Tag Archives: Sikorsky

Dark picture shows German Air Assets in deplorable state

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.

A rather dark image of the state of the German Air Force, Naval Aviation and Army Aviation was painted by German Parliamentary Commissioner of the Armed Forces Hans-Peter Bartels during a recent press conference in Berlin. The inspector says units are facing “an overload” with too many deployments that include the Baltic Air Policing mission providing NATO fighter coverage for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and with the helicopter squadrons of the German Army and Air Force.

The star of current German airlift operations, the C-160 Transall, scores a 50% availiability rate (Image © Marcel Burger)
The star of current German airlift operations, the C-160 Transall, scores a 50% availiability rate (Image © Marcel Burger)
(Image © LAF Air Base)
The current German rotary air lift at full speed: a CH-53 lifting essential needs into a combat zone (Image © Marcel Burger)
The current German rotary air lift at full speed: a CH-53 lifting essential needs into a combat zone (Image © Marcel Burger)

“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.”

A German Army NH90 in the field. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
No stopping however for this Tornado. Wings fully back, low, fast and loud - as seen at Laage airbase in 2005. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
No stopping this German Tornado. Wings fully back, low, fast and loud – as seen at Laage airbase in 2005. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

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.

© 2018 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

Turkey and USA confirm 218 local Black Hawks

Turkey and United States have confirmed earlier agreements to let Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) build 109 TAI/Sikorsky T70 Black Hawk helicopters, the Turkish version of the S70i.

Both the US helicopter manufacturer and TAI have now activated the contractual agreements. The machines of the so-called Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP) will be produced over the next decade in Turkey. The Turks will even manufacture a 109 additional baseline S70i choppers to Sikorsky over the next 30 years, aimed for export markets in Southwest Asia, Central Asia and Africa.

Black Hawks to the forces

Of the 109 new Black Hawks to be rolling out of the factory in Turkish Ankara the coming decade the Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı, JGK) will get the most, with 30 helicopters. Each 20 T-70s will go to the Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri, TKK), the General Directorate of Security (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü, EGM) to be flown by the National Police, and the Ministry of Forest and Water Management (Orman ve Su İşleri Bakanlığı, OSİB). The latter will be equipped for fire-fighting duties. The Special Forces Command (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, ÖKK) will get eleven, the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) six. Finally, a pair of T-70s will go the Gölbaşi command unit of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT).

The Turks already fly the S-70 Black Hawk. Here a Turkish Land Forces aircraft in a daring position on a snowy mountain ridge (Image © Türk Kara Kuvvetleri)
The Turks already fly the S-70 Black Hawk. Here a Turkish Land Forces aircraft in a daring position on a snowy mountain ridge (Image © Türk Kara Kuvvetleri)

Co-develop the T70

Production at the new TAI assembly line will commence in 2018 with five kit aircraft shipped from the US. From assembly TAI will move forward to become a full production plant, including the local manufacturing of entire airframe structures and rotor blades. Alp Aviation, a Sikorsky joint venture, will precision-machine the dynamic components and flight controls and assemble landing gear and transmissions. Aselsan and Sikorsky will co-develop an enhanced digital cockpit known as the Integrated Modular Avionics System (IMAS); and Turkish Engine Industries (TEI) will build engines under license from General Electric (GE).

Avionics qualification

To facilitate the development and integration of the IMAS, Sikorsky will transfer to Aselsan a new S-70i helicopter to be utilized as the Prototype Turkish Utility Helicopter for the qualification of the new avionics system in 2019.

Delivery schedule

The first T70s are planned to be operational in 2021, with the final of 109 machines scheduled for delivery by 2026. The total program is worth 3.5 billion US dollars.

Turkish S70s

The government and defence services of Turkey already fly many older S-70 derivatives, with 106 with the Land Forces and 28 with the Gendarmerie. The Turkish Naval Forces (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri, TDK) ordering 17 new S-70B Seahawks back in 2006 to complement the seven it already had.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Turkish armed forces Black Hawk in its typical habitat (Image © TAI)

“German Air Force likely flies Chinooks in 2020”

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.

Supporting the German-Dutch Army Corps, a Royal Netherlands Air Force CH-47F Chinook (Image  © Marcel Burger)
Supporting the German-Dutch Army Corps, a Royal Netherlands Air Force CH-47F Chinook (Image © Marcel Burger)

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.

