Tag Archives: NH90

German readiness: only 4 Eurofighters, dozens not available

This is not our first, but hopefully our last report on the deplorable state of the German Armed Forces. Quite likely great reading material for the military headquarters in Moscow, one can only feel sorry for the many German military pilots, who can jump higher themselves then many of their planes can fly.

According to new confidential information made public by German media on 3 May 2018, the Luftwaffe has only a terrifying low number of 4 Eurofighter EF2000s ready to what they have been bought for: to go into combat when needed. True, another 6 are said to be airworthy too, but without the weapons they need to do their job. The aging Tornadoes the EF2000s are to replace are doing better, but with only 16 of the 80 or so Panavia planes ready for take-off one rather wants to cry than to be happy.

Luftwaffe Tornadoes are able to fly in only slightly higher numbers (Image © Marcel Burger)
Luftwaffe Tornadoes are able to fly in only slightly higher numbers (Image © Marcel Burger)

In short, Germany is unable to defend itself and to give its promised contribution to NATO if needed. To the military alliance Berlin has promised to have 60 to 82 EF2000s ready at all times, assets that will be very much needed if it ever comes to war in the Baltics. Right now, “mighty” Germany seems to have to rely on neighbour Poland and wish for the best.

German military helicopter readiness

Taking a look at the helicopter fleet the reports are quite pessimistic too, with 13 of the 58 new NH90s transport and assault and 12 of the 52 Tiger attack helicopters available. Increasing helicopter numbers are very much needed, since only 95 of the 244 Leopard main battle tanks of the army can be deployed.

Faults in money allocation, mismanagement in spare parts deliveries and an overall way to low budget for its needs, Germany is faced with the worst defence crisis in its history. With not much more cash coming in in the foreseeable future, the matters are about to only get worse. If the trend continues soon there will be nothing left to fly in the skies over Europe’s strongest economic power.

© 2018 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: stuck into a hardened aircraft shelter is what many Eurofighters face these days in Germany (Photo © Dennis Spronk)

Deck landings: getting your adrenaline up

Ok, so maybe today doesn’t offer the most challenging weather for deck landings in an NH90 helicopter. But when you’re in that same NH90 and you’re facing a wind and rain swept deck in high seas, it will get you adrenaline running and you’ll be thankful for every last bit of training you’ve had. And so, the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) regularly heads out to sea for deck landings aboard Dutch navy vessels. Even on a perfectly calm day such as this one.

Related reading: Dutch NH90 – ready to run. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Location: the North Sea, aboard the Royal Netherlands Navy’s 108 meter long Ocean-going Patrol Vessel (OPV) Zr. Ms. Groningen. Job at hand: landing an eleven tonnes NH90 helicopter on the 16 by 30 meter landing deck over the stern of the ship. Inbound for doing exactly that is Neptune 11, an NH90  from De Kooy Air Station near Den Helder, which is also the Royal Netherlands Navy’s home port.

Approach

As Neptune 11 approaches the ship, it becomes clear that these deck landings provide training to more than just the helicopter crew. It’s the flight deck crew who also are being put to work to gain experience in getting the helicopter down on the deck safely, which never is a routine task given ever changing winds and waves.

Suddenly, things are not so calm anymore. The flight deck becomes a flurry of noise, wind and rotor blades going around a high speed. The one braving the elements in particular is the flight deck officer, who has to withstand the gale-force downwash from the NH90’s main rotor. Using forceful hand signals and clear commands over the radio, the flight deck officer direct Neptune towards the desired landing spot.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Vincent Kok)

Landing

Taking the flight deck officer’s directions and using other visual clues, the NH90 pilot seemingly without too much effort lands his helicopter aboard Zr. Ms Groningen and is immediately secured in place with chains. The NH90 is a hugely automated helo, but a landing like this mostly depends on pilot skills and smooth interaction between the helo’s crew and the folks on the flight deck.

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Take off

The helo is not here to stay, however. Shortly after landing and after another bit of hand signalling, the NH90 takes off while creating more hurricane-force winds for the deck crew to battle with. Throughout the rest of the day, this scene will be repeated many times as the cycle of approaching, landing and taking off continues.

