Hungary Military Program Adding Airbus Helicopters

 - November 21, 2019, 1:17 PM
Hungarian air force personnel inspect the first H145M at Szolnok, to where it was ferried from the factory at Donauwörth, Germany, by a Hungarian crew. (Photo: Hungarian MoD)

The first two Airbus H145M multi-purpose helicopters have arrived at Szolnok air force base in Hungary, said Brigadier General Jozsef Kollar, commander of the base, on November 19. The nation ordered 20 H145Ms from Airbus as well as 16 H225Ms.

Hungary is implementing the largest military development program—named Zrinyi 2026—since the end of the Cold War and the introduction of a democratic government. To be completed by 2026, the program will cost more than$11 billion and includes military transport aircraft, air defense missiles, main battle tanks, and self-propelled artillery.

Within the framework of the Zrinyi 2026, Hungary plans to acquire a medium-range air defense system. Sources revealed to AIN that it would probably be NASAMS, a Raytheon/Kongsberg surface-launched AMRAAM system. Recently the U.S. State Department and DSCA approved the sale to Hungary of 180 AIM-120C-7 medium-range missiles with storage containers, spare parts, and communications/navigation equipment, as well as training.

A delegation led by Hungary’s national armaments director Gaspar Maroth visited a Raytheon facility, and it is now expected that the Hungarian government will place an order. The AIM-120C-7 package is worth approximately $500 million. Together with 36 new light and medium helicopters, plus the 14 Saab JAS 39C/D Gripen fighters acquired some 15 years ago, the country’s air force is transforming into one of the strongest in the region.

Hungary’s H145Ms are tasked with conducting search and rescue, providing fire cover, supporting special operations, and transporting troops and equipment. They are armed with 20mm cannon and unguided and laser-guided rockets. The first group of pilots has completed training, and Hungarian pilots flew the aircraft from Germany to Hungary. In all, 50 pilots and 60 ground personnel participated in the training program, which is part of the deal.

Currently, Airbus’s Donauwörth, Germany facility, where the helicopters are being assembled, is running in high gear as a couple of days previously Luxembourg took delivery of its first H145M helicopters, Airbus announced on November 15. Luxembourg ordered two in 2018. Meanwhile, the Montenegrin air force could get Bell 505 Jet Ranger X light multi-purpose helicopters. The ministry of defense intends to procure four such aircraft. Sources in Podgorica stressed that this is not a final decision, but that the Bell 505 is “one of the options on the table.” The Bell 505s, priced at approximately $1 million apiece, are supposed to replace aging Gazelles in the next five years.

Financing the planned purchase (roughly 10 percent of the yearly defense budget) is still an open question. The most significant equipment procurement since independence in 2006 came last year when a secondhand Bell 412EP and two new 412EPI helicopters were bought for approximately $35 million.