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Safety and innovation to take centre stage at Helitech International 2017

Returning to the Excel London next week from 3-5 October, Helitech International 2017, has lined up the industry’s biggest names to showcase the latest, cutting-edge technology and innovations making waves across the sector.

Around 200 exhibitors will be exhibiting at Helitech International this year and with 23 countries represented, it’s shaping up to be a truly global affair providing a great opportunity to network with key decision-makers in the sector and deliver new business opportunities.

We’re also welcoming 22 new companies to the show for the first time, adding to the diversity in platforms, systems, technology and equipment available for visitors to see.

Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter, Leonardo, Babcock International, Euravia, Waypoint Leasing, and Aerolite, are just some of the names that have confirmed support for the event.


Exhibitors will be hosting a variety of events on their stands with Airbus Helicopters giving visitors the chance to look around the new H160 prototype via an interactive virtual reality (VR) experience while Euravia will be offering guided 360 VR tours of its facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bell Helicopter will showcase a Bell 429 while an EMS-configured H145 and PBA H125 will be featured on the Airbus stand. On the static displays, Airbus will also introduce a full-scale model of its H160 prototype giving visitors an insight into the future of the ‘connected helicopter’.

The speaker programme for the insight seminars and technical sessions has been carefully crafted to cover the key topics shaping the future the rotorcraft sector, with safety and technology taking the limelight.

Kim Harris, Senior Business Development Manager, ASU Inc., has accumulated more than 3,700 hours of NVG flights, and will address the latest developments in night safety procedures and technologies with insights on past, present and future operations.


David Perez Pinar of Babcock International Group will reveal the latest technological innovations in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems addresses the growth in unmanned aerial vehicles.

Helitech International is all about bringing the rotorcraft industry together and facilitating discussions between operators to develop new business leads, make new connections and discuss the sector with likeminded individuals.

Shephard Media will be providing Helitech International Show News Daily, see the site for all the latest news and updates.

If you haven’t registered, there’s still time. Click here to register and join us at the ExceL London next week!

Teresa Heitor, exhibition manager at Reed Exhibitions

Japan and US Conduct Live Fire Drills Amid Regional Tension

Following on from DB editor, Grant Turnbull’s blog on rising tensions in Asia, guest blogger Sam Bocetta takes an in depth look at the recent US-Japanese military exercise.

Last week, some 300 US and Japanese military personnel carried out live fire drills in northern Japan, despite the simmering regional tension between the US and North Korea.

The drills were part of an artillery training exercise being jointly conducted by the US and Japanese militaries. Live shells were fired from armed vehicles at a training area on the northern island of Hokkaido. Troops from Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) and the USMC were both involved.

Northern Viper 4

These live fire drills formed part of a huge 19-day joint exercise between the two countries. Though the exercise had been planned years in advance, there had been calls for it to be called off due to the increased tension between the US and North Korea. The drill is likely to further inflame the war of words between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, during which the North Korean leader has threatened to fire missiles at the pacific island – and US military base – of Guam.

Northern Viper 2017

The drills form part of Northern Viper 2017, a huge and ambitious joint exercise of the US and Japanese militaries. More than 2,000 US Marines, and some 1,500 members of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF), were involved. The drills took place at the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

The exercise was designed to test the compatibility and interoperability of the JSDF and the US Marine Corps. Though primarily focused on troops’ abilities to deal with peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief, the drills also saw an impressive deployment of military hardware.

Northern Viper 6

Though the US and Japan have been military allies for many years now, they have not often trained together, and some analysts had worried about the ability of the two countries to co-operate at a tactical level. Northern Viper sought to address this issue by stressing low-level interoperability between the two forces.

The exercise involved a range of US forces. The USMC deployed in Okinawa are a highly-capable, forward-deployed unit, and are critical to the US’s ability to project power in the Asia-Pacific region. The relationship between the US and Japanese militaries allows these troops to train in Japan.

Accordingly, the exercise involved US troops from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and the 3rd Marine Division. The aircraft wing were charged with providing direct aerial support to the ground troops of both the 3rd Marine Division and the JSDF. Various training exercises were conducted alongside the live fire artillery drills. These consisted of assault support missions, simulated offensive air support, and simulated casualty evacuations.

Northern Viper 5

During the exercise, the US military fired, for the first time ever in Japan, the M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). This system can fire a range of guided missiles – either a barrage of six short-range missiles each armed with a 200lb (91kg) warhead, or one long-range missile that is capable of hitting targets out to 186 miles (299km).

HIMARS require a crew of three – a driver, gunner and chief. An advanced computer-based fire control system enables the crew or even a lone soldier to operate the entire system. The fire control system includes keyboard control, video, programme storage and GPS. The fire control computer allows firing missions to be carried out in automatic or manual mode. Fire systems use advanced GPS and optics systems to find and lock onto targets.

MV-22 Northern Viper

Northern Viper also involved a range of aircraft. The US deployed F-16 fighter jets, UH-1 Hueys and AH-1Z Cobra helicopters. Controversially, the US also deployed several MV-22 Osprey helicopters, against the wishes of the Japanese government. Several recent crashes have led to concerns over the safety of this tilt-rotor vehicle.

Training in Japan allows the USMC to conduct exercises that are impossible in Okinawa. Hokkaido has ranges that allow for aircraft to conduct live fire exercises, for instance. Large exercises such as Northern Viper also allow US forces to identify weaknesses, and possible areas of conflict with coalition partners, that are invaluable to the ongoing development of these forces.

Northern Viper 7

Regional Tensions

Though Northern Viper had been planned months in advance, there had been pressure for it to be called off due to the increased tension in the Asia-Pacific region. It has been claimed that military exercises like this, especially when incorporating live-fire drills, run the risk of escalating tensions between the US and North Korea.

Though none of the weapons deployed in Northern Viper are a threat to North Korea, the exercise serves to underline the close relationship between the US and Japanese militaries. This relationship has long been a source of tension between the US, North Korea, and China. And although Hokkaido is quite some distance away from the Korean Peninsula, it is reasonable to assume that both China and North Korea watched the exercise with interest.


For Japan, the exercise not only provides valuable training experience, but also the opportunity to showcase its increasing military capability. Japan’s defence budget has steadily risen over the last few years, driven by the deteriorating security situation in the region, and it is now coming under increasing pressure to acquire a pre-emptive strike capability.

Sam Bocetta is a retired engineer who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specialising in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems. Bocetta is also a contributor on Gun News Daily. He now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor.


Going underground – tactical comms

By Andrew White

Since the main assault to retake the City of Mosul from Daesh launched on 17 October 2016, the progress of Iraqi and coalition security forces appears to have been halted as defending forces take the fight into the subterranean environment.

According to US DoD estimates, anywhere between four and ten thousand Daesh fighters remain in Mosul with gains made by the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) already being curbed.


USAF Colonel John Dorrian, the DoD spokesperson in Iraq, explained to the media in October, IS or Daesh had started to build tunnels throughout Mosul ahead of the openly planned offensive well before offensive actions were triggered.

Such a tactic, Dorrian conceded, would present ‘unique tactical and operational’ concerns for advancing forces conducting missions to clear miles and miles of subterranean tunnel networks that they use for tactical movement and to hide weapons.


According to Obsidian Technologies’ Charles Cavanagh, communications in subterranean environments present significant challenges for armed forces including different refraction and reflection of signals off wet, dry, tiled and irregular walls; interference from nearby high-power systems; as well as assault teams remaining in close enough contact to maintain relay linkages.

‘This is a multi-faceted problem space. In the cave and tunnel environment, Line of Sight communication is pretty
much absolute and there are added challenges such as multi-path communications; radio discipline; and command and control,’ he explained to Digital Battlespace.

Critical to any military operation is communication and the ability to successfully transmit and receive calls to, from and within the subterranean environment. This is an issue which continues to hound defence forces today, particularly prevalent for Special Operations Forces (SOF) conducting complex counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations in urban environments.

Defence sources associated with ISOF explained to Digital Battlespace how Iraqi CT Forces lacked such capability on a grand scale, now required to achieve mature tactical communications connectivity across subterranean environments.

More mature SOF organisations globally have previously relied upon the use of tactical repeater systems which could be cached in sequence throughout underground areas of operation in order to relay communications via Line of Sight to the surface.

However, the market is now witnessing the emergence of specialist standalone technology as well as the development of tailored waveforms capable of being integrated on board Software Defined Radios.

Standalone options revolved around the utility of Through-The-Earth (TTE) communications, capable of penetrating ultra low radio frequency waves (300-3000 Hz) through rock and dirt. Such technology derives from the mining industry where higher frequency signals have traditionally been rebroadcast or relayed through antenna and repeater stations as well as mesh solutions such as the popular Mobile Ad Hoc Networking systems proliferating the defence and security market today.

rf-7850m-hh-multiband-networking-handheld-radio-2Additionally, significant attention must be paid to communication headsets with the US DoD selecting Atlantic Signal’s Subterranean Voice Communication System on 19th September 2016.

‘You need a headset and microphone system which can allow you to listen around corners in a very quiet environment. Radio communication needs to be separate to ear canal so some operators can prefer a microphone instead of bone conductor through the ear.

‘On top of that, operations in underground or enclosed spaces can go from very quiet to very noisy so operators need communications headsets with the capability to enhance listening but also actively protect the ears.

Atlantic Signal designed the Dominator II headset which was initially developed in tandem with the US Naval Special Warfare Command.

For more see the feature on Middle East tactical communications developments in the January/February 2017 edition of Digital Battlespace, out now!

Model Masterplan

By Gerrard Cowan

The US Navy (USN) first deployed the MH-60R Seahawk in 2009, and will receive its final scheduled deliveries of the helicopter in the summer of 2018.

While the aircraft has been in service for some years now, it continually receives upgrades and modifications to allow it to adapt to an evolving operational environment.

The Romeo variant is primarily focused on ASW and ASuW, with secondary missions including SAR and medevac.

According to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the platform – along with its sibling, the MH-60S – has flown more than 650,000 hours across a 500-plus fleet. It is deployed with both the USN and a number of export customers.


(All images: Lockheed Martin)

The most recent batch for the service was procured in FY2016, making a total of 280 platforms, said Capt Craig Grubb, manager of the navy’s H-60 programme. The final set of 29 MH-60Rs is known as Lot 14, and will be delivered in June 2018.

The acquisition is part of a rotorcraft masterplan, designed to take seven different types and replace them with the two MH-60 variants, and the programme is almost complete.

According to Grubb, the SH-60F retired in the spring of 2016 and the SH-60B retired in 2015.

There are still a few HH-60Hs remaining in the fleet, which he said will be in service through FY2019 and possibly longer. ‘They’re pretty valued by the fleet, so there’s a lot of consideration being given to keeping those aircraft in service longer,’ he told DH.

The MH-60R and MH-60S are enduring platforms that are likely to be around for decades, said Chris Stellwag, director of marketing communications at CAE Defence & Security, which provides the USN and international customers with simulators and other training devices for the aircraft.

‘One of the advantages for foreign militaries when they acquire a platform like that is they’re getting the benefit of the significant investment the USN is making in the continual upgrades and enhancements to a fleet of 500-plus helicopters,’ he commented.

This meant that international customers were able to leverage the investment the USN is making in enhancing the aircraft, through new sensor suites, weapon systems or countermeasures, for example.


Additionally, it boosted interoperability with their US ally. Stellwag said the helicopter was an attractive, low-risk and cost-effective platform. ‘We’re always conscious of maintaining strong positions in platforms that we think are enduring, and that’s what we’ve successfully been able to do so far with the Seahawk,’ he said.

‘We definitely see opportunities over the next decade with other countries, and continued improvements and enhancements to the suite of training systems that the USN uses.’

While the navy is in only the very early phases of exploring what a successor to the MH-60 might look like, there is an interest in being able to migrate the work done on the mid-life upgrade onto another platform at a later date.

For more on the USN’s MH-60R programme looking ahead to mid-life upgrades and an eventual successor, please see the January/February edition of Defence Helicopter for further details.

Operator challenges to be put under the spotlight at Helitech International 2016

Guest blog from: John Hyde, Exhibition Director at Helitech International

This year Helitech International will return to the RAI Amsterdam for the second time following a successful debut in the venue for the 2014 event. With a new seminar and workshop programme in place and plenty of new content.

We’re excited to present visitors with a unique opportunity to source the latest equipment, while learning about the current trends shaping the future of our sector.

Around 200 exhibitors from 20 countries will be exhibiting at Helitech International 2016 and it’s shaping up to be a truly global stage to bring the rotorcraft industry together and deliver new business opportunities.

