Podcast with Elfan AP Rees, Editor, 'Helicopter International,' on Military Helicopters

The UK Government has developed a new rotary-wing concept, which consolidates the forces and also considerably reduces the number of modern helicopters available. Arguably there is too much emphasis on the heavy-lift Chinook (there is an argument against putting large numbers of troops in large helicopters—if you lose one you are going to have a severe public relations disaster on your hands), and if there is a change of government, the Future Medium Support Helicopter programme may be resurrected. The UK MoD is thinking of transferring all RAF Merlins to the RN, which would replace Sea King HC4s but you still end up with less aircraft than you started with.


In Germany a replacement is being sought for German Navy’s Fleet of Sea King Mk41 helicopters. They are looking to acquire 30 helicopters, possibly all of the same size, but the German Navy operates the Lynx from shipboard operations and the Sea King is basically land based so it is difficult to see how they are going to marry those two requirements into larger helicopters.

The US Air Force wants to start replacing approximately 62 Vietnam UH-1Ns, with up to 93 new helicopters around 2015. There are three possibilities: the UH-1Y, the Agusta Westland AW139 and the outsider is the Eurocopter EC175, which will be in production by 2014,

There seems to be quite a bit going on in India at the moment—there is a competition for quite large numbers of helicopters for the Indian Army and the Air force for high altitude operations with smaller helicopters. There is also a larger transport requirement, which may bring in the Agusta Westland A101and the Mi-38 and there are also some pending Naval requirements.

They are also seeking a new attack helicopter and heavy lifter to replace the Mi-26. Hindustan Aeronautics are due to fly their attack helicopter fairly soon—however, the Indians are looking toward a heavier attack helicopter to replace the Mi-24—and in the heavy-lift category, an updated Mi-26 is competing against the Chinook.

The Franco-German heavy lift helicopter requirement is likely to be 10 years away although there are serious financial constraints all around which haven’t been properly considered.

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