2016-07-04 By Robbin Laird
During the second day of the Airbus Defence and Space Trade Media Event, 2016, the Hforce weapons suite was highlighted as a new approach by Airbus Helicopters to the military market place.
Prior to the briefing, journalists toured the modified H145 to see the Hforce configured aircraft, and I was with a group which was fortunate to have an experienced French helicopter officer Col. (Retired) Christian Fanchini, now Senior Operational marketing manager with Airbus Helicopters.
I had a chance to talk with him after the tour and briefing as well.
In effect, the Hforce is a modular weapon system developed for the H125, H145 and H225 helicopters.
The H145 has been sold to the US Army for both utility and training roles, and is being used by pilots of all three services learning to fly helicopters.
It has been sold worldwide to many customers and represents a significant global user base.
This is important for the Hforce modified version because it shares 70% of the same parts as the H145 already in the marketplace.
Global supplies provide a solid foundation for support for operations worldwide.
Based on the commercial fleet which is undergoing upgrades on a regular basis, the modifications and upgrades to the cockpit and power packages become available to the modified military helicopters as well as part of a commercially amortized modernization effort.
This is important when seeking to see both capability growth and cost containment for military force.
The Hforce represents an alternative as well to specialized attack helicopters which are highly specialized and costly to operate.
Obviously, there are operational conditions where such a capability is preferred to a multi-mission helicopter.
But the Hforce is built on the utility helicopter which can be reconfigured within two hours by technicians to function as an armed scout or light attack helicopter and back again.
In other words, it can meet a wide variety of missions with rapid swap out of systems onboard the aircraft.
The aircraft can be armed with guns on either side and one from the rear if the doors are removed.
It can be up armed with laser guided rockets or missiles as well.
The helicopter operates with the Tiger crewing system, whereby there is a weapons officer who manages the role of the helicopter in the battlespace.
The power of the new version of H-145 increases power by more than 20% and the emergency operating system whereby it can operate with only one engine has increased power by 39% in emergency situations.
Airbus is the software designer and manager of the helicopter, which is central to the approach.
Not only does Airbus integrate weapons capabilities into the software but works the fly by wire system to optimize performance as well.
And this means that the modular system can be modified to customer requirements with regard to communications and weapons systems required by the customer.
For Special Force Customers (and the German Special Forces is the initial launch customer) the communications equipment is integrated with customer preference.
And if desired an ITAR free version can be developed and sold as well.
A key element of 21st century air combat systems is software upgradeability and customizability; the Hforce enabled helicopter fits right in.
A customer can buy the helo with a zero based solution, meaning that upgradeability is built in but the customer can wait to determine what to add as need becomes clear or money becomes available.
The doors are easily accessible even with weapons installed for the load out of the helicopter with personnel or equipment. The rear doors can facilitate medevac missions as well.
The maintenance side is important as well.
The new version has modifications and materials which have enhanced maintainability or what I like to call enhanced maintainability by design.
According to Fanchini, the new version decreases maintenance requirements by 15% over the Lakota.
It is truly a multi-mission helicopter which leverages the evolving capabilities of the commercial fleet which Airbus builds, sells and maintains worldwide.
Also see the following:
And this story published last year about the Australian H-145 demo tour highlights some of the capabilities of the new helicopter as well:
H145 demonstrator D-HADW overflies Sydney. (Seth Jaworski)
Airbus Helicopters says its new H145 helicopter is particularly suited to the local market as the company conducts a demonstration tour of aircraft over June and July.
Targets for the H145 – recently renamed from EC145 T2 – were expected to be EMS (emergency medical service) and police operations. The H145 is also being demonstrated to the Australian military during its month-long visit of 15 capital cities, regional centres and towns stretching from Melbourne to Far North Queensland and points in between.
Airbus Helicopters test pilot Diethelm Berndt said the H145 had the right size and the right power-to-weight ratio for Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) and police operations.
“That makes it attractive,” Berndt told reporters at Bankstown Airport on June 22. “There is nothing comparable on the market.”
“My prediction is you will see this as the standard HEMS and police helicopter in many parts of the world.”
A New Zealand-based customer accepted delivery of a H145 in April, the first delivery of the type in this part of the world.
Meanwhile, there were currently about 10 earlier model EC145s flying in Australia. Compared to the EC145 the H145 features a Fenestron shrouded tail rotor and twin Turbomeca Arrius 2E engines.
Airbus Helicopters senior sales promotion manager Christian Fanchini said the twin-engine H145 at maximum power was about 21 per cent more powerful than the EC145.
“It is really a very powerful aircraft, particularly useful for extreme conditions – altitude and hot temperatures,” Fanchini said.
“Today, we could say that this light twin-engine is the most powerful you can find to fly in these extreme conditions.”
Fanchini said Airbus Helicopters had booked about 150 orders for the H145, which was first certified by European regulators in April 2014 and the US Federal Aviation Administration in October 2014.
Military certification followed in May 2015, with German special forces the launch customer for the H145M.
Airbus Group Australia Pacific represents Airbus Helicopters in the region.
The photos in the slideshow are credited to Second Line of Defense.