|A EC145 from the Stanford Medical Center|
|Role||Light utility helicopter|
|First flight||12 June 1999|
|MBB/Kawasaki BK 117|
|Variants||Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota|
The Eurocopter EC145 (now Airbus Helicopters H145) is a twin-engine light utility helicopter developed and manufactured by Eurocopter, which was rebranded as Airbus Helicopters in 2014. Originally referred to as the BK 117 C2, the EC145 is based upon the MBB/Kawasaki BK 117 C1, which became a part of the combined Eurocopter line-up in 1992 with the merger of Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm's helicopter division of Daimler-Benz and the helicopter division of Aérospatiale-Matra to form Eurocopter.
The EC145 is a twin-engine aircraft and can carry up to nine passengers along with two crew, depending on customer configuration. The helicopter is marketed for passenger transport, corporate transport, emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue, parapublic and utility roles. In 2015, the EC145 was rebranded as the H145 by Airbus Helicopters. Military variants of the helicopter have also been produced under various designations, such as H145M or UH-72, and have been used for training, logistics, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, light attack, and troop-transport operations.
The EC145 was a joint development between Eurocopter and Kawasaki Heavy Industries on the basis of their successful prior jointly produced BK 117 C1. Rather than pursuing an entirely clean sheet design, the forward cockpit and modern avionics of Eurocopter's EC 135 were adopted in combination with the proven BK 117's rear section; Flight International described the new helicopter, originally designed as BK 117 C2, as being "90% a combination of these two aircraft [The EC135 and BK 117 C1]". However, there were significant areas of redesign, advantages held by the EC145 over its predecessor include possessing a greater range and payload capacity, a considerably increased and uninterrupted cabin area, reduced vibration and noise emissions, and measures to simplify maintenance and minimise operational costs. The noise signature of the EC145 is reportedly 60% lower than that of the BK 117 C1.
The new model was type-certificated as the BK 117 C2; in December 1997, it was selected by the French Defense and Civil Guard for air rescue mission, 31 EC145s were ordered to replace their fleet of ageing Aérospatiale Alouette III in a deal costing $170 million. The first EC145 completed its maiden flight at Donauwörth, Germany on 12 June 1999; Eurocopter conducted a major publicity event for the emerging type at the US Helicopter Association International Show in February 2000. Safety certification of the EC145 was awarded by the German Luftfahrt-Bundesamt and Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau in December 2000; and by the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early 2002.
Eurocopter and Kawasaki have an agreement under which both firms independently manufacture and market the rotorcraft, while working collaboratively on development and upgrades. Eurocopter has a 60% production workshare, which includes the main and tail rotors, intermediate and tail gearboxes, control systems, cockpit and tail structure, and landing gear; Kawasaki has a 40% workshare, comprising the fuselage structure, main transmission, electrical and fuel systems. Kawasaki uses the designation BK 117 C2 for the type and sells/produces the aircraft in the Asian market; Eurocopter sells the type globally under the EC145 designation. In November 2004, with the termination of production of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' MH2000, the BK 117 C2 became the only civil helicopter in production in Japan. In August 2010, it was announced that the partnership between Eurocopter and Kawasaki on the development and production of the EC145 had been extended until at least 2025.
In 2011, Eurocopter launched an upgraded EC145 model, designated EC145 T2, unveiling the new type at Heli Expo 2011. The EC145 T2 is designed to significantly increase the aircraft's performance, featuring new Arriel 2E turboshaft engines, dual-digital Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC), Eurocopter's Fenestron shrouded tail rotor design, and upgraded tail and main rotor gear boxes. Considerable differences and improvements were introduced to the cockpit and aircraft subsystems, including the adoption of increasingly digital avionics and a fully modular approach to these systems; amongst the biggest changes is a sophisticated 4-axis autopilot. In April 2014, airworthiness certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency for the EC145 T2 was received, FAA certification followed in October 2014.
The primary manufacturing facility for the EC145 is located at Donauwörth in Germany, which is Eurocopter's second-largest site after Marignane in France. In 2014, Airbus Helicopters announced that 50 EC145 T2s would be manufactured in 2015; the production is expected to eventually rise to 70 helicopters per year.
