Tag Archives: Donauwörth

Last advanced Stallions up for delivery in Germany

Fifteen more years of useful service. In 2010, that was the goal of an Airbus Helicopters modification program for German Air Force CH-53G Stallion heavy transport helicopters. Over the past years, these green giants have been getting modernized cockpits, new avionic and warfare suites and countless other upgrades.

The end is near for the modification program, delivering fourty modernized helicopters to the German Air Force. They are known as CH-53GA, signifying ‘Germany Advanced’. As it should.

In the Airbus Helicopters Military Support Center (MSC) in Donauwörth, Germany, well over a dozen Sikorsky CH-53s receive attention. Among them are the last of fourty of these airborne workhorses to be upgraded to CH-53GA. When done, the upgrade shows itself by no uncertain means in the cockpit, where avionics and communications systems almost identical to those used in the NH90 and Tiger attack helicopter, present themselves to awaiting pilots. All is contained in a completely new glass cockpit.

Miles away

With five multi-function displays, the new cockpit is miles away from the analogue workplace it used to be. “We’re taking out all the old mechanical instruments and we put in multifunctional displays that provide the crew with enormous flexibility and increased efficiency”, says Michael Hoofdmann, head of programs at the MSC.

A huge upgrade is the newly designed four-axis autopilot with auto-hover automatic flight control system that is similar to the NH90’s auto pilot. An electronic warfare system for threat recognition and electronic self-protection protects crews in hostile environments. A forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor turret is also part of the update.

The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)
The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)

Four decades

The first modernized Stallion was handed back to the German Air Force in 2012, close to four decades after the first of 110 helicopters were introduced in German service. Externally, the CH-53GA lacks the big fuel tanks that identified the past CH-53GS update, a program that mainly served to add personnel recovery and extraction capabilities. An internal fuel tank has been installed in the latest variant instead.

Fleet

The current German fleet consist of forty CH-53GA and 26 remaining CH-53GS/GE helicopters (of which 20 GS and 6 GE), adding up to 66 in total. To examine the remaining service life, one CH-53G has been completely dismantled and inspected for signs of fatigue at Donauwörth. The fleet saw extensive use over the last decades, deploying to Afghanistan and Kosovo. In the same timeframe, all remaining helicopters were transferred from the Germany Army to the German Air Force. The NH90 took the CH-53’s place in the Army.

One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Twilight

Updated or not, truth is the Stallion is in the twilight of its career. Berlin is looking at its options, being either the CH-47F Chinook or… the CH-53K. The ‘Kilo’ is the latest incarnation of the Stallion, seeing its first flight just last year. There is no road map yet for a purchase, but it seems likely the Germans will decide on a new heavy transport helicopter in the next two or three years. Deliveries are still at least six years away.

Until then, the CH-53GA is the tool of the trade when it comes to heavy helicopter transport in Germany. “They are now state of the art again”, concludes Michael Hoofdmann. “No more upgrades needed for these helicopters.”

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

First picture: NH90 Sea Lion for Germany

An Airheadsfly.com visit to Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth on Friday 22 January produced the very first picture of the first NH90 Sea Lion helicopter for the Germany Navy. The helicopter is currently in final assembly and along with 17 others and from 2019 onwards, replaces the Sea King helos still in use with the Marine.

The first Sea Lion entered final assembly in October and is now having its electrical harnesses fitted, after which avionics and initial mission equipment will be installed. The helicopter is expected to fly for the first time in November 2016.

The naval variant differs from German Army NH90s as it has a stronger landing gear for deck landings, plus provisions for the installation of a full anti-submarine warfare (ASW) kit and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) kit. The German government still has to decide on the exact specifications, though. The Netherlands, France, Italy, Norway and Sweden already operate ASW-versions of the NH90.

Search and rescue

In 2019, the Sea Lion will be ready to take over search and rescue (SAR) plus transport and support duties from the Sea King, the oldest of which dates back to 1973. At a later stage, the new NH90 should be ready also to take over the ASW and ASuW role from current Super Lynx helos.

With the engines ans landing gear installed, this brand new NH90 for the German army, is almost ready to be moved to the so called Flightline hangar at Donauwörth for test flights (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With the engines ans landing gear installed, this brand new NH90 for the German army is almost ready to be moved to the so called Flightline hangar at Donauwörth for test flights. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the front the first German NH90 Sea Lion, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airbus Helicopters is ramping up production tempo a bit in 2016. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Production

The last of 18 Sea Lions – total estimated cost 1.4 billion EUR – is to be delivered in 2022. Airbus Helicopters will slightly push production tempo in Donauwörth a bit to over ten NH90 helicopters per year. These also include the remaining NH90s for the German army, plus more ASW-variants for Sweden. Worldwide, 35 to 50 NH90s are manufactured yearly.

