The Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) has ordered two additional H225M Caracal multirole utility helicopters as part of the continuation of its fleet strengthening programme agreement launched in 2012. Delivery of the two additional choppers is scheduled for 2019.
These nwely ordered helicopters will join an existing fleet of four identical helicopters to perform similar missions. Two H225Ms that were booked in 2014 will also be delivered by the end of this year. Upon signing this latest contract, the RTAF may also consider to further expand its fleet of H225Ms.
The RTAF’s helicopters are specially equipped with fast roping, cargo sling, search light and electro-optical systems (EOS) to perform combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions, search and rescue (SAR) flights, troop transport operations and other tasks.
Airbus Helicopters on Friday 29 April handed over the first two H145M multi role helicopters to the Royal Thai Navy. The helicopters – five in total – will enter service in Thailand at the end of 2016 following initial pilot training Germany. The Royal Thai Army has also ordered the type.
The H145M is the military version of the civil H145 and an be used for a wide range of military operations including naval, utility, reconnaissance, search and rescue, medical evacuation and armed scout. The Royal Thai Navy helos are equipped with Multi-Purpose Pylons incl. aerodynamic fairings, cargo hooks, hoists, HF system for SAR operations, weather radar, internal long range fuel tank system and fixed provisions for future special operations upgrade.
Thailand was the second nation to order the H145M, following in the footsteps of Germany. The German Special Forces will receive 15 of these helicopters in a custom configuration.
The two H145M helicopters now delivered to Thailand, will stay in Germany for pilot training at Airbus Helicopters’ Training Academy. A third helicopter will b delivered soon. All helicopters are scheduled for delivery in Thailand by September this year.
On first glance a military special forces member may not have a single thing common with an offshore worker, a paramedic or even your average VIP. On second glance, they do. It’s called the H145, currently one of Airbus Helicopters’ best selling choppers and since December 2015 the preferred airborne ride of the German Kommando Spezialkräfte (KSK). Starting April, Thailand will also welcome the H145M, a helicopter that like all Airbus Helicopters rotorcraft, can be customized almost to infinity.
Customization is indeed built into our design structure and production process, says Gottfried Hornung, heading the combined Final Assembly Line (FAL) of H135 and H145 helicopters in Donauwörth, Germany. Behind him, Airbus Helicopters employees perform quality inspections on what is to be the third of fifteen H145Ms for the KSK. The dark green colour sets its apart from other helicopters built for civilian customers.
Hornung is in charge of final assembly of all H135s and H145s produced in Donauwörth. “Helicopters have been produced at this location for many decades.That experience has led to optimized customization for our customers, which in turn contributes to the market success of both the H135 and H145”, says Hornung while an H135 for the Australian Defense Force (ADF) awaits attention. Nearby in the flight hangar, two olive green H145Ms for Thailand are readied for flight and an additional H145 is prepared for its customized ‘Mercedes-Benz style’ VIP interior.
Customized or not, the H135 and H145 are true multipurpose helicopters. Their versatility is demonstrated by the fact the both are the preferred platform for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). As civil market leader, Airbus Helicopters has a strong foothold in this corner of the helicopter market, which globally decreased by over 20 percent last year. Nevertheless, Airbus Helicopters in 2015 slightly increased its civil market share and chalked up total 383 orders, military contracts included. Out of these orders, 107 are for the H145 and 49 for the smaller H135.
On the military market, the H145 may appear like the new kid on the block while in fact it is anything but. Disguised as the UH-72A Lakota and as a replacement for the UH-1 Huey, the type has been serving the US Army for years already in training, transport and liaison roles. A staggering 423 Lakotas were ordered by the US.
In its special ops role, the H145M – advertized as a ‘light battlefield support helicopter’ – offers room for up to 10 soldiers in the ballistically protected cabin. The sliding side doors and fast rope systems offer quick exit in hover situations, while the double clamshell doors at the rear can also be used when on the ground.The Fenestron shrouded tail rotor offers protection and safety on the ground. Until now, special forces in Germany relied on the – again – UH-1 Huey.
The H145M features a mission computer, an infrared/TV electro-optical system, a laser range-finder/designator/pointer plus two rigid but removable multi-purpose armament pylons. Optionally, the helicopter can be fitted with rocket launchers for ballistic and guided weapons, guns pods, mounted door guns and air-to-ground missiles. According to Airbus Helicopters, laser-guided rockets could be added to the H145M’s weapons arsenal in the future, too.
Also, for the next seven years the Airbus Helicopters Military Support Center in Donauwörth will take complete care of the fifteen German special ops choppers. The same center already looks after all military helicopters in service with the Germans, including Sikorsky CH-53Gs, NH90s and Tiger attack Helicopters. It also provides support for German Marine Sea King and Sea Lynx helos.
What sets newer H145s, including the German special ops ones, apart from earlier models is the modulair and impressive Helionix cockpit suite which according to Airbus Helicopters offers pilots the world’s most advanced cockpit – apart from the Airbus A350. In the case of the H145, the suite consists of three large MFDs that can all be adjusted for diplaying either basic flight control instruments, engine parameters, digital maps or a range of other options. Two Garmin GTN 750 GPS/NAV/COMM multifunction displays complete the typical Helionix setup in the H145. The system offers a 4 axis autopilot including Auto-Hover function. Helionix will be integrated in all new or updated products of Airbus such as the new H135 and H160.
Helionix is another example of Airbus Helicopters customization and attention to customer needs. “We aim to get the most out of our product”, says Gottfried Hornung. “Take the recently increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) for the H145, which was 3,650 kg and now is 3,700 kg. In an helicopter, that extra 50 kilos makes all the difference.”
And yes, no matter if you’re a military special forces member, an offshore worker, a paramedic or your average VIP. Or anything else.
Thailand has signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the purchase of four T-50 Golden Eagle jet trainers, as announced on Thursday 17 September. The order is worth 110 million USD.
The aircraft should be delivered from 2017 onwards. The T-50 is already in service in South Korea and Indonesia, while Iraq and the Philippines have also ordered the type. The Thai deal marks a significant success for KAI in the very competitive trainer market. In Thailand, the T-50 is set to replace the Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros trainer.
The Royal Thai Air Force on Thursday 10 September celebrated 5,000 hours of flying the Saab JAS39 Gripen. The aircraft has been in Thai service for well over four years now, operated by 701st squadron ‘Sharks’, part of the 7th wing at Surat Thani airbase.
The Thai Gripen deal was signed in 2008. The first of twelve JAS39C/D Gripens were flown to Thailand in February 2011, with the last arriving two years later. Thailand is the only Asian country operating the Saab jet. Other Gripen operators are Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and, starting 2019, Brazil.