The air assets of the German Armed Forces are in a even more deplorable state that before, and is becoming worse and worse. Helicopters, transport aircraft and combat jets are spending so much time on the ground that it hurts the defence capabilities of one of Europe’s biggest countries way too much. Many aircraft are not available for any duties they are so needed for, at home or with the 13 deployments abroad, including the “flashy” new Airbus A400Ms.
“The German airlift capabilities have become so weak that days of delays and cancellations of (planned) flights into and from areas of deployment are almost a normality,” Bartels says. “The status of materiel is equally bad and in many occasions even worse than during my first inspection visit in 2015. At the end of last year not a single of the 14 newly commissioned A400M transport aircraft was available. Eurofighter, Tornado, Transall, CH-53, Tiger, NH90 … the flying units rightfully complain they fail in having the appropriate flight hours for their crews because too many machines too many days a year are not ready to fly.”
Even the operation platforms of the German Navy helicopter fleet of Westland Sea Lynxes and in the future NH90 Sea Lion are far less than the German Ministry of Defence has promised to be available. Of the planned 15 frigates only 9 are in use and even they are often not able to sail with longer maintenance times in the shipyard for the aging vessels. Of the 220,000 job positions in the German Armed Forces, a massive 21,000 are vacant. Many troops lack winter uniforms or flack jackets.
Despite problems with quality control and the availability of spare parts for the Airbus Helicopters / NHIndustries NH90s of the German Army Aviation, the German Navy got the green light for the procurement of 18 NH90 Sea Lion maritime helicopters this week.
Berlin wants the Nato Frigate Helicopter (NFH) version of the NH90 to replace the aging Westland Mk 41 Sea King operating with Marinefliegergeschwader 5 (MFG5) at Nordholz, and the MFG5’s Westland Mk 88A Sea Lynx choppers that fly from German Navy frigates. The deal was okayed on 4 March 2015.
The land-based NH90 Sea Lions will operate as troop-insertion platform, support for naval special forces and as search-and-rescue chopper. The Sea Lion will be about 60 knots faster than the Sea King, which is one of the reasons why the Navy wants to move quickly forward with the purchase.
German Army Aviation
The Bundeswehr will go ahead with downsizing of the NH90 fleet. As propositioned earlier the Heeresflieger (German Army Aviation) will only get 80 NH90 TTHs, instead of the 134 originally planned a decade ago. Thirty-six were delivered at the end of 2014, but the introduction has been plagued by big operational issues and not even a single NH90 is said to be in full promised operational status. Another two NH90s will be purchased as training system.
Tiger attack helicopter
At the same time the Army Aviation has got to say bye-bye to 11 of its EC665 Tiger attack helicopters of the oldest batch. Berlin has set the operational level to 40 Tigers in total, while Airbus Helicopters delivers another 17 for attrition replacement, testing and training. After complaints about its quality on the battlefield the German Army finally received the last of a dozen upgraded Tiger UHT support helicopters in March 2014.
After conversations with leading NHIndustries partner Airbus Helicopters the German Armed Forces put their NH90 helicopters back on duty, according to a written message Airheadsfly.com received from Airbus Helicopters on 23 February 2015. The Bundeswehr confirmed the statement.
Germany stopped routine flying operations with its NH90 helicopters on 6 February, after an apparent design flaw was found in the Overhead Control Panel (OHCP) in the cockpit that could lead to a short circuit and engine trouble. A major incident happened in Uzbekistan last year, when an engine exploded during a medevac flight. Back home the OHCP caused trouble at least on three or four separate occasions, according to Bundeswehr reports leaked to the German press.
Airbus Helicopters was quick in asking Berlin to return the helos back to flight status. The Bundeswehr has now complied: “The needed technical improvements to take away the fault have been developed by the manufacturer, but the implementation of the constructive change to all affected NH90s has not been executed yet.”
One of several adaptations in operational procedures is that the crew will vent before every engine start to prevent damage from occurring. “With that the risk of engine problems and related malfunctioning in the OHCP can be minimized,” the Bundeswehr states. With a permanent solution awaiting, the German Armed Forces leadership has regained enough confidence to clear the NH90s for normal flying operations. Other NH90 users might use venting-before-start as well to prevent worse.
Germany has stopped routine flying operations with its troubled NH90 helicopters, the German Bundeswehr announced on Friday 6 February. An investigation into an incident that happened last year in Uzbekistan, has led to the decision.
The investigation by Airbus Helicopters found a design flaw in an Overhead Control Panel (OHCP) in the NH90’s cockpit, where a fire suppression switch for the engines could cause a short circuit. Subsequently, the Bundeswehr flight safety authority recommended all routine NH90 operations to be halted, a decision that is now supported by Berlin.
On 19 June 2014, a German NH90 got into big troubles in Uzbekistan as one of its engines exploded during a medical evacuation flight, causing the German Army (Heeresflieger) to already temporary ground the fleet back then. Four NH90TTHs deployed to Afghanistan already in April 2013 to provide a Forward Air Medical Evacuation in Mazar-i-Sharif but were met with additional operational problems in the hot-and-high operations as well. Apart from the big incident, aviators reported issues with other systems as well.
Germany has about forty NH90 helicopters at its disposal. The Bundeswehr now says it expects Airbus Helicopters to come up with a solution as quickly as possible. Berlin confirmed in December it had 80 NH90TTHs on firm order (including the forty delivered) and was still opting for another 22.
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.