Airbus Helicopters’ newest lightweight military multi-role helicopter, the EC645 T2, has successfully completed its first flight. In the presence of representatives of the German Bundeswehr – which has ordered the first of this new helicopter type – the EC645 T2 demonstrated its capacities at the company’s Donauwörth location in Bavaria.
“This first flight is a milestone in the EC645 T2 program and we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate this event with our customer,” said Ralf Barnscheidt, Head of the German Military Support Center. “We’re right on schedule to deliver the first EC645 T2 helicopters in the coming year.”
The new EC645 T2 is equipped with a digital avionics suite, including a 4-axis autopilot developed by Airbus Helicopters. This aircraft has been optimized for day and night missions as well as for those carried out in treacherous weather conditions. Its mission equipment range also includes a fast roping system for troops, cargo hooks, hoists, various weapons and electro-optical sensors. Ballistic protective equipment and an electronic countermeasures system that detects threats help protect the helicopter and crew. Powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines, the EC645 T2 is equipped with full authority digital engine control (FADEC). What’s more, noise emissions significantly below international limits make the EC645 T2 the quietest helicopter in its class.
The Royal Thai Armed Forces recently also ordered five EC645 T2 helicopters.
Exactly four weeks ago, all seemed well for the Airbus A400M in Germany, as the first German aircraft took first took the skies. But now, reports in well known German media cast doubt over the tactical airlifter, already in service in France and Turkey. A number of shortcomings prevent German A400Ms from seeing serious use any time soon, according to the reports.
According to critics, German A400Ms will initially be incapable of dropping paratroopers or heavy cargo after delivery to the Bundeswehr. Also, the type is said to lack any defensive equipment against enemy ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles, with modifications not made before 2016. No comments by Airbus or the Bundeswehr were cited.
Inquiries by the media into the A400M were probably sparked and enlarged by much publicized – – but never confirmed – problems with other air assets, such as Eurofighter Typhoon. The A400M’s apparant problems with dropping paratroopers however, as the type is known to have been involved in air drop tests earlier this year.
The first German A400M is expected at Wunstorf airbase before the end of the year. It is the first of 53 ordered by the German Air Force, where 60 was originally planned for. Rising costs reduced the order, however.
The German Special Forces (Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK)) have choosen the most powerful EC145 helicopter for its special ops. Fifteen so-called EC645 T2 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) will begin to arrive late 2015. According to the Eurocopter press release final delivery is planned for mid-2017.
The LUH contract enhances the Special Forces Command’s operational capability. The day and night missions that these helicopters will perform include insertion and extraction of special ops, fire support and reconnaissance.
The EC645 T2 LUH features a modern digital cockpit with full night vision and a 4-axis autopilot. Its communication equipment including tactical radios enables interoperability among NATO forces. Special ops teams can quickly access the aircraft thanks to its spacious cabin, which has two large sliding side doors and double doors at the rear. The helicopter’s maximum take-off weight is 3.7 tons. Troop safety is improved by the Fenestron shrouded tail rotor, particularly for flight operations in confined landing sites and whenever the rotor is turning on ground.
In addition, the mission equipment packages include fast rope system, cargo hooks and hoists. The aircraft are also equipped with pintle armament and electro-optical sensors. A self-protection system and ballistic protection further increase crew safety and aircraft survivability. The EC645 T2 is powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines and is equipped with dual-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC).
The helicopter can be strategically airlifted in an Airbus A400M and quickly prepared for the mission upon arrival in a theater of operations.
The contract, worth a total of 194 million euros, includes not just the helicopters but also the related equipment packages to allow KSK to carry out its special operations missions. About 600 helicopters of the EC145 family have been delivered to more than 40 countries.