Tag Archives: UH-1

Eastern Europe explores military helo options

UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.

Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.

In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.

The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Czech offers

Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.

A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.

A US Marines UH-1Y Venom in action (Image © Bell Helicopter)
Also on offer: the UH-1Y. (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Support

As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.

Slovakia

There’s no official news about a Sikorsky offer to the Czech yet, but it may be either S-70i, or UH-60M. Next door to the Czech Republic, Slovakia decided to acquire nine Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks through US FMS program. Four out of nine are to be delivered before May 2017.

In the meantime, there is already one Bell AH-1 in Czech Republic – albeit an unarmed TAH-1P. The chopper is owned by Heliczech company, and can be seen at the airshows in country quite often.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Featured image: A Czech Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter strikes a pose. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)
Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)

Philippines terminates big Huey order, blacklists North American suppliers

The Philippines have terminated the contract for the delivery of 21 ex-US Army UH-1D “Huey” (Iroquouis) helicopters. The choppers were to be refurbished by US based Rice Aircraft Services together with Eagle Copters of Canada, but the North American suppliers have now been blacklisted by Manilla for not living up to the deal.

The Philippines already “partially terminating” the contract on 27 March 2015 due to failure to meet the delivery schedule by Rice Aircraft Services, but according to Philippine sources it is now the end of it all.

The contract was awarded just before Christmas 2013 and called for the complete refurbishment of the choppers which are commonly known as Hueys. The aircraft became an icon of US operations in the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Modernised versions serve many civilian operators and armed services today – including the US Marine Corps.

Rice Aircraft Services/Eagle Copters were to deliver the aircraft fully operational but unarmed to the Philippines, but critics already wondered why the Pacific nation was buying older versions of the Huey in stead of the newer H-model. The Philippine Air Force is already operating those UH-1Hs from almost all of its 15 air field facilities throughout the country. Officially it has 44 Hueys on strength, but it is widely believed only half of them are airworthy. Eight similar Bell 205s serve primarily as search-and-rescue helicopters.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A line of UH-1s at the Rice plant in Olivehurst, California (Image © Rice Aircraft Services, Inc.)

Darwin grows into US Marines helibase

Australian Defence Forces base Darwin, in the Northern Territory facing Asia, is slowly growing into a major US support location. From March/April till September the base will hold 22 rotary wing of the US Marine Corps.

Located slightly north-east of the city of Darwin, the RAAF Base is a so-called forward operating location with the runway shared with Darwin International Airport. It is home to a detachment of Royal Australian Air Force P-3 Orion maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft from No. 92 Squadron as well as air force base units.

USMC Squadrons Squadrons HMH-462, HMH-463, HMLA-367 and HMLA-367 will bring a combined force of eight Bell AH-1W Super Cobras, six Bell UH-1Y Venoms and eight Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions to the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin, according to current plans. They will train together with RAAF elements and provide the US with a jump spot for possible operations in Asia.

Source: US Marine Corps

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)
An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter and UH-1Y Huey helicopter fly off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, towards Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii on 13 June 2013. (Image © Sgt Reece Lodder / US Marine Corps)

Overview: Albanian Air Force

Albanian Air Force (Forca Ajrore; FAj), status as of 1 January 2015
(© 2015 Airheadsfly.com. Featured image: The Albanian Air Force is a sole rotary air arm since 2006 (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura))

Active number of aircraft Albanian Air Force: 22

  • 2x Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) AS532AL transport helicopters.
  • 1x Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) AS532AL medevac helicopter.
  • 1x Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) AS532AL combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter.
  • 8x MBB Bo 105 light utility helicopters.
  • 3x Agusta Bell (Bell) 205 utility and transport helicopters. Status of another four unknown.
  • 5x Agusta Bell (Bell) 206 (Jet Ranger) scout and utility helicopters. Status of another two unknown.
  • 1x AgustaWestland A109 utility helicopter
  • 1x Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) EC145 VIP transport helicopter

Aircraft ordered: 2

  • 2x Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter) EC145 utility, rescue and disaster relief helicopters.

Airbases: 2 (plus Tirana IAP as a reserve field)

(Source: Forcat e Amatosura)

    • Färke Airbase
      • 4x AS532AL
      • 1x EC145
      • 1x A109
      • Regular operations by Bo 105, AB 205 and AB 206
      • Stored: several Harbin helicopters.
    • Kuçovë Airbase
      • Regular operations by Bo 105, AB 205 and AB 206. Uncertainty about which types are officially based here.
      • Stored: Chengdu F-7A (12) plus many dozens of MiG-15s, MiG-17s and MiG-19s and Shenyang F-5 and F-6.
    • Nënë Tereza / Tirana International Airport
      • Support for foreign visits and reserve field.

