Eurocopter to retrofit 26 CH53 Bundeswehr helicopters for personnel recovery missions

PARIS, 18 June 2009 Eurocopter Deutschland GmbH and the German Federal Agency for Defense Technology and Procurement signed a contract at the Paris Air Show to retrofit one prototype followed by a further 25 of the German army's CH53 GS/GE transport helicopters with the capability to perform personnel recovery missions. The first retrofitted helicopter is scheduled for delivery in early 2010.

The upgrade will provide the CH53 GS/GE weapon system with the capability to locate personnel in various areas of deployment, fly to them tactically and pick them up, Eurocopter officials say.

Eurocopter engineers will design a mission-tactical workstation in the cargo bay, which can be quickly installed and removed as role equipment. The workstation is equipped with the controls for operating the additional sensor systems on the helicopter, which include a personnel locater system, a broadband radio unit, a forward-looking infrared system, and connections to the internal and satellite communications systems. Information is provided on two workstation displays and a mobile avionics display for the cockpit crew.

Eurocopter Deutschland has been selected as the contractor with overall responsibility for the project. The 26 helicopters covered by the contract will be modified and delivered by 2011. The retrofit work will be carried out by Eurocopter Deutschland at its Donauwörth plant or on Army bases.

Eurocopter's support center for Bundeswehr helicopters at Donauwörth has also been contracted to retrofit a total of 82 medium-heavy CH53G transport helicopters to ensure continued mission capability. This involves fixing airframe fatigue caused by use and aging to increase the helicopters' design life from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours. In addition, the retrofit will involve replacement of the entire electrical system, which is now about 35 years old.

The CH53G has been in service for over 35 years and will continue for the foreseeable future to form the backbone of the German Army's missions abroad, Eurocopter officials say.

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