Tag Archives: the Netherlands

Saved from the axe: Cougar helicopter in the Netherlands

Under economic pressure the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) was saying goodbye to the Cougar helicopter, but the vital function of the tactical transport helicopter saved from the axe was shown clearly this week during an airlanding exercise near Arnhem, the Netherlands.

The military training grounds of Deelen and the Ede Heath saw a lot of action in a normally quiet Autumn. A total of six RNLAF choppers were flying back and forth with military equipment, from pallets to vehicles. The double rotor choppers – aka Boeing CH-47 Chinooks – are not easy to miss, but the quieter and real stars of the show were the AS532U2 Cougars.

Providing an airhead with necessary military equipment in the last week of November 2015. Taken on the training grounds near Arnhem (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Providing an airhead with necessary military equipment in the last week of November 2015. Taken on the training grounds near Arnhem (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

SFOR in Bosnia

Seventeen of these machines won over the legendary Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk when the Royal Netherlands Army was looking for a proper rotary airlift in the 1990s. Designed by Aérospatiale, built by its successor Eurocopter and currently named Airbus Helicopters, the French built machines arrived in 1996 and 1997. Their service record has not been without trouble. The machines were notorious for leaking fuel and the lack of de-icing equipment did hamper operations a bit while 5 machines operated with the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia in 2001, the RNLAF Cougars’ first operational deployment.

Neither fond of heat the Cougars also had some issues while flying from Tallil Airbase in Iraq in 2004. Operation in 2006 to 2010 as part of the Royal Netherlands Armed Forces Task Force Uruzgan in Afghanistan were limited by Cougars not only having to combat heat but also high altitude operations, flying from inside the Uruzgan province and Kandahar.

The RNLAF Cougar in its original camouflage livery (Image © Marcel Burger)
The RNLAF Cougar in its original camouflage livery (Image © Marcel Burger)

Bambibucket

But the choppers were still able to perform important tasks in support of the Royal Netherlands Army, as Search-and-Rescue or medevac asset, as shipborne troop transport helicopter for the amphibian forces of the Marine Corps of the Royal Netherlands Navy embarked on landing transport docks, and as fire fighter with the so-called bambibucket both at home and abroad.

Demonstrating the use of the bambi-bucket during a wildfire near the city of Assen in the Netherlands in 2011 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Demonstrating the use of the bambi-bucket during a wildfire near the city of Assen in the Netherlands in 2011 (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

Flying up to 500 miles (800 km) – further with additional fuel tanks – the Cougar operates normally with a crew of four: pilot, co-pilot, loadmaster and door gunner on a 7.62 mm machine gun. The cargo hold has room for 10 fully equipped troops or 14 without equipment. In the medevac role a doctor/anesthetist and a nurse are on board to take car of up to six patients, three sitting up and three lying down.

Gilze Rijen Airbase

All Cougars fly with 300 Squadron, operating from Gilze Rijen Airbase. The unit’s personnel were shocked to learn in 2011 that their job was about to disappear when the Ministry of Defence in the Hague announced another round of downsizing. But even with the awaited beefing up of the Boeing CH-47F Chinook fleet to 20 machines, having the NH90 choppers on strength at 18 the military and defence policital leadership say they have noticed a lack of rotary wing capacity if there would no longer be any Cougars.

The two "looks" of the Dutch Cougars, flying in together over Gilze Rijen Airbase in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The two “looks” of the Dutch Cougars, flying in together over Gilze Rijen Airbase in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)

Cougar service life

So the French design from 1965 will stay part of the fleet until at least 2023, Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert recently wrote to the parliament in the Hague. Currently down to 12 operational machines a even smaller number of Cougars will keep on flying till the end of their new decided service life until the leadership is confident the Foxtrot Chinooks and NH90s can do the job together.

