Airbus Helicopters Improves German Reputation With H-145M

 - December 3, 2015, 12:45 PM
The German Army is taking delivery of the first two of 15 H145Ms that it ordered two years ago. (Photo: Airbus Helicopters)

Airbus Helicopters will next week hand over the first two of 15 H145M twins ordered by the German army, for use by the country's special forces. Deliveries will continue through 2017. After heavy criticism in Germany of its performance on the NH90 and Tiger programs, the company says it has done much better with the H145M.

“This shows that we can deliver within two years a full militarized helicopter on schedule and on quality,” said Wolfgang Schoder, chief executive officer of Airbus Helicopters Germany and head of light and governmental programs. “The helicopter was much simpler, of course, but when we launched the H145M for the German Army there was a full alignment between the customer and us. The definition of the helicopter’s configuration never changed, and we received full support from the German qualification and certification authorities to stay on time.”

The German H145Ms will be delivered in special-mission configuration, featuring an electronic countermeasures system; a pintle-mounted door gun; fast roping (the rope can be electronically released from the cockpit); ballistic protection; a dual cargo hoist capable of lifting 600 kg (1,323 pounds); military seats; a jump light (for parachutists); and a sniper belt.

Airbus currently holds orders for 15 more of the H145M including 11 for the Thai armed forces (six for the Thai Army and five for the Thai Navy). Details of their precise mission profiles have not been made public. The Thai army is also purchasing six UH-72As from the U.S. through the foreign military sales (FMS) process. The H145M is derived from the UH-72A.

The civilian H145 (previously EC145) was first flown in June 2010 and achieved full certification in June 2014. Airbus Helicopters has delivered 43 of them to date, 80 percent to emergency medical service (EMS) operators. More than 180 have now been sold, for delivery over the next four years.

But, according to Schoder, Airbus Helicopters “faces a major challenge in our civil business, which has been significantly impacted by the drop in oil and gas prices. Our military business is quite stable,” he added.  Schoder believes that no newly designed military helicopter is likely to emerge for the foreseeable future. Militarized versions of civil helicopters are the best option in the current economic climate, he thinks.

Airbus Helicopters gained momentum with this light helicopter class after it won a U.S. Army order for nearly 400 UH-72 Lakotas. A total of 350 have now been delivered. On November 12, the U.S. Army exercised an option for a further 12 Lakotas which are assembled at the company’s factory in Columbus, Mississippi. The program of record is now 427, due to the selection of the Lakota as the replacement helicopter for the Bell Helicopter TH-67 Creek which is being phased out of the Army’s training center at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The company continues to upgrade the German Air Force fleet of CH-53s to the new CH-53GA standard. The first modernized version with a digital cockpit was redelivered in September 2012. “Germany is not investing in any further upgrade,” Schoder noted. “We think the current plan is to begin the replacement process around 2022-23. We can foresee only two candidate platforms: the new Sikorsky CH-53K and the Boeing CH-47F.  We are in constructive discussions with the German Ministry of Defence regarding our role in the program,” he added.