    Shooting Range (aka very nice shots)

    One of the four new AS532AL Cougar helicopters of the Albanian Air Force (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    One of the four new AS532AL Cougar helicopters of the Albanian Air Force (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)

    The MBB Bo 105s from the backbone of the Albanian Air Force. From the dozen ex-German Air Force machines eight are airworthy One of the four new AS532AL Cougar helicopters of the Albanian Air Force (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    The MBB Bo 105s form the backbone of the Albanian Air Force. From the dozen ex-German Air Force machines eight are airworthy One of the four new AS532AL Cougar helicopters of the Albanian Air Force (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)

    The Bo 105s are known to practically land anywhere (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    The Bo 105s are known to practically land anywhere (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    And with anywhere, we also mean the rooftop of houses during emergency relief operations (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    And by anywhere, we also mean the rooftop of houses during emergency relief operations (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Operating easily together are the licensed versions of the Iroquois and the Jet Ranger, made in Italy as Agusta-Bell AB205 and AB206 (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Operating easily together are the licensed versions of the Iroquois and the Jet Ranger, made in Italy as Agusta-Bell AB 205 and AB 206 (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    The Agusta-Bell AB205 is the standard troop insertion helicopter  (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    The Agusta-Bell AB 205 is the standard troop insertion helicopter (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    One doesn't easily recognize the single A109C as a military helicopter, but actually is  (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    One doesn’t easily recognize the single A109C as a military helicopter, but it actually is (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Flashy red is this VIP EC145, soon to be joined by a pair of emergency relief versions that come instead of a fifth Cougar. That AS532 crashed before it was ever delivered. (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Flashy red and white is this VIP EC145, soon to be joined by a pair of emergency relief versions that come instead of a fifth Cougar. That AS532 crashed before it was ever delivered. (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Kuçovë Airbase is where the Albanian Air Force keeps its fighter aircraft in still pretty fair shape. Until 2005 the country operated a mixture of Russian-made and Chinese copies of the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and MiG-21. Four of them form an honour guard at Kuçovë (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Kuçovë Airbase is where the Albanian Air Force keeps its fighter aircraft in still pretty fair shape. Until 2005 the country operated a mixture of Russian-made and Chinese copies of the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19 and a dozen Chengdu F-7s (Chinese-made MiG-21s). Four of the older MiG-types form a honour guard at westside of the field of Kuçovë (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Dozens of the old fighter force are parked at Kuçovë, where they get visited every once in a while (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Many dozens of the old fighter force are parked at Kuçovë, where they get visited every once in a while (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Rumours still have it that some of the Nanchang CJ-6 trainers will be brought back into service, but so far none of these have been confirmed by the Albanian Ministry of Defence (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Rumours still have it that some of the Nanchang CJ-6 trainers will be brought back into service, but so far none of these have been confirmed by the Albanian Ministry of Defence (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Officially no longer on strength are ten surviving Harbin Y-5s, the Chinese copy of the legendary Antonov AN-2 ("Colt")  (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Officially no longer on strength are nine surviving Harbin Y-5s, the Chinese copy of the legendary Antonov AN-2 (“Colt”) (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Old times: an Albanian MiG-19 rolled out of its shelter. (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)
    Old times: an Albanian MiG-19 rolled out of its shelter at Kuçovë (Image © FAj / Forcat e Amatosura)

    SPECIAL: New Zealand – a NH90 success story

    The introduction of the European-made NH90 military helicopter hasn’t gone very smooth for many air forces. There has been criticism against the long delivery delays, problems with corrosion, hearing loss for pilots and operational problems in Afghanistan. But on the southern part of the globe the Royal New Zealand Air Force seems to be rather happy with their new helicopter. All eight ordered NH90s have been delivered, and just before Christmas the RNZAF’s merged its NH90s and its five fairly new AgustaWestland A109LUHs together.

    Test flight with the NH90 in RNZAF livery (Image © Anthony Pecchi / NHIndustries)
    Featured image: Test flight with the NH90 in RNZAF pre-livery (Image © Anthony Pecchi / NHIndustries)
    During a ceremony at RNZAF Base Ohakea on North Island the Helicopter Transition Unit formally integrated into 3 Squadron on 20 December 2014, with Wing Commander Scott McKenzie as the new guy to lead the unit. Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley made a note of is gladness during the event: “The NH90 will now be responsible for search and rescue missions, casualty evacuation, transport for the New Zealand police, government and military, and will be there for national security requirements.”