Since 2011, Eurocopter has been developing an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) variant of the EC145. Test flights of the EC145 OPV, including unmanned flights, began in 2013. The system, designed to plug into the EC145's existing avionics, is capable of autonomous operation or alternatively being controlled by human operators either via the cockpit or from a ground control station. The technology, which is reported to be compatible with a number of Eurocopter's range of helicopters, is intended for both civil and military applications. In an emergency situation, such as systems failure, the EC145 OPV is programmed to enter into an automated hover-to-land procedure to safely land the aircraft. In March 2015, Airbus Helicopter's Chief Technical Officer Jean-Brice Dumont stated that there were no firm plans for the EC145 OPV to proceed to production, but investment in the project was continuing.
In July 2014, Airbus Helicopter launched the EC145e, a lightened and lower cost version of the standard EC145, achieved by the removal of some avionics for autopilot and single-pilot IFR functions. Intended as a basic model for tasks such as aerial firefighting and utility work, it has been also viewed as a replacement for aging MBB Bo 105 rotorcraft. In April 2015, the EASA issued its certification for the EC145e. In 2015, Metro Aviation entered into an arrangement with Airbus Helicopters to offer various mission-specific customisations for the EC145e and operate as a reseller for the variant.
In March 2019, Airbus announced it was developing an upgraded H145 with a new bearingless five-bladed main rotor with testing begun in April 2018 with Kawasaki. The upgrade will increase payload by 150 kg (330 lb) and will be able to be retrofitted to existing H145s. EASA certification is expected in the first quarter of 2020.
The EC145 features a larger cabin space than the older BK 117 C1 helicopter with internal space increased by 46 cm (18 in) in length and 13 cm (5 in) in width, increasing cabin volume by 1.0 m³ (35 ft³) to 6.0 m³ (211 ft³). Other improvements over the BK 117 include an increased maximum take-off weight and greater range, achieved partially by the adoption of composite rotor blades, which were derived from the smaller EC135. The EC145 has a hingeless rotor system with a monolithic titanium hub; the helicopter was originally powered by a pair of Turboméca Arriel 1E2 turboshaft engines, later aircraft are powered by the upgraded Turboméca Arriel 2E engine. A key feature of the rotorcraft is the variable rotorspeed and torque matching system (VARTOMS), derived from the BK 117, which Eurocopter has attributed as making the EC145 "the quietest helicopter in its class".
The EC145 is fitted with an all-glass cockpit, consists of a Thales Avionics MEGHAS Flight Control Display System with active matrix liquid crystal displays (LCDs); it can be piloted by either one or two pilots. A number of systems are independently redundant, including the autopilot system, hydraulic boost, transmission lubrication, and some of the onboard sensors. The EC145 T2 features additional and newer avionics systems, such as a full 4-axis autopilot and dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC); three large LCD primary displays were also introduced to control these systems. The type is fully capable of Category A operations; in November 2008, an EC145 performed the first medical transport flights under instrument flight rules (IFR) in Europe; the type is able to fly entirely under GPS navigation from takeoff to final approach when required. The EC145 is also the first civil helicopter to be fitted with night vision-compatible cockpit instrumentation and lighting straight off the production line.
Typical cabin arrangements allows for eight passengers in a club seating configuration, or nine passengers in a high density seating configuration, passenger seating is designed for quick rearrangement based upon current demands. The cabin can be accessed either through sliding doors in either side of the aircraft or via large clamshell doors at the rear of the cabin; in combination with the high mounted tail boom, the clamshell doors are designed to provide safe clearance for loading and unloading activities even while the rotors are turning. In an EMS/casualty evacuation arrangement, the EC145 can carry up to two stretchered patients with three accompanying medical staff. The helicopter can be fitted with emergency floats, rescue hoist, search light, load hook and specialist equipment for other operational requirements.
A specialised VIP variant developed in association with Mercedes-Benz, known as the EC145 Mercedes-Benz Style, launched as an executive helicopter in 2010. Capable of transporting up to six passengers via switchable rail-mounted seating arrangements; the Mercedes-Benz variant features a luxury interior complete with leather seats, wooden panelling, advanced ambient lighting and in-flight entertainment systems, and modular storage cabinets; various aesthetic external changes, such as a reshaped forward section, also feature on this variant. Eurocopter also offers an 'EC145 Stylence' package to corporate and private helicopter operators, which has various aesthetic and technology changes from the baseline model to provide a higher level of passenger comfort. The EC145e, a utility variant, has a deliberately standardised interior for the purpose of minimising overall weight.
