About 15,000 troops, including 2,000 of non-NATO member Sweden, 40 aircraft and helicopters, about a thousand vehicles and several ships and boats are currently kicking a** in Northern and Central Norway. Exercise Cold Response included the taking of the normally peaceful village of Namsos, situated on the shores of beautiful fjords.
The 7th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from mainly NATO countries together, to show what they can as “bad” and “good” force against each other. To train for a possible real war scenario and to show NATO’s current strange “friend” Russia that the North American-European alliance still can.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Rescuing people from the icy waters of Scandinavia with the winch on the new NH90 helicopter is not so easy, the Swedish Armed Forces discovered during tests the last few months. Unless there is sufficient crew on board, the risk of the winch cable damaging the helicopter is a serious concern.
Currently the winch operator has to hold wire away from the chopper by hand or foot, with another crew member holding him safe. Once out on a real operation there may that person, with the two pilots/navigators in the front and the diver in the water. But technicians of the Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) and the Third Helicopter Squadron (Tredje helikopterskvadronen) think that with some additional equipment it may work.
The maritime version of the HKP14 (Helikopter 14) – as the NH90 is dubbed in Swedish military service – will be on the forefront of submarine hunting in the near future. Sweden lost serious airborne capacity when the Boeing-Vertol/Kawasaki HKP4 (model 107, CH-46 in USMC service) was decommissioned in 2011. HKP14 field tests as underwater reconnaissance asset with dipping sonar is planned for 2016.
Skies have become slightly more boring in Sweden, after the last Aérospatiale (currently Airbus Helicopters) AS332 Super Puma helicopter of the Swedish Armed Forces made its final landing on 22 October.
The last HKP 10 (Helikopter 10) – as the type was dubbed in Swedish military service – touched down on Linköping-Malmen Airbase, 27 years after the day in March 19888 when the first search-and-rescue variant took to the air at F21 Luleå-Kallax Airbase in the north of the country.
The dozen Super Pumas that Sweden ordered were delivered up till 1995, replace the aging HKP 4 (CH-46 Sea Knight) as SAR chopper. Troop transport and medevac were roles later added. More recently three of the Swedish Armed Forces even served in Afghanistan for a period of two years in the latter role. The last serious operational missions were flown by two machines in August this year, when they supported the big Army Exercise 15 (AÖ15), and last week during Exercise Jämtgubben HKP10 with number 97 took part in a real exercise scenario.
For the number freaks: the choppers together made 71,000 flight hours, using 44.5 million litres of fuel. During the service period three of the 12 helicopters were written off due to accidents. Of the remaining nine machines, six are now stored in Linköping offered for sale. Two other machines will go to museums while the ninth aircraft will be used for technical education.
The role of the HKP10 is now resting on the shoulders of the plagued NHIndustries NH90, named HKP 14 in Swedish Armed Forces service. Of the 18 machines Sweden hopes to have in 2019, ten have now been delivered. Half of the current fleet flies with the Helicopter Squadron at Luleå in the far north, the other half with the chopper unit at Ronneby in the far south.
Since deliveries and operational availability were very problematic the Swedish government ordered 15 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk choppers in 2011, which were quickly delivered and which will stay operational as the country’s defence and political leadership seems to be very happy with their availability.
As we at Airheadsfly.com reported earlier, Lockheed Martin is buying Sikorsky Aircraft. The biggest weapons manufacturer of the world – in sales – will thereby be the new daddy of the famous Black Hawk helicopter, the big CH-53 and the fast future combat helicopter of the future, the S-97 Raider – plus offshore rotary business and the Sikorsky daughter company Schweizer.
Lockheed Martin pays 9 billion dollar for the deal, to the company that was Sikorsky’s parent for 85 years: United Technologies Corporation. US Federal authorities will have to approve of the deal, safeguarding that it doesn’t collide with monopoly regulations.
If approved the transition of Sikorsky into Lockheed Martin will be done by the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016. “The Corporation plans to align Sikorsky under the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training business segment. MST and Stratford, Connecticut, based Sikorsky currently partner on a number of critical programs, including the VH-92 Presidential Helicopter, Combat Rescue Helicopter and the Naval MH-60 Helicopter,” Lockheed Martin writes in its statement.
With the acquisition of Sikorsky by Lockheed Martin the end of the company founded in 1923 is there, as Lockheed Martin will likely release the Sikorsky helicopters of the future under its own name – the way Boeing did when it acquired McDonnell Douglas and the way McDonnell Douglas did when it bought Hughes.
Sikorsky produced the world’s first single main rotor helicopter, the VS-300, and was the force behind the XR-4 that became the first helicopter to fly cross-country across the USA. The Sikorsky S-58 became the first helicopter to retrieve a US astronaut, commander Alan Shepherd, in 1961.
The most numerous Sikorsky helicopter flying around at the moment is the Black Hawk and its derivatives like the Sea Hawk. With its first flight on 17 October 1974 more than 4,000 UH-60s and likes have been produced so far – with the military of 24 nations relying on these work horses.