The CH-53GA medium-lift military transport helicopter successfully completed its maiden flight over the Bavarian town of Donauwörth today before an admiring crowd of approximately 150 guests. Eurocopter test pilot Rene Nater and flight engineer Antoine Van Gent were at the controls. This first flight came just three years after the contract was awarded, and represents a major milestone for the CH-53GA program, as well as for Eurocopter Germany's support centre for the German Army helicopters. Thanks to the new upgrades, the helicopter's service life has been extended to 2030. Training flights are slated for early 2011, with the first deliveries of the retrofitted helicopters later in the same year. The German Armed Forces will then be able to deploy the CH-53GA with its state-of-the-art equipment for international missions (e.g. Afghanistan).
As Senior Vice-President Ralf Barnscheidt, responsible for German military contracts at Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH, points out: "Over the past 30 years, the Eurocopter support centre for German Army helicopters has completed many important upgrades on the CH-53G transport helicopter, working in cooperation with the Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung (Federal Agency for Defense Technology and Procurement). I am extremely pleased to see the CH53-GA flying today, as it further demonstrates the successful cooperation we enjoy with the German Armed Forces that has enabled us to complete the program on time and within budget."
Functional Requirements - Optimized Implementation
The CH-53G is being retrofitted so that the helicopter can be deployed in a wide range of national and international missions. The following major functional requirements for the CH-53GA have been defined and embodied:
Improved display and flight control systems via state-of-the-art digital avionics
Advanced accurate navigation system and improved flight capabilities in line with international IFR flight regulations
Integration of a new automatic flight control systemAFCS/4-axis-autopilot) with automatic hovering
Installation of auxiliary fuel tanks in the cabin to increase the range to 1,200 km
Upgrade of communication equipment for joint missions with Tiger and NH90 helicopters
Integration of a modular mission equipment package including FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared), satellite communication system (SatCom) and a cutting-edge electronic warfare system (EWS) for self-defense and identification of threats
Production work on the CH-53GA is scheduled to start at the Donauwörth plant in 2011 and continue through 2013. The first helicopters will be made available to the German Army before the end of 2011.
The CH-53G in Action - Domestic and International Missions
The CH-53G has been in service for over 35 years, and in the years to come it will continue to form the backbone of the German Army's deployments in foreign missions. The helicopter is used to harsh conditions. Since entering service it has been the cornerstone of the German Army's versatile troop and equipment transport units as part of the country's NATO obligations, and has also been an important platform for operations in foreign missions in cooperation with other NATO forces. The helicopter has served in conflicts from Kosovo to Kabul since the early 1990s. In addition, it has been deployed in numerous missions to provide aid during national and international catastrophes such as forest fires and floods. The CH53GA will meet the German Army's need to expand the mission capabilities of its medium-lift transport helicopters for domestic missions and deployment abroad.
Working Closely with the German Army
Eurocopter's support center for German Army helicopters at Donauwörth is under contract to retrofit a total of 40 medium-lift CH-53G transport helicopters to CH-53GA configuration. The work includes the repair of airframe fatigue due to extensive use and ageing in order to extend the helicopters' design life from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours. The entire electrical system, which is nearly 35 years old, will also be replaced. The entire support center for German Army helicopters is involved in the development work on the CH-53GA. The center has experienced substantial growth over the last twenty years; the work force of 69 employees in 1991 has increased to 530 employees today, and still shows an upward trend.
Source: Eurocopter celebrates maiden flight of CH-53GA right on schedule
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