The first three AH-64D Block III Apaches, the latest update of the attack helicopter, were advancing through production this month at the Boeing Global Strike facility in Mesa, Arizona, in advance of first deliveries to the U.S. Army this fall.
Sikorsky has won the $3.5 billion Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP), with a version of the Black Hawk designated T-70. Detailed negotiations for assembly of an initial 109 T-70s by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will now begin. TAI will produce some parts for the T-70s, while local company Alp Aviation, which is 50-percent owned by Sikorsky, will produce dynamic components.
Eurocopter ended 2010 with a flurry of progress announcements, some of which related to previously delayed military programs in Europe. The first NH-90s in the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) configuration for France and Spain both made their maiden flights at Marignane on December 17. The French machine, one of 34 TTHs to be handed over to the French army late this year, is now undergoing flight tests at Istres.
Last week Denel Aviation delivered the first fully upgraded Rooivalk back to the South African Air Force (SAAF). After testing, the indigenous attack helicopter will finally get its type certificate and be inducted into the SAAF as the Rooivalk Mk 1. The SAAF’s No. 16 Squadron has been semi-operational on the type for a number of years, but the fleet has suffered problems.
While it looks forward to accepting its first TAI/AgustaWestland T129 attack helicopter, Turkey is urgently seeking interim helicopter gunships in the face of increased terrorist actions by the PKK and other Kurdish separatist groups. The situation has become desperate as Turkey's current force of Bell AH-1W Cobras has fallen to just six operational aircraft, plus a few earlier single-engine Cobras.
Eurocopter was eyeing new German military requirements at the ILA Berlin Air Show earlier this month, even as it defended its delivery performance on the German Army’s Tiger attack helicopter program. The company displayed a Forward Air Medical Evacuation (medevac) configuration of the NH-90, and its concept for the Marinehubschrauber 90-Neue Generation (MH90-NG), that would replace the German Navy’s Sea King and Lynx fleets.
AgustaWestland last week achieved two significant milestones, with the first flights of two new military helicopter designs on consecutive days. First to fly was the AW159 Lynx Wildcat, which lifted off on Thursday at Yeovil in the UK. The aircraft performed “as expected” in general handling checks, according to chief test pilot Donald Maclaine.
Indian helicopter requirements provided the only real news at this month’s Aero India event in Bangalore. Indian officials confirmed the relaunch of the competition for nearly 200 armed light helicopters, a requirement that is now called the reconnaissance and surveillance helicopter (RSH). Eurocopter has proposed the AS 550 C3 Fennec, with license-manufacture by Hindustan Aeronautics.
New from Saab Avitronics is the RIGS head-up display, which the company is developing to provide a cost-effective multipurpose display to aid pilots of both helicopters and light aircraft. RIGS was launched at last October’s National Business Aviation Association Convention, and made its debut in the defense world at Eurosatory last month.
Just weeks after proclaiming its market dominance at HAI’s Heli-Expo 2002, Eurocopter took a hit in its sales column with the news that France and Germany have each decided to buy a smaller number of Eurocopter-built Tiger attack helicopters than had been previously announced.