Category Archives: Helicopters

China Debuts New Indigenous Attack Helicopter for Export Market in First Flight

New Z-19E Black Whirlwind Flies for First Time in Harbin, China.

Chinese aircraft company AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group debuted its new Z-19E “Black Whirlwind” attack helicopter during its first flight at Harbin Airport in Harbin, Heilongjiang, northeastern China.

The first flight of the Z-19E Black Whirlwind, also referred to as the AH-19E in Chinese media, was a basic lift-off to hover and then several basic low-speed flight maneuvers over the airfield. The aircraft was carrying eight large, white missiles that bear resemblance to the U.S. designed Hellfire guided missile along with what may have been a gun pod and a launch canister for high-velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs) possibly analogous to the U.S. 2.75” folding fin aircraft rocket (FFAR).

The crew arrangement seems to be similar to that of the U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters where the pilot sits in the rear and the weapons operator sits in the front of the helicopter.

A noteworthy feature of the Z-19E is the “Fenestron” protected, shaft-driven tail rotor assembly. This is different from many attack helicopters such as the U.S. AH-64 Apache, European Tiger and Russian Mi-28 that use conventional, exposed tail rotors mounted outside the fuselage tail boom. The Fenestron enclosed tail rotor reduces lost thrust by ducting the drive forces generated by the rotating blades, reduces audible signature (quieter) and is safer in ground operations.

Fenestron is also noticeably quieter than a conventional external tail rotor improving audible stealth. The most common Fenestron equipped helicopter in use today is the U.S. Coast Guard’s HH-65C Dolphin. Fenestron is also seen on the Russian Kamov Ka-60- and the Kawasaki OH-1 light observation/attack helicopter. Fenestron tail rotors are generally more expensive to manufacture and heavier than a conventional external tail rotor however.

This is China’s first attempt at a locally produced, advanced attack helicopter intended for the export market. Their current primary attack helicopter is the CAIC Z-10 or WZ-10, an indigenously produced attack helicopter of primarily Russian design. It is an older looking helicopter with external tail rotor and cockpit arrangement that resembles the European Tiger attack helicopters. It was originally developed under a secret contract with famous Russian helicopter builder Kamov. The program for the Z-10 began in the early 2000s; an unusually late arrival for China to attack helicopter development compared to the U.S. and Russia who have been building dedicated attack helicopters since the 1960’s.

Depending on cost, capabilities and import/export restrictions the new Chinese Z-19E Black Whirlwind could have interested export clients in African and Middle-eastern/Asian countries where there is no locally built, advanced, fully capable attack helicopter.



Top image credit: Reuters

 

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Poland To Reinitiate Procurement Of Combat SAR Helicopters

A new procurement procedure would see a competition between S-70i, H225M and AW101.

According to the information circulated around the Polish defense media outlets, the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish MoD (which is the Polish defense procurement agency) eyes acquisition of CSAR helicopters for the Special Operations component. The 7th Special Operations Squadron based at the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force is the most probable user of the future rotary-wing aircraft. The plan is to procure 8 helicopters.

The recently opened procurement procedure involves all of the contractors that have submitted the offers, according to the Inspectorate – none of the offers was rejected.

Interestingly, the current procedure involves the very same contractors of the previous, cancelled tender: Airbus Helicopters that partnered with Heli Invest Sp. z o.o. company; Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and PZL Mielec Sp. z o.o.; and “PZL-Świdnik” S.A. company, which is a part of the Italian Leonardo Group.

Due to the Polish national security interest, the negotiation is legally required to be carried out in strict secrecy and, until the moment the process ends, no information can be released.

Unofficial information, on the other hand, suggests that the new procurement procedure would see a competition between almost the same types of helicopters pitched in the former tender: Sikorsky is offering the Black Hawk, Airbus is offering the H.225M Caracal whereas PZL-Swidnik company, instead of proposing the lighter AW149 platform, is now rumored to try to pitch the AW101 helicopter which close in its specs to the Italian Air Force HH-101A Caesar.

