10-Feb-2010 Source: Eurocopter
DonauwÃ¶rth, February 10,
The CH-53GA medium-lift military transport helicopter successfully completed its maiden flight over the Bavarian town of DonauwÃ¶rth 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 helicopterâ€™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: â€œOver 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 fÃ¼r 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.â€
Functional Requirements â€“ 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:
Production work on the CH-53GA is scheduled to start at the DonauwÃ¶rth 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 â€“ 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 Armyâ€™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 Armyâ€™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
Eurocopterâ€™s support center for German Army helicopters at DonauwÃ¶rth 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 helicoptersâ€™ 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.
Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 15,600 people. In 2009, Eurocopter confirmed its position as the worldâ€™s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer in the civil and parapublic market, with a turnover of 4.6 billion Euros, orders for 344 new helicopters, and a 52 percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors. Overall, the Groupâ€™s products account for 30 percent of the total world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its 18 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of distributors, certified agents and maintenance centres. More than 10,500 Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,800 customers in more than 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and military helicopter range in the world.