Panther eliminated from Danish Maritime Helicopter programme
The Eurocopter AS565 Panther has been eliminated from Denmark's maritime helicopter competition, leaving the Lynx Wildcat and MH-60R Romeo in a race that is expected to be decided in the second half of 2012.
Speaking at the IQPC Military Helicopter conference in London on 26 January, commander of the Danish Helicopter Wing Lt Col Steen Ulrich said the decision to remove the Panther was made the previous week. 'We now expect a final decision before autumn this year,' Ulrich stated.
In terms of the likely size of the new maritime helicopter fleet, which will replace Denmark's aging Lynx Mk80s, Ulrich said this was uncertain as the level of funding for the programme remains classified.
'But of course we need at least eight as that is what we have for the Lynx now. They are being quite ambitious mind you - they have more warships in the navy now and they want half of them to be permanently deployed in the north Atlantic, so that will help determine the final number,' Ulrich said.
'I would love 14 so we have the same as the Merlins but that is pretty ambitious. It will probably be somewhere between the two.'
Under current plans the new maritime helicopters will be accepted from 2015, with the legacy Lynx aircraft decommissioned from 2017.
When asked if the MoD had considered procuring more Merlins to cover the maritime requirement, therefore reducing the number of types, Ulrich argued that supporting three types (including the AS550C2 Fennec) was quite manageable and the Merlin would likely prove too large for many of the ships needing to be operated from.
The Helicopter Wing is now looking to increase its special forces' support capabilities, following its successful transition to a single service structure from 2003 - the Navy Lynx fleet joining the air force in January 2011.
'Does the single service concept work? Yes it does, it is a joint approach. Getting the navy to ask for an effect, rather than always asking for a Lynx, has proven difficult but we are getting there.'
Source: By Tony Skinner in London, 26 January 2012 - Rotorhub News (www.shephardmedia.com)
Photo: The Eurocopter AS565 Panther (Photo by Shephard Group)