HH-101A Caesar during a recent demo that took place at the Bemowo/Babice airfield in Warsaw

A source having an in-depth insight in the aforesaid procurement program who wishes to remain anonymous has told us that the technical requirements and spec-sheet remain almost identical to the ones defined for the former tender. The S-70i Black Hawk, according to our informant, would remain non-compliant with the requirements drafted by the Polish MoD for the CSAR platform. Any other Black Hawk derivative that could be pushed for the Polish Special Ops component (e.g. Pave Hawk) would require a consent to be issued by the Congress and such helicopter should be procured through the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) process.

The Eurocopter EC-725 Cougar now called H225M.

Dealing with thePolish Navy‘s W-3 Anakonda and Mi-14 Haze helicopters replacement, the MoD still is inclined to press on and define requirements for a “joint, omni-capable” platform which would be suited to carrying out both ASW as well as SAR operations.

The maritime platform would be acquired within a separate procedure, as the facts and scarcity of information suggest.

The Sikorsky S-70i

Image Credit: Foto Poork/Wikimedia

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In Russia’s Chechen Republic, Car’s Dashcam Captured A Helicopter Flying So Low It Almost Hit Cars On Major Highway

Helicopter Low Level Flying, Chechnya style.

Filmed by a vehicle’s dash camera, the video below shows an Mi-8 Hip helicopter buzzing the cars on the Rostov-Baku highway, near Gudermes in Russia’s Chechen Republic, earlier in May.

As you can see the chopper flew just several meters above a barrier dividing the highway lanes as cars and other vehicles whizzed past.

Besides the risk of distracting drivers, with vehicles traveling on both sides, any failure or bad move could have had devastating effects. Still, this is not the first time we have seen videos of helicopters flying low over public roads and highways. In 2015, a clip emerged of a Mi-17 Hip helicopter buzzing the cars on a highway somewhere near Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine’s fourth largest town, in the central-eastern part of the country. Few months ago, we published a video of an Mi-8 helicopter landing on a highway and blocking a truck convoy to ask directions somewhere in Kazakhstan.

In eastern Europe combat choppers train flying at low altitude using roads for navigation and masking.

So, if you are driving in Russia, Chechnya or Ukraine…beware of low flying helicopters!

H/T Giulio Cristante for the heads-up

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Marine MV-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft Complete First Pacific Crossing

Four U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys Have Crossed the Pacific for the First Time.

A flight of four U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft has completed a historic first ever long-range flight across the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin. The aircraft stopped on Guam and Wake Island during the multi-day long-range training deployment and were supported by Marine Corps KC-130 tanker aircraft. Total distance for the multi-flight deployment was approximately 6,000 miles.

The four aircraft were part of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268, or VMM-268 the “Red Dragons” based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and operate under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 24 (MAG-24) and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW). Their ability to deploy over extended ranges proves additional capability for the unit throughout the Pacific theater.

The Ospreys will be joined by five AH-1W Super Cobra gunships and four UH-1Y Venom tactical transport helicopters also from Hawaii’s Kaneohe Bay. The aircraft are participating in a 6-month long Marine Rotational Force-Darwin training operation to build commonality between U.S. Marine and Australian operations and familiarize Marine assets with the operational area.

The Red Dragons, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268, reached full operational capability this past January and are scheduled to receive another twelve MV-22 Osprey tiltrotors in 2018.

The Marine Corps version of the Osprey, the MV-22, has an unrefueled range of 990 miles and cruises at 322 MPH. This fast, long-range reach, complemented by large capacity of 24 combat troops and a flight crew of 3, gives the Osprey capabilities unmatched by previous legacy vertical takeoff utility aircraft like the Marine CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters.

This is not the first long-range deployment of Marine MV-22s. In 2013 a pair of MV-22 Ospreys completed a complex multi-stage deployment over the Pacific with stops at Clark AFB in the Philippines originating from Okinawa, Japan. The flight transited Darwin and continued to Townsville, Australia, for a total distance of more than 4,000 miles.

An even longer MV-22 deployment took place in 2015 when three MV-22’s flew over 6,000 miles from California to Brazil with crew breaks at various locations en route.

MV-22 pilot, Capt. Manuel Torres, USMC, told media, “It’s definitely exciting to be part of the history of this deployment.”

