Tag Archives: Eurocopter

Saved from the axe: Cougar helicopter in the Netherlands

Under economic pressure the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) was saying goodbye to the Cougar helicopter, but the vital function of the tactical transport helicopter saved from the axe was shown clearly this week during an airlanding exercise near Arnhem, the Netherlands.

The military training grounds of Deelen and the Ede Heath saw a lot of action in a normally quiet Autumn. A total of six RNLAF choppers were flying back and forth with military equipment, from pallets to vehicles. The double rotor choppers – aka Boeing CH-47 Chinooks – are not easy to miss, but the quieter and real stars of the show were the AS532U2 Cougars.

Providing an airhead with necessary military equipment in the last week of November 2015. Taken on the training grounds near Arnhem (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Providing an airhead with necessary military equipment in the last week of November 2015. Taken on the training grounds near Arnhem (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

SFOR in Bosnia

Seventeen of these machines won over the legendary Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk when the Royal Netherlands Army was looking for a proper rotary airlift in the 1990s. Designed by Aérospatiale, built by its successor Eurocopter and currently named Airbus Helicopters, the French built machines arrived in 1996 and 1997. Their service record has not been without trouble. The machines were notorious for leaking fuel and the lack of de-icing equipment did hamper operations a bit while 5 machines operated with the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia in 2001, the RNLAF Cougars’ first operational deployment.

Neither fond of heat the Cougars also had some issues while flying from Tallil Airbase in Iraq in 2004. Operation in 2006 to 2010 as part of the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces Task Force Uruzgan in Afghanistan were limited by Cougars not only having to combat heat but also high altitude operations, flying from inside the Uruzgan province and Kandahar.

The RNLAF Cougar in its original camouflage livery (Image © Marcel Burger)
The RNLAF Cougar in its original camouflage livery (Image © Marcel Burger)

Bambibucket

But the choppers were still able to perform important tasks in support of the Royal Netherlands Army, as Search-and-Rescue or medevac asset, as shipborne troop transport helicopter for the amphibian forces of the Marine Corps of the Royal Netherlands Navy embarked on landing transport docks, and as fire fighter with the so-called bambibucket both at home and abroad.

Demonstrating the use of the bambi-bucket during a wildfire near the city of Assen in the Netherlands in 2011 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Demonstrating the use of the bambi-bucket during a wildfire near the city of Assen in the Netherlands in 2011 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Flying up to 500 miles (800 km) – further with additional fuel tanks – the Cougar operates normally with a crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, loadmaster and door gunner on a 7.62 mm machine gun. The cargo hold has room for 10 fully equipped troops or 14 without equipment. In the medevac role a doctor/anesthetist and a nurse are on board to take car of up to six patients, three sitting up and three lying down.

Gilze Rijen Airbase

All Cougars fly with 300 Squadron, operating from Gilze Rijen Airbase. The unit’s personnel were shocked to learn in 2011 that their job was about to disappear when the Ministry of Defence in the Hague announced another round of downsizing. But even with the awaited beefing up of the Boeing CH-47F Chinook fleet to 20 machines, having the NH90 choppers on strength at 18 the military and defence policital leadership say they have noticed a lack of rotary wing capacity if there would no longer be any Cougars.

The two "looks" of the Dutch Cougars, flying in together over Gilze Rijen Airbase in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The two “looks” of the Dutch Cougars, flying in together over Gilze Rijen Airbase in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)

Cougar service life

So the French design from 1965 will stay part of the fleet until at least 2023, Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert recently wrote to the parliament in the Hague. Currently down to 12 operational machines a even smaller number of Cougars will keep on flying till the end of their new decided service life until the leadership is confident the Foxtrot Chinooks and NH90s can do the job together.

Cougar training with commandos on Curaçao, one of the Dutch territories in the Caribbean (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Cougar training with commandos on Curaçao, one of the Dutch territories in the Caribbean (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The core of air mobility of the Royal Netherlands Air Force: a Cougar working in tandem with a Chinook to fly in military equipment to the 11th Air Mobile Brigade Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The core of air mobility of the Royal Netherlands Air Force: a Cougar working in tandem with a Chinook to fly in military equipment to the 11th Air Mobile Brigade, with the Boeing AH-64 Apaches (foreground) providing fire power cover (Image © Marcel Burger)

11th Airborne Brigade

As illustrated again at the Ede Heath and Deelen training grounds this week, the Cougars and Chinooks often operate closely together with the 11th Airborne Brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army. That capacity – although not fully used since 2013 as the red berets have been deployed more conventionally – is something the Netherlands would like to keep. Possibly in light of the increased Russian activity on the borders with NATO, where the strengthened Russian Aviation Regiments are training on blitzkrieg-like offensive maneouvres by quickly moving sizable ground units through the air by Mil Mi-8/Mi-17s escored by Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters.

Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)

Backed by renewed trust the men and women of 300 Squadron of the RNLAF showed this week that although plagued through its service life, they are up to the challenge of airlifting combat reinforcements to airheads in the field, in the way the AS532U2 Cougar was originally purchased for.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Royal Netherlands Air Force Cougar in the new grey livery (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Last Super Puma of Sweden retired

Skies have become slightly more boring in Sweden, after the last Aérospatiale (currently Airbus Helicopters) AS332 Super Puma helicopter of the Swedish Armed Forces made its final landing on 22 October.

The last HKP 10 (Helikopter 10) – as the type was dubbed in Swedish military service – touched down on Linköping-Malmen Airbase, 27 years after the day in March 19888 when the first search-and-rescue variant took to the air at F21 Luleå-Kallax Airbase in the north of the country.

The dozen Super Pumas that Sweden ordered were delivered up till 1995, replace the aging HKP 4 (CH-46 Sea Knight) as SAR chopper. Troop transport and medevac were roles later added. More recently three of the Swedish Armed Forces even served in Afghanistan for a period of two years in the latter role. The last serious operational missions were flown by two machines in August this year, when they supported the big Army Exercise 15 (AÖ15), and last week during Exercise Jämtgubben HKP10 with number 97 took part in a real exercise scenario.

The new star of the show in the Swedish military rotary wing is the HKP 14, aka NH90, which serves besides 15 UH-60M Black Hawks (Image © Marcel Burger)
The new star of the show in the Swedish military rotary wing is the HKP 14, aka NH90, which serves besides 15 UH-60M Black Hawks (Image © Marcel Burger)

For the number freaks: the choppers together made 71,000 flight hours, using 44.5 million litres of fuel. During the service period three of the 12 helicopters were written off due to accidents. Of the remaining nine machines, six are now stored in Linköping offered for sale. Two other machines will go to museums while the ninth aircraft will be used for technical education.

The role of the HKP10 is now resting on the shoulders of the plagued NHIndustries NH90, named HKP 14 in Swedish Armed Forces service. Of the 18 machines Sweden hopes to have in 2019, ten have now been delivered. Half of the current fleet flies with the Helicopter Squadron at Luleå in the far north, the other half with the chopper unit at Ronneby in the far south.

Since deliveries and operational availability were very problematic the Swedish government ordered 15 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk choppers in 2011, which were quickly delivered and which will stay operational as the country’s defence and political leadership seems to be very happy with their availability.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, incl. source information provided by the Swedish Armed Forces
Featured image (top): The retired HKP 10. Seen here at the 2012 Swedish Military Airshow at F3 Linköping-Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)

No more Super Puma in this typical Swedish landscape (Image © Marcel Burger)
No more Super Puma in this typical Swedish landscape (Image © Marcel Burger)

Rehabilitation for Dutch Cougar helos

The seventeen Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Cougar transport helicopters were earmarked for retirement as early as 2011 once, but Dutch Defense minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Wednesday 14 October reported to parliament that they will now remain into service until 2023. It’s rehabilitation for the helicopters, that never saw much love in the Netherlands.

With a least four more years until the first of 14 new Boeing CH-47F Chinooks are delivered, the RNLAF is desperately looking to  keep its helicopter transport capability on par. Recent troubles with newly delivered NH90 helicopters also didn’t help.

The Cougar suddenly seemed on its way out in 2011 already because of budget cause. A lacking search and rescue capability forced the RNLAF to keep a number in service, however. Before today, 2020 was mentioned as the final year for the Dutch Cougars, the first of which was delivered in 1996.

Keeping them flying until 2023 will cost Dutch taxpayers 130 million EUR. The choppers are based at Gilze Rijen airbase.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image:  A Dutch AS532 Cougar transport helicopter. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

To the rescue in Nepal

UPDATED 28 APRIL 2015 | The strong earthquake that hit Nepal on 25 April 2015, with 7.8 on the Richter scale the country’s strongest in 80 years, has had nations scramble their resources to come to the rescue of the Himalayan state. Several countries have put part of their air forces on alert to dispatch aid and rescue / recovery teams to the areas hit.

As expected other Asian nations have responded fairly fast. According to sources in New Delhi the Indian Air Force have directed a pair of its ten Boeing C-17A Globemaster IIIs strategic airlifters to the rescue / recovery / repatriation effort, as well as a Lockheed Martin C-130J Hercules, an Ilyushin IL-76 and a pair of Mil Mi-17 helicopters. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is sending three of its ten Hercules aircraft; the Pakistan Air Force sent four of its 18 C-130s and the Royal Thai Air Force committed Hercs as well. Qatar dispatched two civilian Qatar Airways Cargo Airbus A330 to Kathmandu. China sent its rescue team on an Air China Airbus A330.

