The UK's Special Air Service (SAS), the elite unit of the Army Air Corps, has taken delivery of a fifth Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin. Industry sources tell HeliHub.com that the upcoming Olympics in London has inter alia placed additional responsibilities on the SAS, hence the need for the extra aircraft. It is expected to take up the military serial ZJ784 in due course, following on from the others which are ZJ780 through ZJ783. The fleet are maintained by FB Heliservices at Shawbury.
The first four Dauphins were delivered bY Eurocopter UK between October 2008 and January 2009. This latest aircraft was cancelled from the UK civil register just yesterday and is coincidentally the very next serial number (6823) off the production line to the last of the original batch and not just off the production line. The reason behind this is that the aircraft was delivered from the factory in France to Eurocopter's UK subsidiary in August 2008 on the expectation of a sale, but has instead sat there in primer all of the time since until the military bought it.
The Dauphins replaced four Agusta A109A helicopters, the first two of which were war spoils from the Falklands War in 1982. Within a short time a second pair was added, and all four were withdrawn from use as the Dauphins were introduced. They are now either in storage or awaiting display in museums. One is known to be with the School of Electronic and Aeronautical Engineering at Arborfield, Berkshire, while two others are expected to be displayed in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton and the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. The fourth is used for ground instruction at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield.
The photos accompanying this article are aircraft in the original batch. The photo below is with due credit to Dave Haines, while the flying shot is from Richard Trinder. The copyright of each remains with the photographers.
Jeremy Parkin - HeliHub.com
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