Defence Helicopter

Singapore Airshow 2020: Thai military collects another helicopter type

12th February 2020 - 13:00 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Singapore

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After buying just about every other helicopter brand and type available, Thailand’s military is now adding the Airbus Helicopters twin-engine H135 to its disparate fleet for the purposes of pilot training.

The sale of six H135s for the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), for which a deal was concluded in late 2019, was only announced at Singapore Airshow 2020 on 12 February.

The H135 fleet will be utilised for training tasks, including ab initio flight training. First delivery to the RTAF is expected in 2021.

Fabrice Rochereau, head of Asia-Pacific sales at Airbus Helicopters, said: ‘The FAA IFR-certified H135 is well regarded by military customers worldwide for its versatility, excellent performance and reliability, which explains our full confidence that this helicopter is the perfect platform for the air force’s training needs.’

The Thai H135s will possess the Helionix avionics suite, the Euronav7 moving map and two external cameras that give pilots a 360° view of their immediate external surroundings. The RTAF also opted for the OEM’s HCare Smart maintenance programme.

The RTAF has eight H225Ms already, and it ordered another four in 2018. Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Army and Royal Thai Navy both operate H145Ms.

H135s around the globe have already logged more than 320,000 training flight hours with ten existing military customers. Thailand’s purchase underscores something of a trend for militaries to select twin-engine helicopters for training, although this is budget-dependent for many countries.

Asia-Pacific remains an extremely important market for Airbus Helicopters. In a briefing at Singapore Airshow 2020, the company told reporters that 5,100 military helicopters already operate in the region. In the next 20 years, the OEM believes another 5,500 will be sold.

In neighbouring Malaysia, Airbus Helicopters is exploring various proposals on how to meet the helicopter needs of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), which recently grounded its workhorse Nuri fleet.

The RMAF already operates 12 H225Ms, but while additional H225Ms would offer commonality advantages, Malaysia cannot afford to replace the Nuris one for one with new aircraft. Malaysia may therefore be forced to pursue options such as leasing to fill in an interim capability gap.

Slightly farther afield, Airbus Helicopters is actively prosecuting two campaigns in India. Fabrice Cagnat, head of strategy and marketing in Asia-Pacific, told reporters at Singapore Airshow 2020 that one is for an Indian Coast Guard requirement, with the H225M on offer. The second is the Indian Navy’s 111-aircraft Naval Utility Helicopter programme, where both the Panther and the H145M are being proffered.

In the future, Airbus Helicopters will offer the H225M for the Naval Multi-Role Helicopter requirement, where 123 aircraft are needed by India’s navy.

India has already selected Mahindra, Tata, Adani and Bharat Forge as strategic partners for this latter programme. However, none of these companies is known as a helicopter maker, which perhaps does not bode well right from the start.

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