(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)

Anti-submarine

The NH90 has been in Dutch service for seven years now, first in what was called a Meaningful Operational Capability since upon delivery not all helicopter were fully equipped for all task. In their Final Radar Configuration, the helicopters are also capable of anti-submarine warfare (ASW). The first ASW-qualified Dutch crew recently took part in large scale exercise Joint Warrior. in which the crew successfully managed to find and track a Norwegian submarine.

And yes, during an exercise in the waters around Scotland, you are certainly glad that you’ve working on deck landings, adds NH90 pilot Tim. “As soon as you see the deck rolling, and you see the waves and the wind, that will certainly get your adrenaline up. You’ll be glad to know that you are properly trained and perfectly capable of landing that eleven tonnes helicopter on that ship.”

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Video filming & editing by Vincent Kok – www.imagingthelight.com

(Image © Vincent Kok)
(Image © Elmer van Hest)
(Image © Vincent Kok)

 

Winter wonderland with Cold Blade 2016

UPDATED | Finnish and German military rotary aircraft and their crews had a blast this week up in Scandinavia. Exercise Cold Blade 2016 put machines and men & women to the test from 7 to 18 March 2016.

Place of the winter wonderland was Ivalo far up in the most Northeastern country, with the training area being about 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border.

The Finnish Army (Maavoimat) played the leading role, with 6 of its 20 NHIndustries NH90s supported by 95 people. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) sent 2 of its 64 Sikorsky CH-53G Stallion and 70 personnel. Sweden sent some observers, while Italy dispatched a few trainees.

Cool shot of Finnish NH90s getting ready for action during Cold Blade 2016 (Image © Johannes Heyn)
Cool shot of Finnish NH90s getting ready for action during Cold Blade 2016 (Image © Johannes Heyn)
German CH-53Gs in the winter wonderland of Ivalo, Finland, during Cold Blade 2016 (Image © Johannes Heyn)
German CH-53Gs in the winter wonderland of Ivalo, Finland, during Cold Blade 2016 (Image © Johannes Heyn)

Operate in a challenging environment

Cold Blade, like its sister exercise Hot Blade in the Southern European countries, is aimed to train European helicopter crews and technicians to fly and operate in a challenging environment and to teach and learn techniques, tactics and procedures in those special conditions.

Finnish special forces

Simultaneously with Cold Blade the Finns ran Northern Griffin, an combat search and rescue exercise of Finnish special forces, enabling the NH90 and CH-53 crews to train with ground forces in infiltration and exfiltration. Airheadsfly.com guest photographer Johannes Heyn sent us some nice footage that we love to share with you.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Scandinavia can be extraordinary beautiful with sundown, or sunrise for that matter (Image © Johannes Heyn)

A Finnish Army NH90 on the ground, while a CH-53G stays on the look-out (Image © Johannes Heyn)
A Finnish Army NH90 on the ground, while a CH-53G stays on the look-out (Image © Johannes Heyn)
Nice panorama of the Luftwaffe Stallions in snowy Finland (Image © Christian Albrecht)
Nice panorama of the Luftwaffe Stallions in snowy Finland (Image © Johannes Heyn)

First picture: NH90 Sea Lion for Germany

An Airheadsfly.com visit to Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth on Friday 22 January produced the very first picture of the first NH90 Sea Lion helicopter for the Germany Navy. The helicopter is currently in final assembly and along with 17 others and from 2019 onwards, replaces the Sea King helos still in use with the Marine.

The first Sea Lion entered final assembly in October and is now having its electrical harnesses fitted, after which avionics and initial mission equipment will be installed. The helicopter is expected to fly for the first time in November 2016.

The naval variant differs from German Army NH90s as it has a stronger landing gear for deck landings, plus provisions for the installation of a full anti-submarine warfare (ASW) kit and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) kit. The German government still has to decide on the exact specifications, though. The Netherlands, France, Italy, Norway and Sweden already operate ASW-versions of the NH90.

Search and rescue

In 2019, the Sea Lion will be ready to take over search and rescue (SAR) plus transport and support duties from the Sea King, the oldest of which dates back to 1973. At a later stage, the new NH90 should be ready also to take over the ASW and ASuW role from current Super Lynx helos.

