January 18, 2016 - 17:25 ( Brasília )

Land

Brazilian Army Modernizes Helicopters, Reinforces Aerial Mobility


Modernização da Força de Mobilidade Aérea do Exército Brasileiro

Andréa Barretto


Brazil's Army is modernizing its fleet of 34 AS 365 K-Pantera helicopters, which the Military has deployed since 1989.

After workers complete the updates, the Armed Forces will redesignate the helicopters as AS 365 K2-Super Panteras. The third helicopter to be modernized was delivered to ground forces on December 21st, and will join the aircraft at the Army 2nd Air Battalion (BAvEx) in the city of Taubaté in São Paulo.

Renovating the helicopters increases their power by 40 percent and extends their usable life by 25 years. Workers are installing numerous upgrades to each vehicle, such as a digital autopilot, night vision equipment and cable cutters – a protection that helps service members avoid accidents in the event of being shocked by electrical wires.

To increase the helicopters' power, workers installed ARRIEL 2C2CG model engines. The new engines are stronger and more fuel efficient, which means increased power, according to the Army’s Social Communications Center (CCOMSEx).

“Greater power reverts to a greater useful load, meaning it is able to carry more weight. Before modernization, the Pantera could carry 4,150 kilograms. Now, it can carry 4,300 to 4,500 kilograms,” CCOMSEx added.

The AS 365 K-Pantera helicopters could only carry about eight service members because the weight of any more, along with that of the equipment on board, would make flying unsafe, according to CCOMSEx. “But now, with the new helicopters’ capacity, it is possible to transport nine service members and work in improved safety conditions.”

The new autopilot equipment will reduce pilots' workload. The autopilot allows the pilot to let the equipment do the work through much of the flight, but the pilot still needs to take control of the plane during critical moments, such as during take-off and landing.

The night vision goggles enable service members to see with minimal illumination. This technology broadens the circumstances under which the Military can use the helicopters.

Four new aircraft will be delivered in 2016

These renovations and upgrades are the result of an $88.29 million (349.35 million Brazilian reals) contract the government awarded to Brazilian company Helibras in 2009. Under the terms of the agreement, the company will renovate each of the 34 helicopters by 2021, when the contract expires. Helibras began to deliver the renovated vehicles in 2014, when it provided the first two Super Panteras. “We anticipate receiving four more units in 2016,” CCOMSEx explained.

The first two helicopters to be modernized were completely rebuilt, with each one receiving a completely new external structure, as well as updated systems and equipment. The remainder of the helicopters will not have their external structures replaced, though their systems and equipment are being updated with the same items as the rebuilt aircraft.

“The result, from the Army Aviation point of view, is that the rebuilt helicopters and the modernized ones are equal and standardized and provide the same performance,” CCOMSEx said.

The Military subjected the three renovated helicopters to a series of tests, known as the Technical-Operational Evaluation. During the evaluation, the Army conducted 150 missions in 12 Brazilian cities, testing in profoundly different environments throughout the country, such as the Amazon Rain Forest – which has a humid and rainy climate – and the landlocked center of the country, which is dry and hot.

The 2016 Olympics

The Army considers the Pantera helicopters to be “general use” aircraft because the Armed Forces can deploy them in a variety of missions, such a search and rescue operations and for border patrols. In 2015, the new helicopters performed some of these missions, and completed 1,000 flight hours in October.

For example, the Military used the renovated helicopters to support service members who were participating in Operation São Francisco, during which the Army supported the 14-month pacification of Rio de Janeiro's Maré favela complex. Authorities also anticipate using the Pantera helicopters during the 2016 Olympics, as these aircraft will be used during counter-terrorism activities under the Army Special Operations Command.
 

First flight of the Panther K2 modernized in Brazil