We’re also delighted to welcome over 35 companies who are making their Helitech International debut, adding to the depth and diversity of platforms, systems, equipment, components and services on display.

Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter, Leonardo, Waypoint Leasing, Marenco Swiss Helicopter, Dart Aerospace, and Aerolite, are just some of the names that have confirmed their support for the event.


Exhibitors will be hosting a range of events on their stands. Leonardo will feature a virtual reality hoist to enable visitors to experience its use in a variety of weather conditions, while Dart Aerospace Ltd will hold a press event to officially announce its new European partners.

Techniques such as simulation and digital presentations continue to play an increasingly important part of many exhibitor’s display as they explain what can be complex technologies.

Alongside the exhibition and static displays, the new programme of seminars and workshops will be packed with insights from leading global experts.

Together with the returning Business Leaders Forum and Safety Workshops, operators will form a key focus for our 2016 programme with the launch of the Operators Forum.

A new initiative where operators from across the globe can network with like-minded individuals and discuss the evolving rotorcraft industry and ways of addressing the issues most relevant to their businesses.

For the first time this year we have also been working with manufacturers to launch Technical Workshops that will offer interactive briefings on different types of technology, fit outs and missions.

Delivered by leading businesses including Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo and Bell Helicopter, the sessions will enable operators to garner actionable insights before making purchasing decisions.

With visitor registrations from people in over 70 countries, pre-registration has been very positive.

Over 180 operators from companies such as Babcock International, Bristow, Heli Holland and CHC are confirmed to attend, highlighting the growing confidence and innovation opportunities within the rotorcraft market. The stage has been set to offer a one-stop-shop for visitors to meet their purchasing, education and training needs.


Helitech International is all about bringing together the rotorcraft industry, allowing operators, key decision-makers, exhibitors and like-minded individuals the chance to network and make new connections.

This will be celebrated with an industry reception taking place at the end of the day on Tuesday, 11 October.  Co-hosted with RAI Amsterdam, attendees of the show are all invited for drinks and canapes to continue conversations from the exhibition floor in a less formal environment.

Shephard Media will be providing Helitech International Show News Daily, see the site for all the latest news and updates.

If you haven’t registered, there’s still time. Click this link to register and join us in Amsterdam next week!

Is my car bugged?

This isn’t a question that someone in most Western countries finds themselves asking, however on returning home from a visit to a military base in Hong Kong my wife thought I should make sure.

I’ll explain why…

On Wednesday the Hong Kong Garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) held open days at two of its bases – Stonecutters Island Naval Base and Shek Kong Air Base. The PLA usually hosts such events once a year, so nothing odd about that.

You always have to credit the PLA for being organised and security conscious. After all, I have had ‘plain clothes soldiers’ follow me around on previous occasions to make sure the foreigner isn’t getting up to any mischief, and phone calls to confirm that I have indeed left the premises before the event closed.

However, this year seemed a bit disorganised. My car got waved through security and so I coasted to a sedate stop in the carpark. I was then told there was a mistake and that I should drive out the front gate and go back in again.

And, oh yes, a female PLA officer would sit in the back seat of my car to make sure everything was okay.

After returning home, my wife immediately saw the ‘real’ reason for this. ‘You’re so silly. Now your car’s bugged!’ she exclaimed.

Is such paranoia over the top? Living in China, and in recent times in Hong Kong, perhaps not.

Of course, the PLA already has a top secret electronic listening post atop Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest mountain. The PLA refuses to say what the installation does.

On the very same day that I chauffeured the PLA officer in my car, China introduced its controversial national security law. This legislation covers far more than one would expect of traditional internal security, as it encompasses ideology, religion, finance, cybersecurity, politics and the military.9N5A3914

National security is defined as ensuring the political regime, sovereignty, national unification, territorial integrity, people’s welfare and the ‘sustainable and healthy development’ of the economy and society. Some might call this neo-totalitarian.

Xinhua explained earlier: ‘The draft law called for reinforced education and dissemination of socialist core values, to prevent the infiltration of harmful moral standards.’

Am I paranoid?

Let me know. In the meantime, I’m just going out to give my car a careful clean…on the inside.

Still a Squirrel?