Archive photo of a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 taking off from Male at the Maldives in May 2007 (Image (CC) DD, Male, Maldives)
Archive photo of a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 taking off from Male at the Maldives in May 2007 (Image (CC) DD, Male, Maldives)

Sweden initially committed a team of 72 men and women plus 12 dogs to help Nepalese authorities in the search for survivors and recovery efforts, but later decided to send 30 people and no dogs on board a civilian freighter. The team has enough supplies and essentials to be self-sufficient for two weeks and left Örebro Airport in the centre of the country at around 21:20 local time on Monday 27 April. Earlier it was thought that the bigger team would go on one of the EU/NATO’s three C-17A Globmasters based at Papa Airbase in Hungary. Sweden is one of the main users of this small pool of European airlift.

A Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10. More is here. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The Netherlands sent a Urban Search and Rescue team of 62 men/women and 8 dogs to the area, using a Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) KDC-10. The team will depart the Netherlands on Sunday evening. Five tonnes of aid accompanies the team on board the RNLAF aircraft. The UK is sending a C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules, while the US  has ordered a C-17 with 70 disaster assistance personnel and 45 square tonnes of cargo to the region.

Nepal Army Air Wing
The resources of Nepal itself are spread thin. The Nepal Army Air Wing only has a few air assets available. The fixed wing fleet consists of two Antonov AN-28 light transport aircraft, a Britten Norman BN-2 Islander utility aircraft and a Hawker Siddeley HS 748 transport aircraft.

It was daring move by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), designing and building its own utility helicopter; the Dhruv ('Polaris'). This Indian army Dhruv is seen doing a display for potential buyers. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Made in and delivered by India: the Nepal Army Air Wing operates four Dhruvs similar to this Indian Army example (Image © Elmer van Hest)

A quartet of Indian-made HAL Dhruv, four Alouette IIIs and five Mil Mi-17 “Hip” make up the mainstay of the rotary wing. It is complemented by a Eurocopter (Airbus Helicotpers) AS350 Écureuil and two Aérospatiale SA315 Alouette IIs/Lamas. A bigger Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) AS332 Puma is configured for VIP flights. The Nepal Army has only one main base of operations, part of Kathmandu Airport, but there are at least 36 airfields spread across the country that can be used for air operations.

It is not known if and how many aircraft in Nepal have been damaged by the earthquake. Private rotary wing is available as well, but we have no numbers at this time.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The third Boeing C-17 Globemaster III for the Indian Air Force leaving the factory plant at Long Beach for India at August 20th, 2013 (Image © Boeing)

The Chinese rescue response team to the 25 April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal arrived on board an Air China Airbus A330, similar to this one (Image (CC) Kentaro Ieomoto)
The Chinese rescue response team to the 25 April 2015 Earthquake in Nepal arrived on board an Air China Airbus A330, similar to this one (Image (CC) Kentaro Ieomoto)

Two dozen new Swedish combat pilots

UPDATED 30 JANUARY 2015 | The Swedish Air Force welcomed two dozen new combat pilots during a ceremony at Linköping-Malmen Airbase on 22 January 2015. For a small air force as the Flygvapnet quite a substantial amount.

Twenty-two guys and two women received their wings after successfully finishing the advanced flight training course on the indigenous SAAB SK 60 (Model 105) jet trainer or on German Army helicopters. Eight guys will fly the JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighter, of which 88 C/D-versions are on strength with the Flygvapnet. Four graduated male cadet pilots will fly either the TP 84 (C-130) or Saab 340.

The other 10 men and female cadet pilots Therese Hörström and Caroline Herrstedt will fly helicopters, with Herrstadt performing her final examination flight on the Swedish Armed Forces HKP 15 (Agusta A109). The basic helicopter training was done in Bückeburg, with the German Army’s School of Army Aviation (Heeresfliegerwaffenschule) on the Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopters) EC135, while the fixed-wing training was done on the SAAB SK 60s.

The SAAB SK 60 serves the Swedish Armed Forces since 1967. Of the 150 that were delivered about two dozen retain full flight status, with many in reserve. A new, upgraded version was introduced in Autumn 2013, with this SK 60AU for the first time having GPS system plus other navigation aids to help the pilot navigate more precisely, a new radio with a sort of Bitching Betty function to warn the pilot for a too low altitude, plus sound effects that give the pilot the same warnings for failure or G-force stress as in the JAS 39 Gripen fighter jet.

Austria flies the SK 60 as well, where it is designated SAAB 105OE. Airheadsfly.com editors visited these Austrian Tigers last Summer, so check out our full special feature here.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

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A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Swedish Air Force SAAB SK 60 after landing (Image © Marcel Burger)
Three Flygvapnet JAS 39 Gripens break over Ronneby Airbase (Image © Marcel Burger)
Three Flygvapnet JAS 39 Gripens break over Ronneby Airbase (Image © Marcel Burger)