Boeing CH-47 Chinooks of the US Army's 12th Combat Aviation Regiment preparing for Afghanistan in Germany, March 2014 (Image © Staff Sgt. Caleb Barrieau / USARE)
Boeing CH-47 Chinooks of the US Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Regiment preparing for Afghanistan in Germany, March 2014 (Image © Staff Sgt. Caleb Barrieau / USARE)

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.

First RCAF Chinook CH-147F arrives at Ottawa (Image © Ken Allan / RCAF)
First RCAF Chinook CH-147F arrives at Ottawa (Image © Ken Allan / RCAF)

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.


Check our visit to the
CH-53GA upgrade facilities in Donauwörth, Germany

(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)


Current CH-53GA

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.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com senior contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A Royal Netherlands Air Force CH-47 near the city of Arnhem, in 2014 (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The current German rotary air lift at full speed: a CH-53 lifting essential needs into a combat zone (Image  © Marcel Burger)
The current German rotary air lift at full speed: a CH-53 lifting essential needs into a combat zone (Image © Marcel Burger)

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)

Last advanced Stallions up for delivery in Germany

Fifteen more years of useful service. In 2010, that was the goal of an Airbus Helicopters modification program for German Air Force CH-53G Stallion heavy transport helicopters. Over the past years, these green giants have been getting modernized cockpits, new avionic and warfare suites and countless other upgrades.

The end is near for the modification program, delivering fourty modernized helicopters to the German Air Force. They are known as CH-53GA, signifying ‘Germany Advanced’. As it should.

In the Airbus Helicopters Military Support Center (MSC) in Donauwörth, Germany, well over a dozen Sikorsky CH-53s receive attention. Among them are the last of fourty of these airborne workhorses to be upgraded to CH-53GA. When done, the upgrade shows itself by no uncertain means in the cockpit, where avionics and communications systems almost identical to those used in the NH90 and Tiger attack helicopter, present themselves to awaiting pilots. All is contained in a completely new glass cockpit.

Miles away

With five multi-function displays, the new cockpit is miles away from the analogue workplace it used to be. “We’re taking out all the old mechanical instruments and we put in multifunctional displays that provide the crew with enormous flexibility and increased efficiency”, says Michael Hoofdmann, head of programs at the MSC.

A huge upgrade is the newly designed four-axis autopilot with auto-hover automatic flight control system that is similar to the NH90’s auto pilot. An electronic warfare system for threat recognition and electronic self-protection protects crews in hostile environments. A forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor turret is also part of the update.

The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)
The CH-53GA cockpit. (Image © Airbus Helicopters)

Four decades

The first modernized Stallion was handed back to the German Air Force in 2012, close to four decades after the first of 110 helicopters were introduced in German service. Externally, the CH-53GA lacks the big fuel tanks that identified the past CH-53GS update, a program that mainly served to add personnel recovery and extraction capabilities. An internal fuel tank has been installed in the latest variant instead.

Fleet

The current German fleet consist of forty CH-53GA and 26 remaining CH-53GS/GE helicopters (of which 20 GS and 6 GE), adding up to 66 in total. To examine the remaining service life, one CH-53G has been completely dismantled and inspected for signs of fatigue at Donauwörth. The fleet saw extensive use over the last decades, deploying to Afghanistan and Kosovo. In the same timeframe, all remaining helicopters were transferred from the Germany Army to the German Air Force. The NH90 took the CH-53’s place in the Army.

One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
One of over a dozen CH-53s in Donauwörth last February/ (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
With so many CH-53s in one space, foldable tails help save space. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Twilight

Updated or not, truth is the Stallion is in the twilight of its career. Berlin is looking at its options, being either the CH-47F Chinook or… the CH-53K. The ‘Kilo’ is the latest incarnation of the Stallion, seeing its first flight just last year. There is no road map yet for a purchase, but it seems likely the Germans will decide on a new heavy transport helicopter in the next two or three years. Deliveries are still at least six years away.

Until then, the CH-53GA is the tool of the trade when it comes to heavy helicopter transport in Germany. “They are now state of the art again”, concludes Michael Hoofdmann. “No more upgrades needed for these helicopters.”

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest