The German Air Force will be operating the Boeing “CH-47GE” Chinook from 2020 and onward, as a replacement of its current Sikorsky CH-53G heavy-lift helicopter. Although no official plans have been announced yet, it is a likely scenario looking at the options the military decision makers in Berlin will have to weigh.
While Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin are currently putting the new CH-53K King Stallion through its testing face, the chances of this newer 33 ton rotary wing winning the replacement order for Germany’s current G-versions are getting slimmer. Berlin might very well go for the “CH-47GE” (German Edition) of the Boeing Chinook for three very good reasons.
With NATO allies
First, with 40 to 50 million a piece, the most modern Chinook will costs about half of the CH-53K, which has a base price tag of 93 million. Second Boeing is working hard to increase both lift and range of its CH-47 model. Third the interoperability with important NATO allies will improve big time, making even joint maintenance and further cost reduction possible. For example, the US Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade in Germany flies the Chinook, as well as the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s support to 1 German Dutch Army Corps of 30,000 troops.
The new Chinook
Boeing plans to start testing its newest rotor blade later this year in Mesa, Arizona. Equipped with new honeycomb rotor blades, more powerful engines and other smart solutions like a new digital advanced flight-control system Boeing hopes to increase the maximum take-off weight of its most current CH-47F so the useful load will be almost 30,000 lb (13,600 kilograms). That’s 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) more than the projected Block 2 upgrade for the US Army. It puts the new Chinook on the map as air lifter for almost all smaller German Army equipment, all the way up to the Mowag Eagle IV and V wheeled vehicles of which the Bundeswehr has orderd 670.
Royal Canadian Air Force Extended Range
As for distance, the Royal Canadian Air Force already has good experiences with Extend Range fuel tanks on its 15 CH-147F Chinooks flying with 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Petawawa, Ontario. The choppers are able to operate on distances up to 595 nautical miles (1,100 km) from home before refueling is needed. The CH-53K can fly up to 460 nautical miles (852 km) without reserves, but the Sikorsky’s combat range is 90 nautical miles (almost 170 km) less than that of the base-model CH-47F.
Whatever the outcome of the debate to replace the current heavy-lift chopper of the German Armed Forces, the Boeing “CH-47GE” currently has the best cards on the table. Until the new rotary wing will arrive, the Luftwaffe will soldier on with its 40 recently modernized CH-53GA and its remaining 26 CH-53s of the older G/GS standard making up a fleet of 66 impressive machines.
The German Special Forces’s (KSK) new EC645 T2 and its civilian version EC145 T2 have been cleared to fly by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on 17 April 2014. The most powerful EC145 chopper ever is allowed to commence ops in the full range of advertised capabilities, including single-pilot operations, instrument flight rules (IFR) flying and single-engine operations, as well as flying by the aid of night vision goggles.
Despite its relatively small size, the EC645 / EC145 T2 can accommodate up to nine passengers plus a crew of two. The flat, level floor has been optimized for modular changes, meaning seats can be quickly changed for something else like stretchers and medical equipment.
Furthermore, the military version can have gun or missile pods attached on both sides of the fuselage – making the EC645 T2 worthy competition for the often used Hughes/McDonnell Douglas MD500/OH-6/AH-6/MH-6 Cayuse/Loach/Little Bird. The latter has much less room for troops or other passengers and misses another big advantage of the EC645: two big cargo/entry doors in the rear of the fuselage underneath the tail boom.
Compared to the earlier EC145 model the T2 features new Arriel 2E engines (with FADEC) and a Fenestron shrouded tail rotor, upgraded main and tail rotor gear boxes, a more advanced Helionix digital avionics suite that includes large full-colour multi-functional displays and a 4-axis autopilot. The Fenestron technology brings enhanced anti-torque control effeciency to the tail rotor, as well as reduced power demand in forward flight, lower noise and less vibration. The rotor is installed in a new, damage-tolerant all-composite tail boom: meaning in combat it can withstand a certain amount of bullets or shrapnel.
Airbus Helicopters already has approximately 20 EC145 T2s currently are in series production, with more than a 100 of the type ordered, including 15 for the Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK) as already reported in July 2013.