“Long hauls are definitely what the aircraft was designed for. This is going to prove the range and distance and speed of the Osprey and really shape the global reach we’re looking for in the Pacific region,” said Marine Corps MV-22 pilot, Capt. Aaron Brugman.

One of Four MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Tiltrotor Squadron 268 arrive in Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Damion Hatch).

The primarily carbon-fiber composite MV-22 does have a very advanced fly-by-wire flight control system that incorporates an advanced autopilot to reduce crew workload during long flights. The autopilot is actually capable of transitioning the aircraft from level forward flight into a hover when programmed to do so. No doubt the advanced control features and avionics, along with the high-speed and long-range, contributed to the success of these long-range deployments.

 

Lockheed Debuts New S-97 Raider Light Tactical Helicopter Video in Marketing Push

Proposed Helicopter Would Replace MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird if Adopted.

Lockheed Martin has released a new promotional video showing the S-97 Raider light tactical helicopter demonstrating many of its unique performance capabilities.

The S-97 Raider, if adopted by the U.S. military, would replace the aging family of MH-6/AH-6 Little Bird helicopters widely used since the Vietnam conflict as special operations and observation/light attack helicopters. The MH-6/AH-6 family first flew in 1963 making it a legacy platform that has been continuously updated for expanded roles. Most airframes in U.S. service are now aging and, because a light tactical helicopter is subjected to high stresses in operational and training use the older aircraft are approaching the end of their structural lifespan.

The new S-97 Raider is a significant technology update over previous light attack/observation helicopters. It uses a mostly carbon fiber composite fuselage like the MV-22 Osprey. The S-97 has much higher performance than the MH-6/AH-6 family, more internal space for up to 6 combat equipped troops, a unique co-axial rotor system and a host of additional technological advancements. Lockheed-Martin is firstly and specifically configuring the S-97 as a replacement of the U.S. Special Operations Command MH-6M Little Bird. The significant difference in top speeds between the MH-6M at only 175 MPH and the new S-97 at 276 MPH is just one example of the massive performance and capability improvement available with Lockheed-Martin’s new platform.

Innovative performance features of the new Lockheed-Martin/Sikorsky S-97 Raider. (LM)

Another key performance enhancement is that the S-97 program has greatly improved “hot, high and heavy” rotary wing performance. Helicopters often struggle with performance at high altitude in hot weather conditions and can become vulnerable to performance problems like “vortex ring state”. Vortex ring state likely contributed to the controlled crash of a highly modified U.S. special operations helicopter, the MH-X Stealth Black Hawk, during the May 2, 2011 raid to apprehend Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune Spear.

Few years ago The Aviationist pointed out some similarities in the possible shape of the MH-X and the S-97.

The new S-97 has already demonstrated stable, controllable hover capability at 6,000 feet AGL and 95° Fahrenheit. The aircraft has also maneuvered at speed to 3g’s.

The co-axial or contra-rotating main rotors on the S-97 were originally conceived by Russian engineer Mikhail Lomonosov. This design has been proven on Russian designs including the successfully deployed newer Kamov KA-50 and KA-52 attack helicopters and much older designs like the KA-27 family of Kamov helicopters widely used in different versions in both military and commercial roles mostly by the Russians.

Contra-rotating main rotors were first developed and employed by the Russians including this Kamov KA-50 attack. (image credit: Russian Aviation Photography)

Advantages to a co-axial rotor system include equalizing the effects of torque compared to helicopters with one-directional large rotating blades or “rotary wings”. Helicopters with a single large rotor system have a tendency to “pull” or rotate in the direction of the main rotor blades’ rotation. To counteract the rotational force of a single main rotor the smaller tail rotor is mounted sideways as is conventionally seen on helicopters. The tail rotor on the new S-97 Raider is rear-facing, adding more thrust than a conventional sideways mounted rotor and contributing to the S-97’s higher top speed.

The S-97 Raider program was initially started to replace the aging OH-58 Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter under a then-$16 billion U.S. Army acquisition program named “Armed Aerial Scout.”

The program was put on hold prior to the U.S. Presidential election due to budgetary constraints. Sikorsky, the originator of the program, teamed with Lockheed-Martin to continue the program and adjusted the marketing focus to a broader mission set.

Here’s an interesting promotional video of the S-97: