Category Archives: Helicopters

Take A Look At These Stunning Shots Of The “5 Torri” Joint Multinational Mountain Warfare Exercise in the Dolomites

You don’t happen to see combat helicopters and jets operating in the magnificent setting of the Dolomites too often.

Cinque Torri (5 Towers) is the name of a mountain complex part of the Dolomites, in northern Italy. Named after the mountain range is also an yearly, large, joint multinational exercise that this year took place on Jul. 4: “5 Torri 2018”.

The Army Alpine Troops, military from 14 allied and friendly countries, assets belonging to the Italian Army Aviation as well as all national Armed Forces and personnel from the Alpine and Speleological Rescue National Corps and Civil Protection took part in the alpine  exercise whose aim is to conduct simulated combat in the mountains, apply mountaineering techniques to carry out movement and high-altitude rescue operations, and to show the Alpine Troops’  ability to develop effectively the modern “mountain warfare” concept, an evolution of the traditional high altitude combat techniques.

An NH-90 involved in the exercise.

On the very same mountain tops, where the Italian Artillery Command was located 100 years ago, the Italian mountain soldiers wrote some epic pages of military history during WWI using tactics similar to those used today. Indeed, in a four-dimensional battlefield that includes cyberspace, alpine combat is far from being obsolete, as the operations in Afghanistan have shown.

An Italian Air Force AMX ACOL from Istrana also took part in the drills.

An UH-205 escorted by an AH-129 Mangusta.

An ICH-47F in the magnificient setting of the Dolomites.

The venerable AB.205 involved in a tactical transportation mission.

“A traditional as well as modern exercise, that has engaged our Armed Forces and those of 14 allied and friendly countries who have trained all together in order to be able to intervene in all climate and environmental circumstances. Most of the earth’s land surface is made up by mountains, and most current operations take place in mountain areas”, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Graziano stated in his welcome speech.

The exercise included several tactical events (SAR, troops infilitration and exfiltration, transportation and escort etc.) and saw the involvement, among the others of Italian Army CH-47F, NH-90 (UH-90), AB-205 (UH-205) and A-129 (AH-129) helicopters as well as Italian Air Force AMX (A-11B) jets and an NH-500 (TH-500A) helicopter.

An Italian Army Aviation Mangusta.

Fast rope from a Chinook.

People enjoy the tactical demo and the stunning panoramic views.

The Aviationist’s contributor Claudio Tramontin took the amazing photographs you can find in this article.

 

Questions Remain Surrounding Special Operations Blackhawk Crash in Iraq

Veteran Helicopter Pilot Killed in Crash Was in Ninth Combat Deployment.

Late Tuesday, August 21, 2018, U.S. military officials identified the Army helicopter pilot who died on Monday as a result of wounds received in a crash in Iraq on Sunday, August 19, 2018 during an undisclosed operation. Official news releases report three additional wounded U.S. personnel have been evacuated to treatment facilities.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, from Spokane, Washington, died Aug. 20, in Baghdad as a result of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed in Sinjar, Ninevah Province, according to a Department of Defense news release.

CW3 Galvin was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment) as an MH-60M Blackhawk helicopter pilot. He was flying in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Galvin was originally from Phoenix, Arizona. He was 34 years old. Galvin was a combat veteran special operations pilot with nine deployments including two during Iraqi Freedom, three in Operation Enduring Freedom and four more during Operation Inherent Resolve. He was the recipient of the U.S. Army Air Medal (C device) and Air Medal (30LC) for heroism or meritorious achievement while flying in addition to numerous other awards.

A file photo of U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Taylor J. Galvin, 34, of Spokane, Washington. Galvin died Monday from injuries received in the crash of his MH-60K Blackhawk special operations helicopter. (Photo: US Army)

In an August 20, 2018 article on Newsweek.com about the fatal crash, journalist James LaPorta reported that, “It is unclear why the MH-60 Blackhawk went down, but U.S. military sources with knowledge of the crash said the helicopter was returning to base after conducting a partnered small-scale raid on Islamic State militants in an undisclosed region as part of ongoing counterterrorism operations.” LaPorta went on to write, “Ten U.S. military personnel were onboard the aircraft being flown by U.S. Army pilots from the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers.”

The region near Sinjar (Shingal), Iraq where the crash occurred had been active in supporting cross-border anti-ISIS operations into neighboring Syria for more than a month until U.S. troops were withdrawn from the area in the middle of July, 2018 according to a report by Wladimir van Wilgenburg published in the regional Kurdistan 24 online news source. This is also the region where Iraqi Air Force F-16s have conducted their first airstrikes against insurgents during cross-border strikes into Syria.

The crash was reported to have occurred at approximately 10:00 PM local time (2200 hrs, GMT+3). Sunset in the region on August 19, the date of the accident, occurred at 6:40 PM local time. Weather in the area was hot, 101 degrees Fahrenheit, with light winds and clear skies. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters Monday that the crash was not caused by enemy fire.

Reports about the aircraft and the personnel on board may contradict official assertions that the U.S. role in the region is predominantly in an advisory capacity. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, the “Night Stalkers”, is a highly-specialized combat aviation unit headquartered at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky that supports elite U.S. and coalition combat units like Army Special Forces, Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) and other special operations units.

This latest crash brings the total of serious U.S. military aircraft accidents this year to at least 14.

The 160th SOAR, the “Night Stalkers”, are most famous for the raid to capture Osama bin Laden, Operation Neptune’s Spear, on May 1, 2011. During that raid, the unit flew a classified, low-observable variant of the Blackhawk helicopter that has since been popularly referred to in speculation as the “MH-X Stealth Black Hawk” or “Silent Hawk”. Images of part of the secret helicopter were seen around the world when one of them crashed inside Bin Laden’s compound during the raid, leaving the tail section visible. Books and media accounts suggest only two of the aircraft were ever produced.

In 2015, a MH-60M Black Hawk crashed on the deck of a U.S. Navy ship near Okinawa, Japan, injuring seven; more recently, in August 2017, a 160th SOAR’s MH-60 crashed off Yemen killing one soldier.

Top image credit: U.S. Army

Three Dutch CH-47D Chinooks Operated From Sardinia During First Deployment To Decimomannu Airbase

Three Royal Netherlands Air Force helicopters have been involved in an unusual deployment to the Sardinian airbase.

In the last years we have documented the deployment of RNlAF helicopters to airbases across Italy. It all started with a MoU (Memorandum Of Understanding) signed in 2003 that foresaw the periodical deployment of Dutch helicopters (AH-64D, CH-47 and Cougar) to train in the mountainous areas located around the Italian airports, in tactical low level flights needed keep the currencies required to be employed in Afghanistan.

The first deployments brought the Dutch choppers to Frosinone, then to Rivolto, as part of two-week exercises involving several assets and 150/200 military, dubbed High Blaze.

The three CH-47 over Deci. (All images: Giampaolo Mallei).

More recently, from Jul. 23 to Aug. 3, three Royal Netherlands Air Force CH-47D Chinooks performed a first deployment to Decimomannu, Sardinia, Italy.

CH-47D D-106 about to land.

Landing at dusk.

The helicopters (serials D-103, D-106 and D-663), belonging to the 298 Sqn, from Gilze-Rijen airbase, were reportedly involved in various
training activities, including landing in desert areas and coping with the brownout effect: the latter occurs when the downwash from the helicopter kicks up a dust cloud resulting in reduced visibility. Therefore the brownout can be particularly dangerous as it forces the aircrew to approach the ground with limited outside visual references and risk of loss of situational awareness.

Along with the more advanced CH-47Fs, the RNlAF operates 11 CH-47D. Six will be upgraded to the F standard, increasing the fleet to 20 F-model Chinooks.

Image credit: Giampaolo Mallei

Viral Fog Landing Video Likely Shows UK’s Special “Blue Thunder” Dauphin Helicopter At Work

Video of Heli Landing in Dense Fog Likely Shows Elite Joint 658 Squadron Helicopter Unit.

A video of a helicopter flying incredibly low over a fog shrouded road that was shot two days ago in Kirkstone Pass in the English Lake District of County Cumbria has been featured in nearly every European news media. It will likely make the rounds in the U.S. also as the time zone catches up. But most media sharing the viral video have likely identified the aircraft and its operators incorrectly.

Most news media who have shared the video have said the blue helicopter may be a British “SAS” or Special Air Service helicopter. And while there may be some degree of accuracy to the assumption that the SAS is involved in the flight, it is more likely the helicopter flying in unbelievably bad weather through the mountains belongs to someone else entirely.

The video appears to have been shot from a family car dash cam since the camera is static and very close to the vehicle windshield. It may also have been a smartphone video since, remember U.S. readers, in UK the passenger sits on the left side of the vehicle and the driver on the right.

Whichever way the video was shot, the videographer, identified in the BBC North West use of the video as “Brian Weatherall”, sees the aircraft emerge out of the fog on his left near a stone wall and appear to begin to flare for a landing next to the road. It’s pretty dramatic, and one can only imagine it is even more dramatic from the helicopter pilot’s perspective.

It’s likely the helicopter in the video is a Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin II, nicknamed “Blue Thunder” by the British tabloids, that belongs to the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW). Specifically, the unit flying the aircraft is probably the 658 Squadron based at SAS HQ at Credenhill, near Hereford. The elite aviation unit was previously known as 8 Flight AAC until September 2013. This unit supports the British 22nd Special Air Service (22 SAS).

The helicopter in the viral fog video is likely a special operations AS365N3 Dauphin II like this one. (Photo: Mark Harkin/Wiki)

The 658 Squadron is roughly comparable in mission to the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR). The 160th SOAR support U.S. special operations for the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Army Special Forces. They are commonly assumed to have flown the still secret “stealth hawk” helicopter used in Operation Neptune Spear, the 2011 raid to capture Osama Bin Laden.

If the helicopter is an AS365N3 from 658 Squadron, the more interesting question is, what was it doing flying so low so close to a public road? In general, special operations helicopters maintain a low profile and avoid exercises where they may wind up in a viral social media video. Some factors that may cause one to operate close to civilian roads may include things like a rescue flight for personnel injured during training or participation in a civilian emergency mission. It’s also possible the aircraft is conducting an insertion or extraction of forces on a training exercise in the area, possibly even on the road as we’ve seen with videos of special forces helicopters stopping vehicles on roads in the Middle East.

Whatever the case may be with the aircraft in the video, the color livery of the helicopter, the fact that it is flying in very difficult conditions and the proximity to special forces training areas all support the argument that it is a 658 Squadron aircraft. That makes this video very special, and a truly marvelous catch for Mr. Brian Weatherall.

Top image: screenshot from Brian Weatherall video via BBC

Slow Motion Videos Of The Bell V-280 Valor Prototype Provide Interesting Details About The Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft

Take a look at these amazing clips filmed at 120 frames per second.

On Jul. 31, the first prototype of the V-280 Valor, registration N280BH, performed a flight demo for invited media and dignitariest at Bell Helicopter Amarillo Assembly Center.

The V-280 Valor is Bell’s submission for the U.S. Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) phase, the technology demonstration precursor to Future Vertical Lift (FVL), a replacement for the service’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk (that have just celebrated its 40th anniversary) and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters.

As we have already reported here at The Aviationist, the V-280 will have a crew of 4 (including two pilots) and be capable of transporting up to 14 troops. Its cruising speed will be 280 knots (hence the designation V-280) and its top speed will be around 300 kts. It’s designed for a range of 2,100 nautical miles and an effective combat range of 500 to 800 nmi although the Army’s requirements for the demonstrator call for hot and high hover performance (at 6,000 feet and 95 F), and the ability to self-deploy 2,100 nautical miles at a speed of at least 230 knots.

The flight demo on Jul. 31, was filmed by our friend, journalist and photographer Steve Douglass in slow motion, at 120 fps. The videos in this page provide an interesting look from all angles at the Bell Next-Generation Tilt-Rotor Aircraft, including its “famous” T64-GE-419 tilting gearbox design (whose details were blurred images and footage officially released by Bell Helicopter when the aircraft was rolled out and performed its maiden flight): unlike the V-22‘s engines that rotate along with the gearboxes, in the V-280, the gearbox is the only thing that rotates.

Actually the gearbox was clearly visible since August last year, when we published the very first images of the Valor. Here below you can find also two lower resolution videos (they should be fine for smartphone viewing) of taken during the same flight demo:

According to Douglass, the Valor is much quieter than an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. During the demo, Bell program manager said they are working on an unmanned version – slightly smaller – same engine layout. They also hope to make gunship versions for the Marine Corp.

Here are a couple of interesting concept art works shared by Bell during the Amarillo event.

Concept art showing a possible future embarked V-280 derivative. (Bell Helicopter).

Concept Art showing the Valor supporting ground operations. (Bell Helicopter)

Bell Helicopter is also planning acoustic and RCS (Radar Cross Section) testing; the company believes the radar signature of the aircraft is going to be quite low.

H/T Steve Douglass for the heads-up and cool footage!