Tag Archives: German Air Force

H145: customized best seller for all

On first glance a military special forces member may not have a single thing common with an offshore worker, a paramedic or even your average VIP. On second glance, they do. It’s called the H145, currently one of Airbus Helicopters’ best selling choppers and since December 2015 the preferred airborne ride of the German Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK). Starting April, Thailand will also welcome the H145M, a helicopter that like all Airbus Helicopters rotorcraft, can be customized almost to infinity.

Customization is indeed built into our design structure and production process, says Gottfried Hornung, heading the combined Final Assembly Line (FAL) of H135 and H145 helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. Behind him, Airbus Helicopters employees perform quality inspections on what is to be the third of fifteen H145Ms for the KSK. The dark green colour sets its apart from other helicopters built for civilian customers.

Hornung is in charge of final assembly of all H135s and H145s produced in Donauwörth. “Helicopters have been produced at this location for many decades.That experience has led to optimized customization for our customers, which in turn contributes to the market success of both the H135 and H145”, says Hornung while an H135 for the Australian Defense Force (ADF) awaits attention. Nearby in the flight hangar, two olive green H145Ms for Thailand are readied for flight and an additional H145 is prepared for its customized ‘Mercedes-Benz style’ VIP interior.

Quality control on the third H145M for Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Quality control on the third H145M for Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Versatile

Customized or not, the H135 and H145 are true multipurpose helicopters. Their versatility is demonstrated by the fact the both are the preferred platform for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). As civil market leader, Airbus Helicopters has a strong foothold in this corner of the helicopter market, which globally decreased by over 20 percent last year.  Nevertheless, Airbus Helicopters in 2015 slightly increased its civil market share and  chalked up total 383 orders, military contracts included. Out of these orders, 107 are for the H145 and 49 for the smaller H135.

An H145M for the Thai Army awaits its next test flight. (Image © Alexander Lutz)
An H145M for the Thai Army awaits its next test flight. (Image © Alexander Lutz)
While another waits to have its rotor blades fitted. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
While another waits to have its rotor blades fitted. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Military

On the military market, the H145 may appear like the new kid on the block while in fact it is anything but. Disguised as the UH-72A Lakota and as a replacement for the UH-1 Huey, the type has been serving the US Army for years already in training, transport and liaison roles. A staggering 423 Lakotas were ordered by the US.

In its special ops role, the H145M – advertized as a ‘light battlefield support helicopter’ – offers  room for up to 10 soldiers in the ballistically protected cabin. The sliding side doors and fast rope systems offer quick exit in hover situations, while the double clamshell doors at the rear can also be used when on the ground.The Fenestron shrouded tail rotor offers protection and safety on the ground. Until now, special forces in Germany relied on the – again – UH-1 Huey.

Fast rooping from an Airbus Helicopters H145M. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)
Fast rooping in action. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)

Weapons

The H145M features a mission computer, an infrared/TV electro-optical system, a laser range-finder/designator/pointer plus two rigid but removable multi-purpose armament pylons. Optionally, the helicopter can be fitted with rocket launchers for ballistic and guided weapons, guns pods, mounted door guns and air-to-ground missiles. According to Airbus Helicopters, laser-guided rockets could be added to the H145M’s weapons arsenal in the future, too.

Also, for the next seven years the Airbus Helicopters Military Support Center in Donauwörth will take complete care of the fifteen German special ops choppers. The same center already looks after all military helicopters in service with the Germans, including Sikorsky CH-53Gs, NH90s and Tiger attack Helicopters. It also provides support for German Marine Sea King and Sea Lynx helos.

Helionix

What sets newer H145s, including the German special ops ones, apart from earlier models is the modulair and impressive Helionix cockpit suite which according to Airbus Helicopters offers pilots the world’s most advanced cockpit – apart from the Airbus A350. In the case of the H145, the suite consists of three large MFDs that can all be adjusted for diplaying either basic flight control instruments, engine parameters, digital maps or a range of other options. Two Garmin GTN 750 GPS/NAV/COMM multifunction displays complete the typical Helionix setup in the H145. The system offers a 4 axis autopilot including Auto-Hover function. Helionix will be integrated in all new or updated products of Airbus such as the new H135 and H160.

Helionix is another example of Airbus Helicopters customization and attention to customer needs. “We aim to get the most out of our product”, says Gottfried Hornung. “Take the recently increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) for the H145, which was 3,650 kg and now is 3,700 kg. In an helicopter, that extra 50 kilos makes all the difference.”

And yes, no matter if you’re a military special forces member, an offshore worker, a paramedic or your average VIP. Or anything else.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Out for a test flight is this H145M for the Thai Navy. (Image © Alexander Lutz)

(Image © Alexander Lutz)
Each helicopter is thoroughly checked during several test flight. (Image © Alexander Lutz)
 (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A view of the combined H135/H145 production facility in Donauwörth. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
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Electrical testing in progress. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
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No guessing where these parts will end up: Thailand.(Image © Dennis Spronk)
Engineers work on on this H135 destined for the Australian Defense Force. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Engineers work on on this H135 destined for the Australian Defense Force. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Germany’s top toy on Red Alert

Neuburg Airbase, situated in the Bavarian region in southern Germany, is home to the German Luftwaffe’s JG74, flying the Eurofighter EF2000 (Typhoon) in the air defense role since 2006. This November Airheadsfly.com met them when they returned home to Neuberg after a long stay elsewhere.

For a considerable time, JG74 (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader, or Tactical Air Force Wing) had to call other airbases ‘home’ while the runway at Neuburg saw complete renewal. What was planned to be a nine month stay, turned out to be close to two years. This was caused by a few dozen World War II bombs found during the work.

Lechfeld

During Airheadsfly.com’s visit, the return to Neuburg hadn’t been fully completed, as some Eurofighters – the Typhoon name was never adopted in Germany –  were left behind for maintenance at Lechfeld, the airbase that served as the main home away from home.

QRA

JG74 is fully dedicated to air defense und Alarmrotte, which could well do with some explanation for non-native speakers. Alarmrotte (literally: red alert) is the German term for Quick Reaction Alert (QRA), which applies here because JG74 is responsible for guarding the skies over southern Germany. It’s not a recent thing by any standards. In fact, they have been doing it at Neuburg since May 1961. So next year sees the 55th anniversary of QRA duties at the Bavarian airbase.

NATO Tiger

Where now Eurofighters stand guard, F-4 Phantoms stood until not too long ago. Between 2006 and 2008 and after more than 30 years of service, JG74 replaced its Spooks for brand spankin’ new Eurofighters. Since 2013, the wing is a proud member of NATO’s Tiger Association. They took over the tradition from JBG32 (Jagdbombgeschwader, or bomber squadron), which flew the Panavia Tornado from Lechfeld until disbanded in 2012.

Check, check, check. Just a few checks to go, and this JG74 Eurofighter is about to get into the air for another sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Checks, checks and more checks. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
"Hi there!", this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is definitely ready to go (Image © Dennis Spronk)
“Hi there!”, this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is definitely ready to go (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Take off into the blue (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Into the blue yonder. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Arctic Challenge

JG74 has 33 jets assigned, of which 24 are available at Neuburg. This year, the wing’s pilots and crews participated in large scale exercise Arctic Challenge in Norway, but they also did the “real thing” by supporting NATO’s  Baltic Air Policing mission from Ämari airbase in Estonia. From there, German pilots in 2014 got to meet Russian pilots up close, albeit always thousands of feet up in the air and each in the cockpit of their respective aircraft.

A nice summer day? No, it's a beautiful november day as this JG74 Eurofighter taxies to the runway of Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A nice summer day? No, it’s a beautiful November day as this JG74 Eurofighter taxies to the runway of Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of JG74 Eurofighters taxy to the runway to get into the air for another practice sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of JG74 Eurofighters taxy to the runway to get into the air for another practice sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Typical outlines of a Eurofighter, as it approaches at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Typical outlines of a Eurofighter, as it approaches at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Kill ratio

At Neuburg they are pretty confident with the Eurofighter, the jet that saw Germany at it’s cradle as one of the founding nations of the Eurofighter consortium. Christian Härter, taking care of the jets at Neuburg since 2013, thinks the Eurofighter is the best all round fighter at this moment. “The Eurofighter has an 8:1 kill ratio against a variety of other fighter aircraft. Even the US Air Force F-22 Raptor is having a hard time in many aspects against our aircraft.” In reality of course, the Eurofighter has yet to achieve a real kill against any type of aircraft.

Typhoons serviceability

Criticism aimed at Germany’s top toy can’t be ignored. This fall, deliveries of German aircraft were halted over a production fault found across the fleet. According to Härter however, Typhoons serviceability at Neuburg is around 70 percent, the proof perhaps being the presence of three jets inside the T-Halle, a hangar that can house up to 6 aircraft. In the eight year old T-Halle, maintenance is being performed in more favourable conditions than in the hardened aircraft shelters that litter Neuburg. The T-Halle gets a lot of natural light from outside, which makes work very comfortable.

Flight hour costs

The presence of the many data cables and computers in the T-Halle clearly shows we’re dealing with a modern aircraft. As the computer/software is getting more and more important, Härter even expects the Eurofighter could well be the last manned aircraft of the Luftwaffe. One flight hour in a Eurofighter costs around 65,000 euro, of which fuel accounts for ‘only’ 6,000 euro. Therefore it might not come as a surprise that every pilot flies 40 hours  on a Typhoon flight simulator each year. Aircraft like the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 are more and more being marketed as operational trainers, saving costly flying hours.

Christian Härter, Quality Safety Manager of JG74, in front of a Eurofighter (Image © Vincent Kok)
Christian Härter in front of a Eurofighter (Image © Vincent Kok)
3 Eurofighters inside the maintenance hangar (or T-Halle) at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Three Eurofighters inside the maintenance hangar (or T-Halle) at Neuburg (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Just some final checks, and this JG74 Eurofighter pilot is about to leave his aircraft, after a mission (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Work being done between missions in the aircraft shelter.  (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Roar

But on this beautiful day in November, pilots elect to fly for real. Up to seven Eurofighters roar into the skies in preparation for yet another busy year. For JG74, next year will see participation in the NATO Tiger Meet in May at Zaragoza airbase in Spain, while June will see an airshow at Neuburg because of the 55th anniversary of JG74. There might be even another tour of Baltic Air Policing, offering Russian pilots one more chance at the experience of meeting a Eurofighter up close – and be aware of a kill ratio that apparently stands at 8:1.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk, video shot and edited by Orange Avenue Filmworks
Featured image (top): Pilots eager to get airborne at Neuburg Airbase. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Ready to taxy to the runway. This JG74 Eurofighter just left its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ready to taxy to the runway. This JG74 Eurofighter just left its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
JG74 ground crew do some final checks before giving the pilot a "go" (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ground crew do some final checks before giving the pilot a “go” (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Touch down! Creating burning rubber, as this JG74 Eurofighter arrives back from the afternoon sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Touch down! Burning rubber as this Eurofighter arrives back from the afternoon sortie (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A JG74 Eurofighter comes out to play (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Return to the shelter. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After the mission, a JG74 Eurofighter is being checked and prepared to be pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
After the mission, a jet is being checked and prepared to be pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A JG74 Eurofighter is being pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter, at the end of a beautiful day (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A Eurofighter is being pushed back into its hardened aircraft shelter, at the end of a beautiful day (Image © Dennis Spronk)

NATO’s Baltic Air Policing down to eight aircraft

NATO is cutting down on its Baltic Air Policing involvement. The detachment of four Belgian Air Component F-16s at Malbork Airbase in Poland has already left, leaving the air defence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the hands of only twelve and soon only eight fighters on two in stead of three different airbases.

The diminishing of the air combat force has been acknowledged by the ministries of defence in the Baltic republics.

As of September the Hungarian Air Force will base four of its 12 operational SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen jets on Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania, while the German Air Force will fly four of its Eurofighter EF2000s (Typhoon) from Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

Until a week ago NATO had sixteen fighter jets committed to its Baltic flank, with the Belgian detachment in Poland and Italian Air Force and Royal Air Force EF2000 Typhoons being lead by the Royal Norwegian Air Force with four Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons.

Luftwaffe dual-seat Eurofighter EF2000(T) with serial 30+31 touch-and-go at Fliegerhorst Wittmundhafen Niedersachsen, Germany. (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Luftwaffe dual-seat Eurofighter EF2000(T) (Image © Marcel Burger)

The move to cut the force by 50 percent is controversial and has probably a cost-saving background, as Russian military air activity in the region stays at a decade high. However, Poland retains one of its own MiG-29 Fulcrum air defence fighter units at Malbork, so some back-up is available. NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania don’t have any fighter jets of their own.

The deployment in Lithuania puts an extra strain on the Hungarian Air Force, which had two Gripen crashes lately likely because of mistakes might by their crews. (Check our newstream!)

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Hungarian Air Force (Magyar Légierő) SAAB JAS 39D Gripen taking off during the 2014 NATO Tiger Meet. (Image © Marcel Burger)

Enhanced dogfighting capability for Eurofighter Typhoon

The Eurofighter EF2000 / Typhoon multi-role fighter is about to get enhanced dogfighting capability. The announcement of enhancing the agility of the aircraft comes at time when a devastating pilot report has put the manoeuverability of the Typhoons main competitor – the US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 – into a bad light.

“We have successfully completed flight-testing of a package of aerodynamic upgrades to the Eurofighter Typhoon swing-role fighter that promises to enhance further the aircraft’s agility and weapons-carrying ability,” a statement of Airbus Defence and Space released on 15 July 2015 reads. Although the word “dogfight” – meaning close-combat in mid-air – is not mentioned, agility and speed are key to win such a match.

The Aerodynamic Modification Kit (AMK) – as Airbus calls it – is part of a wider Eurofighter Enhanced Manoeuvrability (EFEM) program to improve the German-British-Italian-Spanish aircraft. It entails primarily the addition of fuselage strakes and leading-edge root extensions, which increase the maximum lift created by the wing by 25 percent – resulting in an increased turn rate, tighter turning radius, and improved nose-pointing ability at low speed – all critical fighter capabilities in air-to-air combat.

A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai participating at the Dubai (UAE) airshow. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)
A RAF 3 (F) Squadron Typhoon over Dubai. (Image © Eurofighter Cons.)

Ground attack
Additional weapon options will make the aircraft effective in the ground attack and close-air support role, a task the Eurofighter has not really been up to yet. The Royal Air Force, which is one of the main operators and flies the aircraft as the Typhoon, had to keep aging Tornados in service to be effective in air strikes against the so-called Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

Eurofighter Project Pilot Germany Raffaele Beltrame: “This program has very impressive results. We saw angle of attack values around 45 percent greater than on the standard aircraft, and roll rates up to 100 percent higher, all leading to increased agility. The handling qualities appeared to be markedly improved, providing more manoeuvrability, agility and precision while performing tasks representative of in-service operations.”

The flight trials followed some five years of studies. Eurofighter test pilots, joined in the latter stages by operational pilots from Germany, Italy and the UK, completed 36 sorties from Manching, Germany on the IPA7 Instrumented Production Aircraft.

A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)

Lightning II
While the Typhoon is improved on its dogfighting capabilities a leaked report of the other side of the Atlantic has put the future mainstay fighter jet of many air forces in a less positive position. Pilots flying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II seem to have a hard time winning dogfights with older aircraft, like the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon the F-35 is supposed to replace.

According to pilot statements there is a lack of rear-view vision and manoeuvrability in the American jet that has been developed to engage targets stealthy and with missiles from beyond visual range. Let’s hope then for the F-35 jocks they will never end face-to-face in battle with the agile Russian Flanker jets and have to call in Eurofighter Typhoons to save their skin.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, incl. source information provided by Airbus Defence and Space
Featured image: The EF2000 IPA7 testbed in flight (Image © Andreas Zeitler / Airbus Defence and Space)

More trouble for Airbus A400M

More evidence of the apparent disrespect for quality checks at the Airbus A400M manufacturing plant in Seville (Sevilla) in Spain – at least on the aircraft produced so far – has come to light this week. The issues are that serious that the German Air Force is going to keep its ancient C-160D Transall airlifters airborne into the next decade.

According to Luftwaffe inspection reports leaked to German media like Der Spiegel magazine, very important bolts that hold the big and very essential rudder of the aircraft show defects that are a direct result of problems during the assembly that should normally have been seen during routine quality checks. So far the defects are only confirmed on the single Luftwaffe A400M, as the French, British and Malaysian air forces have so far not given information on the matter.

Plastic bag
The rear end of the A400M already has given the Germans unpleasant surprises. During flight tests in April this year the Luftwaffe A400M crew heard repeatedly strange noises in the tail section of the plane. When investigating the matter further they found a plastic bag with screws left behind by a mechanic on the inside of part of the tail section.

Hohn Airbase
Not trusting the Airbus product Berlin has now made an alternative plan to keep the Air Force providing enough airlift in the near future:  as reported earlier here on Airheadsfly.com, the aging C-160 Transalls will have to soldier on until at least 2021, costing the tax payers 300 million euro extra and keeping Hohn Airbase in the north of the country open as C-160D location.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The first German Air Force A400M (54+01 or MSN18) during taxi trials on 13 October 2014 at the Airbus plant in Seville, Spain (Image © Airbus Defence & Space)