    The words of the marshal were hardly spoken or the NH90 made its first operational debut: a Austrian hiker was missing in the Tararua Forest Park on 23 December. The NH90 crew spotted him in a valley, winched him in and brought him back to the urbanised world.

    Iroquois
    New Zealand ordered eight NH90s (plus the equivalent of a ninth for spares) in 2006 for about US$ 600 million to replace the Bell UH-1H Iroquois (“Huey”) chopper. The last of 10 Hueys – also with 3 Squadron – is destined to retire in the southern Winter of 2015, when the NH90s and the military personnel that will use them reach full operational capability that will include fast roping and rappelling and more advanced SAR tactics.

    The Iroquois has been in RNZAF service since 1966, but apart from getting older the limitations of the UH-1 in today’s operational environment came much to light during New Zealand’s contribution to the Australian-led multinational stability force in East Timor between 1999 and 2002.

    A RNZAF UH-1H involved in Exercise Steel Talon 2007, held at Lochinver Station near Taupo in December 2013 (Image © RNZAF)
    A RNZAF UH-1H involved in Exercise Steel Talon 2007, held at Lochinver Station near Taupo in December 2013 (Image © RNZAF)

    Like Belgium
    The most southern country in the world to use the NH90, New Zealand is also the first in the world that has its full complement of ordered choppers of the type up and running. The first pair arrived in December 2011, the last at the end of October this year. The Belgian Air Component followed suit with its four “army” NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters in November, but the final of four “navy” NH90NFHs still has to make it. Interesting detail: like in New Zealand the Belgian NH90s serve alongside A109s in the army support role, which Airheadsfly.com caught on camera during our exclusive visit of Beauvechain Airbase in November 2014.

    An 3 Squadron A109LUH at the Wanaka Airshow on 7 April 2012 (Image © RNZAF)
    An 3 Squadron A109LUH at the Wanaka Airshow on 7 April 2012 (Image © RNZAF)

    Downsides
    New Zealand’s NH90 story also had its downsides. There was a delivery delay of 3 years, compensated with 1,4 billion US dollars by NHIndustries. And one of the brand new NH90s was damaged up to 9 million dollars in September 2013 after a lightning strike damaged its tail and main rotors plus parts of the fuselage while the machine was on the ground. But the delay and lightning strike that didn’t have an impact on the operational capabilities of the New Zealand armed forces as a whole, like it did in Sweden.

    Maiden flight of the first NHIndustries NH90 for the RNZAF (Image © Airbus Helicopters / NHIndustries)
    Maiden flight of the first NHIndustries NH90 for the RNZAF (Image © Airbus Helicopters / NHIndustries)
    Test flight with the NH90 in RNZAF livery (Image © Anthony Pecchi / NHIndustries)
    Test flight with the NH90 in RNZAF livery (Image © Anthony Pecchi / NHIndustries)

    Bust
    There the government in Stockholm quickly ordered and received 15 Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks in 2010 to meet urgent needs. And while the Swedish Armed Forces are in December 2014 still struggling with nine less than operational green-painted NH90TTHs and one semi-operational grey-painted maritime NH90NFH, the New Zealand Air Force already reached 1,000 flying hours on the type in March 2014. In the same month the NH90 and UH-1H served the Central District police together in recovering 7415 cannabis plants in a law enforcement bust.

    With the full complement of NH90s serving alongside A109LUHs and the gradual farewell to the UH-1H, the New Zealand Defence Force main helicopter unit at RNZAF Base Ohakea looks forward to a bright new future.

    © 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

    >>>See our continuing coverage of the Royal New Zealand Air Force

    The pair of factory new NH90s arriving by AN-124 Ruslan airlifter on 6 December 2011 (Image © RNZAF)
    The pair of factory new NH90s arriving by AN-124 Ruslan airlifter on 6 December 2011 (Image © RNZAF)
    Egress trials with a New Zealand NH90 in March 2012 (Image © RNZAF)
    Egress trials with a New Zealand NH90 in March 2012 (Image © RNZAF)
    A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 takes off after dropping off New Zealand Defense Force soldiers in preparation to receive artillery as part of Exercise Kiwi Koru in which also US forces were involved. Taken on 14 November 2014, outside of Whangamonona, New Zealand (Image © Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal / USAF)
    A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 takes off after dropping off New Zealand Defense Force soldiers in preparation to receive artillery as part of Exercise Kiwi Koru in which also US forces were involved. Taken on 14 November 2014, outside of Whangamonona, New Zealand (Image © Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal / USAF)