Cougar training with commandos on Curaçao, one of the Dutch territories in the Caribbean (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
Cougar training with commandos on Curaçao, one of the Dutch territories in the Caribbean (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)
The core of air mobility of the Royal Netherlands Air Force: a Cougar working in tandem with a Chinook to fly in military equipment to the 11th Air Mobile Brigade Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
The core of air mobility of the Royal Netherlands Air Force: a Cougar working in tandem with a Chinook to fly in military equipment to the 11th Air Mobile Brigade, with the Boeing AH-64 Apaches (foreground) providing fire power cover (Image © Marcel Burger)

11th Airborne Brigade

As illustrated again at the Ede Heath and Deelen training grounds this week, the Cougars and Chinooks often operate closely together with the 11th Airborne Brigade of the Royal Netherlands Army. That capacity – although not fully used since 2013 as the red berets have been deployed more conventionally – is something the Netherlands would like to keep. Possibly in light of the increased Russian activity on the borders with NATO, where the strengthened Russian Aviation Regiments are training on blitzkrieg-like offensive maneouvres by quickly moving sizable ground units through the air by Mil Mi-8/Mi-17s escored by Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopters.

Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)
Some Cougars were painted in the new grey livery, seen here at the Cougars home base of Gilze Rijen in 2014 (Image © Marcel Burger)

Backed by renewed trust the men and women of 300 Squadron of the RNLAF showed this week that although plagued through its service life, they are up to the challenge of airlifting combat reinforcements to airheads in the field, in the way the AS532U2 Cougar was originally purchased for.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Royal Netherlands Air Force Cougar in the new grey livery (Image © Ministerie van Defensie)

RUAG puts new life in Dornier 228

Emmen, Switzerland, based RUAG Aviation is putting new life into the Dornier 228. The company confirmed it will restart a low-rate serial production of the capable commuter and surveillance plane in mid-2016.

Starting with four aircraft per year, RUAG hopes to increase that number when demand grows with it. “Assembly of the fuselage has already begun, and the wing panels are currently in the forming process. The final assembly line has also been set up in Munich-Oberpfaffenhofen as part of the ongoing preparations to get the facility ready for the start of serial production,” the company writes in a statement.

An Indian Air Force Do-228 produced by HAL (Image © Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)
RELATED POST:
Indian Air Force buys more Do-228s

Building on the heritage of the company founded by Claude Dornier which lasted from 1914 to 1998, RUAG first restarted the production of the Dornier 228 in 2009 together with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Indian company has been producing the Do-228 under license since 1983 and manufactures the major parts of the aircraft. RUAG puts it all together at the old Dornier company location in Oberpfaffenhofen and adds additional equipment the customer wishes.

The RUAG New Generation version of the Do-228 has a new five-blade propeller, a so-called glass cockpit and improved performance such as a longer range. It has a large cargo door, making handling of cargo up to 4,410 lb (2,000 kg) easier. It’s normal take-off distance is only 2,600 feet (793 metres), but used with Short Take-Off and Landing procedures 1,690 feet (515 metres) will do. The landing strip needs to be at least 1,480 feet (450 metres) long. The Dornier 228 NG has a maximum cruise speed of 234 knots (433 kmh) and a typical range (74% load or 14 passengers) of 690 nautical miles (1118 km). Although it can climb about 1,800 feet per minute, with one engine only the Do-228 NG is still able to do a nice 440 feet/min climb.

The Do-228NG, seen during last week's Paris Air Show. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Do-228 NG, seen during last week’s Paris Air Show. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airheadsfly.com got the full briefing on the Do-228 NG's cockpit. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airheadsfly.com got the full briefing on the Do-228 NG’s cockpit. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

RUAG Aviation co-operates with Tata Advanced Systems of India for the air frame manufacturing. Apart from being a good airplane to reach remote locations with cargo or up to 19 passengers, the Dornier 228 could be an excellent platform for surveillance duties. Able to stay up for eight hours in a row such mission has already been adopted by the Coast Guard of the Netherlands.

Source: RUAG Aviation with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image:A Do-228 of a civilian operator connecting remote areas in Venezuela (Image © RUAG)

A Netherlands Coast Guard Dornier Do-228 performing a fly-by (Image © Marcel Burger)
A Netherlands Coast Guard Dornier Do-228 performing a fly-by (Image © Marcel Burger)

Dutch reduce ISIS fighting force

The Netherlands is reducing its airborne effort in fighting the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) forces in Iraq. According to sources in The Hague the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) will start sending its F-16s home from the operations base in Jordan.

