Special Operations: A German Custom Ride

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July 19, 2017: In mid-2017 the German Army received the last of the fifteen H145M special operations helicopters it had ordered in 2013 from European firm EADS. These light helicopters went through a few changes between the time they were ordered and when they were delivered. For one thing there was a name change. When ordered they were called the EC645T2 but even then they were to be modified to specifications provided by the German special operations command for use by the KSK (Kommando Spezialkräfte) commandos. The H145M/EC645T2 is similar to the American UH-72A Lakota.

In fact the H145M is a combat version of the UH-72A (AAH-72X), that was an unsuccessful effort to provide a replacement for the OH-58D armed scout helicopter back in 2009. While the AAH-72X did not win that competition (no one did and the 1960s OH-58 design will now remain in service until the 2030s), the design became widely known and that attracted several potential buyers.

The twin engine UH-72A is a transport that was previously called the UH-145 and costs about $9 million each, although the cost can be higher depending on the accessories. It’s those high-tech accessories that make the H145M so much more expensive (about $20 million each). The U.S. Army originally ordered 322 of UH-72As in 2006 and later increased the order and eventually received 349.

The UH-72A is a militarized version of the EC145, a helicopter very popular with law enforcement agencies, including the FBI. The UH-72A purchase is a side effect of the cancellation of the Comanche scout helicopter eight years ago (mainly because of constantly increasing costs). Comanche was perceived as too expensive and complex. The UH-72A mainly replaces the few remaining UH-1 helicopters, which are being retired because of old age. The AAH-72X armed scout version (and the EC645T2) can carry about a ton of weapons (machine-gun pod, plus guided and unguided rockets) and sensors.

The UH-72A has about the same capacity as the UH-1, despite its smaller size. The 3.6 ton UH-72A has a top speed of 260 kilometers an hour and a max range of 660 kilometers. Average endurance per sortie is about two hours. The helicopter has a crew of two and can carry up to eight passengers or about three-quarters of a ton of cargo or weapons. The EC145 was introduced eight years ago and has been very popular with its users. This, and price stability, was one of the reasons the H145M has a market. The H145M is a 3.7 ton helicopter equipped for all-weather operation, has some armor, and can be equipped with weapons (that work with its extensive sensor equipment). But mainly it is designed to carry commandos on assault missions. The KSK version came with some lightweight armor, a fast roping system, an auto-pilot designed for commando operations and some electronic countermeasures.

The UH-72A has been popular with its users and has had a readiness (for flying) rate of 90 percent. The H145M is expected to be similarly reliable. Germany was particularly attracted by the H145M being compact enough to be easily transported in the new A400M transports (similar to the C-130). This allows KSK commandos to be quickly moved, along with their assault helicopters, to regional trouble spots.

 


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