With the engines ans landing gear installed, this brand new NH90 for the German army, is almost ready to be moved to the so called Flightline hangar at Donauwörth for test flights (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With the engines ans landing gear installed, this brand new NH90 for the German army is almost ready to be moved to the so called Flightline hangar at Donauwörth for test flights. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
In the front the first German NH90 Sea Lion, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airbus Helicopters is ramping up production tempo a bit in 2016. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Production

The last of 18 Sea Lions – total estimated cost 1.4 billion EUR – is to be delivered in 2022. Airbus Helicopters will slightly push production tempo in Donauwörth a bit to over ten NH90 helicopters per year. These also include the remaining NH90s for the German army, plus more ASW-variants for Sweden. Worldwide, 35 to 50 NH90s are manufactured yearly.

The NH90 has suffered from a bad reputation in Germany over maintenance and reliability issues. Airbus Helicopters is now retrofitting early production helicopters with the latest configuration including software and other upgrades. The company also says it is now getting good and positive feedback from NH90-pilots.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): The first German NH90 Sea Lion in production, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The first German NH90 Sea Lion in production, in the Final Assembly Line (FAL) at Airbus Helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Production of a single NH90 takes about 12 months. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

First anti-submarine NH90 for Sweden – finally

In a program plagued by delay after delay, Airbus Helicopters on Thursday 17 December finally delivered the first anti-submarine warfare-equipped NH90 helicopter to Sweden. The Scandinavian country desperately has been needing an advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability for years, as its waters in the Baltic Sea are regularly visited by submarines and submersibles, supposedly mainly of Russian origin.

The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration FMV (Försvarets Materielverk) took delivery of the NH90. The helo has a customized mission system including underwater sonar, tactical radar and high cabin for improved interior space. In total, Sweden has ordered 18 NH90s, 13 equipped for search-and-rescue missions (SAR) and five in ASW configuration. In Swedish service the type is dubbed HKP14 (Helikopter 14).


RELATED POST:
Winching on Swedish NH90 not so easy, yet

Operational winch testing with the HKP14 (NH90) of the Swedish Armed Forces. Notice two crew members to operate the winch safely (Image © Trejde helikoterflottiljen / Försvarsmakten)
Operational winch testing with the HKP14 (NH90) of the Swedish Armed Forces. Notice two crew members to operate the winch safely (Image © Trejde helikoterflottiljen / Försvarsmakten)


HKP14 Configurations

The first of the ASW HKP14 has now been delivered, with four more following. Also, four SAR-configured Swedish NH90s will be re-configured into the same ASW-platform. In the end, Sweden will therefore have nine NH90s for SAR duties and nine for ASW tasks. The Swedish ASW variant has been in development since 2007. Delays sparked strong criticism from the Swedish military, with some officials quoted as having lost confidence in the program.

A HKP14 in Swedish Army livery. All military rotary wing of Sweden is flown by various units of the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Command (Helikopterflottiljen) (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A HKP14 in Swedish Army livery. All military rotary wing of Sweden is flown by various units of the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Battalion (Helikopterflottiljen) (Image © Elmer van Hest)

UH60M Black Hawk

The introduction of the NH90 into the Swedish army was also not without problems. To overcome these, Sweden took desperate measures in 2010 and ordered 15 UH-60M (HKP16) Black Hawk helicopters as a stop gap. Having become the first export customer of that version of the Black Hawk and very happy with its performance, Sweden will keep the Sikorsky tactical transport helicopters besides the 18 HKP14s.


RELATED POST:
Last Super Puma of Sweden retired

The retired HKP 10. Seen here at the 2012 Swedish Military Airshow at F3 Linköping-Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)
The retired HKP 10. Seen here at the 2012 Swedish Military Airshow at F3 Linköping-Malmen. (Image © Marcel Burger)


Helikopterflottiljen

All helicopters in Swedish military service are operated by the Swedish Armed Forces Helicopter Battalion (Försvarsmaktens Helikopterflottiljen). With its headquarters at Linköping-Malmen, the choppers fly from that airbase as well as Luleå-Kallax in the far north and Ronneby near Karlskrona in the far south. Apart from the HKP14s and HKP16s, the battalion operates 12 AgustaWestland HKP15A (A109) battlefield support helicopters as well as 8 AgustaWestland HKP15B (A109) maritime helicopters. Once the last NH90 has been delivered the total fleet will be 45 helicopters.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger
Feature image: The HKP14 in ASW-configuration (Image © Airbus Helicopters)