Due to the increasing need for maintenance, costs and worries about the combat capability (read: lack of training for other missions) continuation of the entire RNLAF contribution to the international military effort to fight ISIS was in doubt.

The military and political leadership of the Netherlands now opt to reduce the number of F-16s dispatched to Jordan from the current six to four, plus two fighter jets in reserve. Plans call to keep the mission going until the end of June 2016 and there seems to be a majority in the Dutch parliament supporting the decision.

Belgian Air Component
There are still Dutch hopes for a rotating deployment in cooperation with Belgium. The Belgian Air Component currently flies six F-16s separately from the same base in Jordan as the RNLAF does, but Brussels says there is no money left to continue the mission after June.

But the Dutch decision that will be made public on Friday might influence the Belgians to reconsider sending a quartet of F-16s (plus two reserve) in October for a 3 month deployment, to be taken over by the RNLAF again in January 2016. High-level talks on this matter have already been done prior to the decision making.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: Formation of Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s (Image © Dennis Spronk)

The real EART hour is approaching

Forget switching off some lights, the real EART hour is approaching! For the second year in a row several European nations are scrambling their military in-flight refuelling assets to show what the real deal of modern combat is about: keeping fighter jets in the air with the flying gas stations.

“As the air operations of Unified Protector over Libya in 2011 showed, we need to train together in advance for a smooth multinational operation,” the PR staff of the European Air Transport Command (EATC) writes in a statement on why the European Air-to-Air Refuelling Training (EART) is needed. “Moreover, the United States Forces are planning to deploy major parts of their air-to-air refuelling fleet out of Europe while only a few of the European Union member states operate tanker aircraft.”

Fleet
Those EU nations are France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, but not all have their aircraft assigned to the joined pool. In contrary to the US forces, the tanker assets of the EU nations are less numerous and less standardised. While the US armed forces operates a massive fleet of 414 Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker (USAF), 59 McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) KC-10 Extender (USAF) and 72 KC-130T/J Hercules aircraft (US Marines Corps), European nations working together in the EATC can assign 26 tankers max.

Missions
Some of those European tanker aircraft will see action in the skies over the Netherlands, Denmark, Northern Germany and the North Sea North Sea from 13 April to 24 April 2015 during EART 2015. The tanker ops will come quite handy to the participants of NATO and the military alliance’s Partnership for Peace Air Forces while their combat aircraft are conducting offensive and defensive missions at the same time from Leeuwarden Airbase in the Netherlands during the large scale exercise Frisian Flag 2015.

An Italian Air Force KC-767 during a mission over Iceland (Image © Cpt. Jiri Cermak / Czech Air Force)
An Italian Air Force KC-767 during a mission over Iceland (Image © Cpt. Jiri Cermak / Czech Air Force)
An E-3 in 'pre-contact' position. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
RELATED FEATURE:
Air-to-air refuelling on a NATO E-3

EART 2015
EART 2015 is being run from Eindhoven Airbase further south, home to the transport and tanker pool managed by the European Air Transport Command. The French Air Force (Armée de l’Air) will contribute one or more of its 14 Boeing C-135F/FR Stratotankers. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) sends one or more of its four Airbus A310 MRTTs, while Italy (Aeronautica Militare) supplies one or more of its four Boeing KC-767A aircraft. The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) will have at least one of its two McDonnell Douglas KDC-10s available. The Swedish TP 84 (KC-130) Hercules and the Royal Air Force’s Voyager (Airbus A330 MRTT) fleet are not assigned to the EATC. Spain has chosen not to participate with its two Boeing 707/KC-707s.

“The general purpose of the training is to create a realistic training environment to exchange information and practice among tanker and jet crews, as well as to enable certification processes between tanker and receiver aircraft,” the EATC’s PR staff writes.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A RNLAF KDC-10 (Image © Koninklijke Luchtmacht)

A Boeing C135R of the French Air Force after its first landing at the revamped Niamey airfield in Niger on 31 December 2014 (Image © Ministère de la Défense)
A Boeing C135R of the French Air Force after its first landing at the revamped Niamey airfield in Niger on 31 December 2014 (Image © Ministère de la Défense)

AHF↑Inside: Market Garden Parajump 2014

Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk joined the preparations of the 2014 Market Garden Parajump at Eindhoven Airbase, the Netherlands, on Saturday 20 September 2014.

