
Turkey made a lot of news headlines this year. And ok, technically it may have been 2015 when Dirk Jan de Ridder took this shot of two Turkish Air Force T-38 Talons. But we sure were glad to bring it to you in 2016 as part of a feature story on pilot training in Turkey. And given the fact that a lot of Turkish fast jet pilots were fired from duty after the failed coup, there’s a lot of training of new pilots to do.
The F-35 program celebrated major steps in 2016, such as the Initial Operation Capability within the US Air Force, but also the delivery of more aircraft than even before, including new jets for Israel and Japan.
There were setback also: insulation problems kept many jets grounded for weeks, while Canada opted not to buy the F-35 for now. Last but not least, president-to-be Donald Trump started taking swings at the program’s costs. And yes, development of this jet is expensive and still has some way to go – but it will get there and it will be impressive. And perhaps prove necessary.
Airbus Helicopters on 22 November announced it has delivered the last of 15 H135 helicopters for the Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS) for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), completing on-time deliveries of the full fleet. The whole fleet of 15 helicopters was manufcatured at the Airbus Helicopters production plant in Donauwörth, Germany. Airheadsfly.com visited the site earlier in 2016.
Under the JP9000 Phase 7 HATS project, a new joint helicopter training program for Navy and Army aircrew is to utilise the 15 EC135T2+ helicopters, along with flight simulators and a new flight-deck equipped sea-going training vessel. Boeing Defence Australia is the prime contractor for the new training system, partnered by Thales Australia who supplies the flight simulators and synthetic training devices.
“Airbus Helicopters is proud to know that Boeing has accepted now all 15 of their new H135s, on time and on budget”, said Peter Harris, Head of Governmental Sales for Australia – Pacific. “Following contract signature in November of 2014, and in the space of only two years, we have trained the initial cadre of Boeing and Commonwealth aircrew and technicians and all 15 aircraft have now been accepted”.
Boeing’s HATS Director Terry Nichols said that the Boeing team is very happy with the performance thus far of the H135 and commended Airbus Helicopters for their on-time delivery.
Airbus Helicopters has delivered around 1,200 H135s to customers around the globe who have logged a total of more than four million flight hours.
Helibras and Airbus Helicopters presented the first H225M Caracal in naval combat configuration this week in Brazil. Developed and assembled locally by Helibras, Airbus Helicopters’ subsidiary in Brazil, this new H225M version is said to meet requirements of the Brazilian Navy, with mission capabilities including anti-surface warfare and maritime surveillance.
The navalized H225M is built around a Helibras-developed tactical mission system including an APS-143 surveillance radar, advanced self-protection systems as well as signals intelligence capabilities. The helicopter is also equipped with two AM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles, while the cargo bay houses a dedicated sensor operator console providing the mission commander with an overview of the tactical situation. An automatic identification system (AIS) will also allow crew members to gather information on surface vessels.
The helicopter unveiled this week in Itajubá will be the first H225M in naval combat version to be delivered to the Brazilian Navy in 2018, after the end of military certification trials. It is part of a global order for 50 H225Ms for the Brazilian armed forces, 26 of which have already been delivered to the Brazilian Air Force, Navy and Army. Helibras is in charge of the complete assembly of H225Ms in Itajubá, including integration of mission equipment, flight line activities and industrial acceptance. With a target to achieve 50% of national content by 2020, Helibras has developed a local supply chain which includes more than 37 Brazilian companies.
The H225M sees more than 500 units delivered worldwide. As of today, 138 H225M Caracal have been ordered by France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Kuwait.
The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has ordered two additional H225M Caracal multirole utility helicopters as part of the continuation of its fleet strengthening programme agreement launched in 2012. Delivery of the two additional choppers is scheduled for 2019.
These nwely ordered helicopters will join an existing fleet of four identical helicopters to perform similar missions. Two H225Ms that were booked in 2014 will also be delivered by the end of this year. Upon signing this latest contract, the RTAF may also consider to further expand its fleet of H225Ms.
The RTAF’s helicopters are specially equipped with fast roping, cargo sling, search light and electro-optical systems (EOS) to perform combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions, search and rescue (SAR) flights, troop transport operations and other tasks.