Ukraine’s border-line helo fleet

Ukraine is clearly worried about the state of its military helicopter fleets.

Particularly as the military conflict in the breakaway east of the country has dramatically highlighted the poor tactics, obsolete aircraft and lack of modern self-protection aids of Ukrainian Army helicopters, with the loss of more than a dozen aircraft since the start of the conflict.

To bolster numbers, it has emerged that the Ukrainian government is considering setting up a facility to remanufacture old Bell UH-1 utility helicopters in-country to eventually ship out for military service in Eastern Ukraine.

A group of American investors is currently in discussions about the venture, with the Ministry of Defence reportedly seeking an initial production volume in the range of 50-70 aircraft annually.

It remains unclear where all these surplus UH-1s are going to be sourced from, although in an unrelated development last week, it emerged last week the US Air Force may have some spares sooner rather than later.

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But so far, so credible. What’s harder to believe are comments by those involved in the project that there are also plans for the new joint venture to design a new multipurpose helicopters from scratch as well as a develop a high-speed design.

The lack of an established OEM in the ranks (Bell Helicopter was rumoured to be involved, but the company denies this, putting it down to a mistranslation somewhere along the way) must surely consign those ambitions to the wishful thinking pile.

The crisis in Eastern Ukraine has already given the helicopter procurement plans of several of its neighbours a fairly good shake-up, as I discovered at a conference in Prague in June.

With the main OEMs starting to more aggressively target Eastern European helicopter requirements, the possible creation of a production line throwing out 50-70 robust, multipurpose Hueys a year is an intriguing possibility.

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