A historic Douglas C-47 Skytrain (Dakota) and modern-day C-130 Hercules aircraft were taking hundreds of modern day airborne assault troops up for a jump over Ginkel Heath (Ginkelse Heide) near the city of Arnhem, commmemorating the 1944 attempt to capture the strategic bridge over the river Rhine and to liberate the Netherlands from Nazi-Germany.

Ramstein C-130s taxiing at Eindhoven Airbase (Footage © Dennis Spronk)
VIDEO: Ramstein C-130Js taxiing at Eindhoven Airbase (Footage © Dennis Spronk)

The weather was a bit foggy to start with, but conditions improved during the day. Dennis started early in the day feeding us with some quick smartphone camera work (see “the B-roll” at the bottom of this page) he loved to share with you.

Due to the still foggy weather not all aircraft went airborne: a Royal Air Force C-130, a Belgian Air Component C-130 and two German Air Force Transalls let their engines run for a long time without leaving the ground. Later the RAF and BAC Hercs did take-off.

But the US Air Force & Air National Guard plus the Royal Netherlands Air Force did go into the blue yonder for the mass drop over Ginkel Heath in the municipality of Ede – following a first jump by 25 paras from the Skytrain (Dakota) – with 60,000 spectators on the ground at the field. Make sure to read Airheadsfly.com commemorates Market Garden as well.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Dennis Spronk and Marcel Burger

Early morning fog is slowly lifting from Eindhoven Airbase, with the platform full of Hercules airlifters (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Early morning fog is slowly lifting from Eindhoven Airbase, with the platform full of Hercules airlifters
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
A C-130H all the way from Kentucky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A C-130H all the way from Kentucky (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Air and ground crew having fun (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Air and ground crew having fun (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of American C-130Hs and crew (Image © Dennis Spronk)
A pair of American C-130Hs and crew (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ready to go? (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Ready to go? (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airborne troops boarding these C-130J-30s from the 37th Airlift Squadron from Ramstein Airbase (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Airborne troops boarding these C-130J-30s from the 37th Airlift Squadron from Ramstein Airbase
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
First load of paras getting airborne on board this historic Douglas C-47A Skytrain, which is mainly known under its civilian name DC-3 Dakota (Image © Dennis Spronk)
First load of paras getting airborne on board this historic Douglas C-47A Skytrain, which is mainly known under its civilian name DC-3 Dakota (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Normally based at Savannah IAP, this Georgia Air Guard C-130H Hercules of the 158th Airlift Squadron is making its way to the runway (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Normally based at Savannah IAP, this Georgia Air Guard C-130H Hercules of the 158th Airlift Squadron is making its way to the runway (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Kentucky Air Guard on the move (Image © Dennis Spronk)
The Kentucky Air Guard on the move (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Hercules Elephant walk at Eindhoven (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Hercules Elephant walk at Eindhoven (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And airborne (Image © Dennis Spronk)
And airborne (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Smartphone Reel (the B-roll)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Veteran Mario Petruno, 93 years old. Will join the aircrew during the commemorations of Operation Market Garden on 20 September 2014 as co-pilot! (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Waiting for the fog to clear over the drop zone, some of the troops deployed to Eindhoven kill time with a relax throw-and-catch-rugby game. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Waiting for the fog to clear over the drop zone, some of the troops deployed to Eindhoven kill time with a relax throw-and-catch-rugby game. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

1323 hrs. Airborne troops board the waiting Hercules aircraft (Image © Dennis Spronk)
1323 hrs. Airborne troops board the waiting Hercules aircraft (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Royal Netherlands Air Force C-130H G-273 taxiing to the runway (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Royal Netherlands Air Force C-130H G-273 taxiing to the runway (Image © Dennis Spronk)
Hercules airlifters rolling to the runway at Eindhoven Airbase. Despite still somewhat foggy weather the mission seems to be a go! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
US Air Force RS-coded Hercules airlifters rolling to the runway at Eindhoven Airbase. Despite still somewhat foggy weather the mission seems to be a go! (Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)
(Image © Dennis Spronk)