On 15 March, Bell Helicopter Textron has been awarded a USD 18.9 million for three UH-1H Huey II helicopters for the Lebanese government. This will be done via a foreign military sales (FMS) contract.
These 3 examples are part of an order for 18 UH-1H Huey II helicopters placed in 2014. The Lebanese Air Force already flies 6 Huey IIs since 2012. Delivery of the 3 helicopters is expected to be completed by 14 March 2017. Besides the Huey II the Lebanese Air Force also operates the older UH-1H type for more than 15 years now. The Huey IIs will replace these older airframes.
The UH-1 Huey (officially named Iroquois) flew first in 1959, and has been in service in large numbers with many air forces around the world, such as the German army (see our special report about the UH-1Ds here)
Taiwan has secured the operational availability of its fleet of 10 Aérospatiale designed AS365 Dauphin helicopters for the next five years. Taipei has chosen Airbus Helicopters – the current marketeer/manufacturer of the Dauphin – for a so-called full fleet management for 54,5 million Euros.
The National Airborne Services Corps of Republic of China (Taiwan) Interior Ministry is operating the 10 Dauphins in the search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency medical services (HEMS), transportation, monitoring, reconnaissance and patrol role. The NASC’s AS365s are based at Taipei-SongShan, Taichung and Kaohsiung-Hsia Kong.
Key in deal is that Airbus performs not only all maintenance on the choppers, but also provides so-called end-to-end logistics. In other words, the NASC personnel should only worry about its real mission: providing chopper service for those in need.
The NASC was formed in March 2004 as a merger between police, fire fighting and coast guard units. Besides the Dauphins, the NASC operates 20 Bell UH-1H “Huey” choppers, two Sikorsky S-76Bs, three Chinooks (civilian model B-234 of the CH-47), a Beechcraft 200 Super King Air (BE-200) and a Beechcraft 350 King Air (BE-350). Apart from the three Fleet Stations where the Dauphins are based, the NASC air assets also fly from Fleet Stations Hualien, Tainan and Taitung.
The Vietnamese People’ Army has temporarily grounded the Bell UH-1 Iroquois (“Huey”) fleet after the fatal crash of one of the machines on 28 January 2015.
An army spokesman told Vietnamese journalists that each machine will be technically inspected before allowing it back into the air. Two VPA lieutenant colonels, a major and a lieutenant perished on 28 January, after their UH-1 went down eight minutes after take-off from Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon Tan Son Nhat Airport.
Vietnam is believed to still operate about 12 to 14 Hueys, from the more than 50 that South Vietnam flew when it was defeated by North Vietnam in 1975. Almost two years earlier regular US forces left the country after 13 years of American involvement in the Vietnamese conflict. The war – a lost one for the United States – left between one to two million Vietnamese military and civilians, about 250,000 Cambodians, possibly up to 150,000 Laotians and more than 58,000 US service men/women dead.
An astonishing almost 7,000 UH-1s were deployed to Vietnam, of the more than 16,000 built. One of the more modern versions is the Bell 412, of which almost 900 have been delivered so far. Scores of “Hueys” – the nickname for this choppers derived from its original type abbreviation HU (Helicopter Utility) – old and new serve many military and civilian operators worldwide.
Australian Defence Forces base Darwin, in the Northern Territory facing Asia, is slowly growing into a major US support location. From March/April till September the base will hold 22 rotary wing of the US Marine Corps.
Located slightly north-east of the city of Darwin, the RAAF Base is a so-called forward operating location with the runway shared with Darwin International Airport. It is home to a detachment of Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from No. 92 Squadron as well as air force base units.
USMC Squadrons Squadrons HMH-462, HMH-463, HMLA-367 and HMLA-367 will bring a combined force of eight Bell AH-1W Super Cobras, six Bell UH-1Y Venoms and eight Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions to the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, according to current plans. They will train together with RAAF elements and provide the US with a jump spot for possible operations in Asia.
The introduction of the European-made NH90 military helicopter hasn’t gone very smooth for many air forces. There has been criticism against the long delivery delays, problems with corrosion, hearing loss for pilots and operational problems in Afghanistan. But on the southern part of the globe the Royal New Zealand Air Force seems to be rather happy with their new helicopter. All eight ordered NH90s have been delivered, and just before Christmas the RNZAF’s merged its NH90s and its five fairly new AgustaWestland A109LUHs together.
During a ceremony at RNZAF Base Ohakea on North Island the Helicopter Transition Unit formally integrated into 3 Squadron on 20 December 2014, with Wing Commander Scott McKenzie as the new guy to lead the unit. Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley made a note of is gladness during the event: “The NH90 will now be responsible for search and rescue missions, casualty evacuation, transport for the New Zealand police, government and military, and will be there for national security requirements.”
The words of the marshal were hardly spoken or the NH90 made its first operational debut: a Austrian hiker was missing in the Tararua Forest Park on 23 December. The NH90 crew spotted him in a valley, winched him in and brought him back to the urbanised world.
New Zealand ordered eight NH90s (plus the equivalent of a ninth for spares) in 2006 for about US$ 600 million to replace the Bell UH-1H Iroquois (“Huey”) chopper. The last of 10 Hueys – also with 3 Squadron – is destined to retire in the southern Winter of 2015, when the NH90s and the military personnel that will use them reach full operational capability that will include fast roping and rappelling and more advanced SAR tactics.
The Iroquois has been in RNZAF service since 1966, but apart from getting older the limitations of the UH-1 in today’s operational environment came much to light during New Zealand’s contribution to the Australian-led multinational stability force in East Timor between 1999 and 2002.
The most southern country in the world to use the NH90, New Zealand is also the first in the world that has its full complement of ordered choppers of the type up and running. The first pair arrived in December 2011, the last at the end of October this year. The Belgian Air Component followed suit with its four “army” NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters in November, but the final of four “navy” NH90NFHs still has to make it. Interesting detail: like in New Zealand the Belgian NH90s serve alongside A109s in the army support role, which Airheadsfly.com caught on camera during our exclusive visit of Beauvechain Airbase in November 2014.
New Zealand’s NH90 story also had its downsides. There was a delivery delay of 3 years, compensated with 1,4 billion US dollars by NHIndustries. And one of the brand new NH90s was damaged up to 9 million dollars in September 2013 after a lightning strike damaged its tail and main rotors plus parts of the fuselage while the machine was on the ground. But the delay and lightning strike that didn’t have an impact on the operational capabilities of the New Zealand armed forces as a whole, like it did in Sweden.
There the government in Stockholm quickly ordered and received 15 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks in 2010 to meet urgent needs. And while the Swedish Armed Forces are in December 2014 still struggling with nine less than operational green-painted NH90TTHs and one semi-operational grey-painted maritime NH90NFH, the New Zealand Air Force already reached 1,000 flying hours on the type in March 2014. In the same month the NH90 and UH-1H served the Central District police together in recovering 7415 cannabis plants in a law enforcement bust.
With the full complement of NH90s serving alongside A109LUHs and the gradual farewell to the UH-1H, the New Zealand Defence Force main helicopter unit at RNZAF Base Ohakea looks forward to a bright new future.