UPDATED 20 MARCH 2014 | Sixteen thousand troops, 16 nations and a sizable sea force supported by numerous airplanes are currently scrambling to defend the northern coasts of Norway. Why? To show that NATO and her partners have teeth and to train to keep those sharp during exercise Cold Response 2014. The first units have moving in place since the end of February, getting ready for the day the war games begin on 11 March 2014 (DV Day) in what can become the biggest joint combined military exercises of Western Europe this year.
The 6th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA, Germany, the United Kingdom together. In an area that is more than 200 km (124 miles) long and between 50 and 100 km (31 and 62 miles) deep, all the way from the southern tip of the beautiful Lofoten islands to the northern Norwegian town of Tromsø. Epicentre is Narvik-Harstad. The air forces involved will use a even bigger chunk of the Norwegian coast, with operations going on all the way from Tromsø to Trondheim in the south of the country.
Cold Response 2014 concluded the operations on 19 March, with the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s from 331, 332 and 338 squadrons flying 35 missions. For some countries, like Sweden, be the biggest military exercise of the year. The Swedes contribute 1400 troops this year and will lead the multinational brigade for the first time. The brigade includes forces from the UK, the Netherlands, Canada and Norway. The naval manoeuvers that preluded the exercise had been given their own operation’s name, Dynamic Mongoose, that also saw the involvement of three Royal Navy Merlins. Of course more interesting to us are all air assets of Cold Response 2014.
In-theatre airbases will be Tromsø, Bardufoss, Andenes and Narvik-Harstad. Bodø and Ørland will be used as launching or retracting airfields during the simulated war, and possibly even Luleå-Kallax in Sweden. No word about Kiruna this year, which might have been skipped after the sensitive crash of a RNoAF C-130J on 15 March 2012 en route to Kiruna Flygplats.
Luftforsvaret (Royal Norwegian Air Force)
The RNoAF will contributes to CR14:
Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon from Bodø (331/332 skvadron) and Ørland (338 skvadron), incl. machines with tail no. 659, 675, 687, 688
Lockheed P-3 Orion from Andøya/Andenes, 333 skvadron, including P-3C Orion with tail nr. 3298
Lockheed C-130J Hercules from Gardermoen, 335 skvadron
Dassault DA-20 Jet Falcon from Rygge, 717 skvadron
Bell 412SP from Bardufoss (339 skvadron) and possibly Rygge (720 skvadron), including machines with tail no. 139, 142, 143, 157 and 167
NH90 from Bardufoss (operational test & evaluation / 334 skvadron), including machine with tail no. 049
Sikorsky/Westland Sea King Mk 43 from Bardufoss, 330 skvadron
Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force)
The SweAF will contributes to CR14:
8 – 10 SAAB JAS 39 Gripen* from F21 Luleå-Kallax (Norrbottens flygflottilj), 211 & 212 Wing (Stridsflygdivision)
2 SAAB JAS 39 Gripen* from F17 Ronneby (Blekinge flygflottilj), 171 Wing (Stridsflygdivisionen)
The German Special Forces (Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK)) have choosen the most powerful EC145 helicopter for its special ops. Fifteen so-called EC645 T2 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) will begin to arrive late 2015. According to the Eurocopter press release final delivery is planned for mid-2017.
The LUH contract enhances the Special Forces Command’s operational capability. The day and night missions that these helicopters will perform include insertion and extraction of special ops, fire support and reconnaissance.
The EC645 T2 LUH features a modern digital cockpit with full night vision and a 4-axis autopilot. Its communication equipment including tactical radios enables interoperability among NATO forces. Special ops teams can quickly access the aircraft thanks to its spacious cabin, which has two large sliding side doors and double doors at the rear. The helicopter’s maximum take-off weight is 3.7 tons. Troop safety is improved by the Fenestron shrouded tail rotor, particularly for flight operations in confined landing sites and whenever the rotor is turning on ground.
In addition, the mission equipment packages include fast rope system, cargo hooks and hoists. The aircraft are also equipped with pintle armament and electro-optical sensors. A self-protection system and ballistic protection further increase crew safety and aircraft survivability. The EC645 T2 is powered by two Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines and is equipped with dual-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC).
The helicopter can be strategically airlifted in an Airbus A400M and quickly prepared for the mission upon arrival in a theater of operations.
The contract, worth a total of 194 million euros, includes not just the helicopters but also the related equipment packages to allow KSK to carry out its special operations missions. About 600 helicopters of the EC145 family have been delivered to more than 40 countries.