Tag Archives: Commando

Opinion: “Rafale deal opens Egypt up to Airbus Helicopters”

The purchase of 24 French-made Dassault Rafale fighter by Egypt opens up possibilities for a sale of Airbus Helicopters to the North African country. As the Rafale deal includes the transfer of French Navy multi-purpose FREMM frigate D651 Normandie, it might be an excellent opportunity for the Egyptian Air Force to renew its aging Westland Seaking maritime helicopter fleet. With the current warm relationship between Cairo and Paris, Aérospatiale designs managed by Airbus Helicopters can be on the front-row of negotiations.

The French Navy is not really amused by its government’s decision to quickly transfer one of its eight planned FREMM frigates, produced by DCNS, less than half a year after it was commissioned at its homeport of Brest. Only one other vessels of the class is in service: D650 Aquitaine. Normandie was still very much in its trail period, like its newest sister D652 Provence. The Normandie crew will now move to the Provence. The vessel will be re-located from planned homebase of Toulon to Brest “to ensure French Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities on the Atlantic Coast as originally planned”, according to a French Navy statement.

New French Navy frigate D651 Normandie will be transferred to the Egyptian Navy even before its trial period has ended (Image © Marine Nationale)
New French Navy frigate D651 Normandie will be transferred to the Egyptian Navy even before its trial period has ended (Image © Marine Nationale)

The Provence’s crew will move to the upcoming fourth vessel of the class, D653 Languedoc, which has been launched 12 July 2014 with planned commissioning in 2016. The retirement plan for the older FASM frigates Montcalm and Jean de Vienne has been delayed until 2017 and 2018.

Air assets
France plans to operate the NHIndustries NH90NFHs from the FREMM frigates, which have hangar space for one helicopter, but is unlikely that Egypt will opt for that machine. The Egyptian Navy doesn’t have any air assets itself, but the Egyptian Air Force holds 10 Kaman SH-2G Super Seasprites and 5 Westland Sea King helicopters available for shipborne tasks, besides 9 Aérospatiale Gazelles for coastal reconnaissance. For a possible replacement the AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare (ASW) that Airbus Helicopters is selling to Indonesia looks to be an interesting option.

The AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare version (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Airbus Helicopters)
The AS565 MBe Panther anti-submarine warfare version (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Airbus Helicopters)

Seasprites
However, the cheapest solution for the Egyptian Air Force and Navy would be to commission one of the three Seasprites that are held in reserve. But the FREMM frigate purchase might just mean a break for the Egyptian military to replace the Sea Kings, giving Airbus Helicopters new possibilities.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Apart from the ASW version the Egyptian Air Force also operates 23 Commando (assault) versions of the Westland Sea King. Seen here on 16 June 1980 (Image © US Department of Defense)
Apart from the ASW version the Egyptian Air Force also operates 23 Commando (assault) versions of the Westland Sea King. Seen here on 16 June 1980 (Image © US Department of Defense)

Dutch Apaches on their way to Mali

A pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apaches taking off (Image © Minsterie van Defensie)
A pair of Royal Netherlands Air Force AH-64D Apaches taking off (Image © Minsterie van Defensie)

LATEST UPDATE 28 MARCH 2014 | 3 RNLAF CH-47 Chinooks will join Dutch force in Mali

The first Dutch troops for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have left Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on 6 January 2014, to make way for the main Dutch force that will include 4 AH-64D Apache helicopters.

The group of 14 engineers will build up the Dutch encampment, including living and sleeping areas, figure out the logistics and prepare the infrastructure for the arrival of the main force that will include the four Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Apache attack helicopters plus small recon drones. In total about 378 personnel will be sent to Mali in the coming weeks, made up by 90 special forces, 70 analysts, 60 crew to support the Apache ops, 20 military police and 10 civilian police officers. Another 128 Dutch military men and women will support the operation which will likely mean frequent flights of RNLAF C-130Hs, (K)DC-10s, NATO/allied C-17s and possibly even rented AN-124s.

Transport fleet
Eindhoven AB will be the main air operations centre in the Netherlands. It is the home of the RNLAF transport fleet, comprising of 334 Squadron and 336 Squadron, and is a relatively short driving distance from the Apaches homebase of Gilze-Rijen and the Royal Netherlands Army Commandos base in Roosendaal.

334 Squadron’s main task is to operate two McDonnell Douglas KDC-10 tanker/transport with registration T-264 (Prins Bernhard) and T-235 (Jan Scheffer). 336 Squadron is the Hercules unit, flying two C-130H-30 with registration G-273 (Ben Swagerman) and G-275 (Joop Mulder) plus two into C-130H converted ex-USN EC-130Qs with registration G-781 (Bob van der Stok) and G-988 (Willem den Toom).

Pick-up
Although no official word yet from the Dutch ministry of Defence, it is likely that joint-EU/allied Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs or Antonov AN-124 Ruslans (NATO name Condor) will pick up the Apaches at the Royal Netherlands Defence Helicopter Command base of Gilze Rijen. 301 Squadron based here flies 21 AH-64Ds, while another 8 RNLAF Apaches are permanently assigned to the recently re-establised 302 Squadron based at Fort Hood/Robert Gray Army Air Field in Texas, USA, for training purposes.

Base of operations
The Dutch contribution to MINUSMA lasts until mid 2015, but the government in The Hague holds options open for a longer stay if the UN Security Council asks for it. The AH-64Ds and ScanEagle drones will mainly operate out of Gao, with Bamako-Senou as the main logistics and military analysis base. Bamako was left recently by a French fighter detachment. The 90 special forces will be scattered over a large area as the eyes and ears of the UN troops and might need some Apache air support from time to time.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Marcel Burger with source information of the Ministerie van Defensie (Dutch MoD)

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