Guest blogger, Jim Winchester, reflects on the aircraft naming convention history of Airbus Helicopters, formerly Eurocopter (and formerly a number of other different companies…), and the impact the ‘H’ designation will have on the brand.

Alongside the H160 launch at Heli-Expo in March, Airbus Helicopters announced more or less en passant that it will be adopting a new naming convention for its helicopter range.

Although this change doesn’t officially take place until the beginning of 2016, some of us journalists were only just getting used to Eurocopter (Est 1992) and can remember MBB and Aérospatiale, if not Messerschmitt, Bölkow, Sud-Est and Sud-Ouest or any of the other companies today’s European rotorcraft giant can trace its lineage back to.

The alpha-numerical system, or systems, in use until now were inherited from Airbus Helicopters’ predecessor companies. Broadly speaking, AS prefixes were used for products of pre-Eurocopter French origin, and EC for German ones and those developed since the merger.

Under the new system the EC120 B has become the H120, the EC175 the H175 and the EC635 T2e/P2e the H135M (the suffix signifying Military).

The new system eliminates questionable dots or dashes, confusing typographical spaces (or the lack of them) and applies to all current models, except where it doesn’t.


There are a number of exceptions testing the rule.

The new convention sees the disappearance of the EC designator that came in circa 1993 with the EC120, again, except where it doesn’t.

For example, under the revised system the EC145 becomes the H145, but the EC145e will be simply the EC145. The AS365 N3+ becomes the AS365 N3+.

At the press conference unveiling the new structure, Airbus Helicopters CEO Guillaume Faury explained the rationale: ‘It’s extremely simple – in Airbus the A is for airliners and H is for helicopters.’ So that’s that cleared up, then.

As the first new machine to receive the new brand, the experimental X4 will enter production as the H160. Those with a grasp of how it used to be done might have expected it to be the H165 – 1 indicating civilian; 6, a 6t class machine and 5, twin engines.

However, the H125 (formerly the AS350 B3e, but only that version) holds true to Aérospatiale’s old naming tradition.

Airbus Helicopters’ nomenclature has become bit like the Pentagon’s system, which held together relatively well until new types became few and far between, the old hands who understood the system retired and the sequence collapsed, leading to the F-35 fighter being next to appear after the YF-23 and such oddities as the AL-1 laser-firing 747, which fell out of the designation system altogether, before being cancelled.


In contrast, Airbus’s airliner range is a paragon of clarity, although the diverse military aircraft portfolio from A400M to PZL-130 Orlik will probably continue to defy easy rationalisation, to the annoyance perhaps only of the marketing department.

Airbus assures us that existing popular names like Super Puma (which will be either the H225, the AS332 C1e or AS332 L1e depending on variant) and Colibri (was the EC120, now the H120) will still be used, although I’m not sure the latter ever really caught on in the popular imagination.

It has to be admitted the product line-up had become a bit confusing. At the Paris Air Show a few years back when discussing light utility helicopters with (then) Eurocopter’s marketing chief, we agreed to use ‘Squirrel’ when talking about the AS350/550 and variants, as the existing designations were just clouding matters.

That and I can’t pronounce Ecureuil.


In future, it will presumably make identifying company products at Le Bourget simpler, as long as the H130 et al get to wear the appropriate show numbers, but I am beginning to wonder if the thinking at Marignane and Donauwörth is that joined-up.

On one hand, I can’t help feeling some nostalgia for the old designations, which contained some vestiges of the company’s origins and product development history and even a clue to the number and type of engines.

On the other hand, I can’t see why the new regime hasn’t been applied consistently across the whole product line. Eurocopter never managed to quite unify the system it inherited and Airbus seems to have missed the boat once more. Let’s hope they give us time to get used to these before changing them again.

In practical terms, however, all this tinkering with names and numbers means fairly little to the owners and operators who put their helicopters to work every day.

All of this matters mainly to those who like to bring order from chaos, who write about aerospace and compile directories, who keep logs and maintain databases.

An H125 is still a Squirrel at heart, and until data plates and manuals change, the main effect many RotorHub readers may notice in the near future is a shuffling around of the entries in the next issue of Shephard’s Civil and Parapublic Helicopter Handbook.

But don’t forget that somewhere inside every Airbus Helicopters H145 is an MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 trying to get out.


Jim Winchester is a freelance aerospace journalist based in the UK.

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