The NH90 has suffered from a bad reputation in Germany over maintenance and reliability issues. Airbus Helicopters is now retrofitting early production helicopters with the latest configuration including software and other upgrades. The company also says it is now getting good and positive feedback from NH90-pilots.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The first German NH90 Sea Lion in production, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The first German NH90 Sea Lion in production, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Production of a single NH90 takes about 12 months. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Final Tiger for German Army Afghanistan ops

The Heererflieger Tiger UHT ASGARD 74+34 at the Donauwörth facility (Image © Charles Abarr / Airbus Helicopters)
The Heererflieger Tiger UHT ASGARD 74+34 at the Donauwörth facility (Image © Charles Abarr / Airbus Helicopters)

The Germany Army received the last of 12 Tiger UHT support helicopters upgraded by Airbus Helicopters (fka Eurocopter) for Afghanistan missions on 6 March 2014.

The hand-over to the Kampfhubschrauberregiment 36 (KHR36 or Combat Helicopter Regiment 36) took place at Airbus Helicopters’ Donauwörth, Germany, production facility.

The dozen Tiger UHT support helicopters (Unterstützungshubschrauber) were delivered in three batches of four. They are modified to the so-called ASGARD standard, the configuration for the Afghanistan Stabilization German Army Rapid Deployment. Launched in 2011 it includes installation of engine sand filters and additional ballistic protection, along with the incorporation of a mission data recorder and enhanced communication equipment for multinational missions.

The German Armed Forces began deploying its initial Tiger UHTs modified to the ASGARD configuration in December 2012, with operations beginning a month later in Mazar-e-Scharif.

To date, these ASGARD-upgraded Tigers have accumulated well over 1,000 flight hours in German military service, demonstrating their high reliability, mission effectiveness, and a high level of acceptance during support missions.

Overall, Airbus Helicopters has delivered more than 100 Tigers in their various versions to the military services of Germany, France, Spain and Australia – accumulating more than 50,000 flight hours, including over 7,500 hours logged during military operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali and Somalia.

Source: Airbus Helicopters

Eurocopter EC665 Tiger UHT (Tigre) in German Army (Heer) livery at the 2008 ILA Airshow at Berlin-Schönefeld, Germany (Deutschland). UHT stands for Unterstützungshubschrauber Tiger (Support Helicopter Tiger). The aircraft bears serial no. 98+26 and has no. 398 on the nose. (Image © Marcel Burger)
Eurocopter EC665 Tiger UHT (Tigre) in German Army (Heer) livery at the 2008 ILA Airshow at Berlin-Schönefeld, Germany (Deutschland). UHT stands for Unterstützungshubschrauber Tiger (Support Helicopter Tiger). The aircraft bears serial no. 98+26 and has no. 398 on the nose. (Image © Marcel Burger)

First navy NH90 for Belgium

First flight of the Belgian Air Component NH90 NFH maritime helicopter on August 5, 2013. (Image © NHI)
First flight of the Belgian Air Component NH90 NFH maritime helicopter on August 5, 2013. (Image © NHI)

The first Belgian maritime NH Industries NH90 performed its first 45 minutes of flight at the Eurocopter facility Donauwörth in Germany on August 5, 2013.

,,The crew successfully tested the basic systems of this new generation aircraft”, writes a press spokesperson of NH Industries. ,,During the next weeks, this first Belgian NH90 NFH will perform several other test flights in order to check the aircraft behaviour and its mission system with industry and customer crews.”

The Belgian armed forces ordered eight NH90s, four TTHs for tactical transport operations and four NFHs for naval operations. The first Belgian army version of the NH90 flew already on September 19th, 2012. The Belgian NH90 navy variant is delivered in its full operational capability standard, already known as the Step B. This aircraft is very close to the Dutch NH90 NFH Step B currently operationally deployed with the Royal Netherlands Navy.

The NH90 NFH is a helicopter of 11 ton class primarily configured to perform naval operations such as search-and-rescue at sea, anti-piracy missions and transport. The chopper features a full glass cockpit with multifunction displays, fly-by-wire controls with 4-axis automatic flight control system. The dedicated mission system includes an electro optic sensor, tactical control and tactical communication system, a multimode radar and an on-board monitoring and diagnostic system. Two Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 engines provide power.

NH Industries is a consortium of AgustaWestland (32%), Eurocopter (62.5%), and Stork Fokker (5.5%). So far 153 NH90s have been delivered with firm orders of 529 aircraft for 14 nations: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Oman, Australia, New-Zealand, Spain and Belgium.

Source: NH Industries

Check out the Belgian Air Component Orbat at Scramble.nl