The French Sécurité Civile (Civil Guard), French Gendarmerie and the Landespolizei (State Police) of Hesse, Germany became the first operators of the EC145 upon receipt of the initial deliveries in April 2002. The Sécurité Civile procured the type as a replacement for its aging Aérospatiale Alouette III fleet, winning out against the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin. In November 2006, the Sécurité Civile were planning to make greater use of the EC145's IFR capabilities for operations within bad weather and at night time. In 2008, the Gendarmerie reportedly stated that the EC145 has a per aircraft availability rate of roughly 90 percent. Out of a total of 32 EC145s delivered to the Sécurité Civile, three had been lost in accidents by June 2009.
In October 2010, an agreement to establish a joint venture between Eurocopter and Kazakhstan Engineering, Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering, was formally signed; the joint venture created the only EC145 manufacturer in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which possesses exclusive rights to supply the type to Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. In November 2011, Kazakhstan took delivery of the first of an initial batch of six EC145 ordered. In September 2012, Eurocopter Kazakhstan received its first EC145 assembly kits at its newly established facility in Astana; up to 10 EC145s per year are to be built at the facility. By November 2015, a total of 20 rotorcraft had been produced at the Kazakhstan facility, 14 for the Ministry of Emergencies of Kazakhstan and 6 for the Ministry of Defense of Kazakhstan.
In April 2012, Eurocopter announced that the 500th EC145 had been delivered. On 31 July 2014, the first EC145 T2, an updated variant, was delivered to its launch customer, DRF Luftrettung, who have ordered a total of 20 such helicopters for emergency medical service operations.
In April 2015, Airbus Group Australia Pacific delivered its first H145, previously designated as the EC145 T2. In June 2015, it was announced that Saudi Arabia intended to purchase 23 H145s worth $500 million. In November 2015, it was reported that the H145 had attained an average availability rate of 94%.
In 2006, the UH-145, a military variant of the EC145, was selected for the United States Army's Light Utility Helicopter Program, beating three other helicopters. The deal, valued at $3 billion, involved the supply and servicing of 345 helicopters, with options for additional aircraft. The variant was designated UH-72 Lakota by the US Department of Defense; the first UH-72A was delivered to the US Army in December 2006. In August 2007, the FAA authorised the commencement of production of both UH-72A and civil EC145 rotorcraft at American Eurocopter's facility in Columbus, Mississippi.
In July 2013, Germany purchased 15 EC145s for the German Army to be used for special operations (KSK) designated EC645 T2. The EC645 T2 is armed with weapon mounts, fitted with electronic countermeasures system, ballistic protection, electro-optical system, fast rope system, cargo hooks and hoists. In October 2014, Thailand placed an order for 5 EC645 T2s for the Royal Thai Navy. On 27 November 2014, the maiden flight of the EC645 T2 was performed at Donauwörth, Germany. On 15 May 2015, the H145M, previously designated as EC645 T2, received EASA airworthiness certification. The first two H145Ms were received by Germany and assigned to the Air Force in December 2015.
In December 2016, Serbia placed an order for 9 H145Ms with 6 for the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence, four of the six to be equipped with the HForce weapon system, and 3 for the Police of Serbia. In November 2018, Serbia changed the distribution of the H145Ms; the Police to receive an additional H145M and the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence to receive one less H145M with three equipped with HForce. In November 2017, Airbus completed the first test fire of the HForce modular weapon system. HForce will enable the H145M hardpoints to be armed with the M3P .50-caliber machine gun, M621 20mm automatic cannon and FZ231 70mm rocket launcher and will equip the H145M with a Wescam MX-15 electro-optical targeting system and Scorpion helmet mounted sight display. In December 2017, Airbus successfully launched FZ275 70mm semi-active laser guided rockets.
In June 2018, an order was placed for 20 H145Ms by Hungary for the Hungarian Air Force equipped with HForce. In July 2018, an order was placed by Luxembourg for 2 H145Ms for the Luxembourg Army that will be dual role for use by the Luxembourg Police.
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