A109 Light Utility Helicopter
The A109LUH is a training and light utility helicopter, and will be used for training pilots and aircrew that will later fly the NH90 Medium Utility Helicopter and SH-2G Seasprite naval helicopter, and perform light helicopter missions.
In parallel with the Ministry of Defence acquisition project, the RNZAF has formed a Helicopter Transition Unit that will manage the operational and technical aspects of the introduction Into Service process. This unit will coordinate the activities of various stakeholders, through a Joint Project Office, set up to manage Training, Operational Test and Evaluation and Capability Development of the A109LUH and the NH90 until the unit reaches a sustainable operational output.
Image: A109LUH(NZ) NZ3402 painted in the RNZAF colour scheme. Image courtesy of AgustaWestland.
T/LUH Project Background
The Bell 47 Sioux is a venerable helicopter and has served its purpose well as a platform for converting graduate RNZAF, RNZN and (previously) NZ Army pilots from fixed-wing training aircraft to helicopters.
The Sioux is no longer suited to the training role, because it cannot effectively conduct instrument or navigation training, it incorporates obsolete technology and handling characteristics, and because it does not adequately test students in modern aviation systems management. The Sioux also fails to provide any capability for crewman training. As a result, the RNZAF identified a need to replace the Sioux.
During early project development, it became clear that an aircraft capable of meeting the RNZAF’s core pilot and helicopter crewman (HCM) training requirements could also offer the New Zealand Defence Force a useful light utility capability. As a result, both the Sioux and Iroquois replacement projects were combined into an NZDF Helicopter Capability project. The Helicopter Capability project consulted widely to develop a ‘whole of government’ functional specification for the capability. From this capability specification, separate specifications for a Medium Utility helicopter (MUH) and a Training/Light Utility Helicopter (T/LUH) were identified.
It is intended that the Training/Light Utility Helicopter (T/LUH) will be employed as a basic and advanced training helicopter for NZDF pilots and HCM, and to complement the NH90 in the conduct of light utility and counter-terrorist helicopter tasks in support of both the NZDF and other government agencies.
A contract for the acquisition of the A109LUH as the NZDF T/LUH was signed in May 2008.
Training/Light Utility Helicopter
Following a competitive tender process, the Agusta A109LUH was selected as the new NZDF Training/Light Utility Helicopter. The contract provides five operational aircraft, a full-motion simulator, additional synthetic training systems, spares, logistics support and training.
In parallel with the Ministry of Defence acquisition project, the RNZAF has formed two teams to manage the Introduction Into Service (IIS) of the T/LUH. The Directorate of Logistic Capability includes a team of technical staff managing the through life support and logistics aspects of the T/LUH introduction into service (IIS), while a parallel Capability Directorate IIS team manages the operational aspects.
The MOD has established a Resident Project Team to manage the acquisition and acceptance process. This team includes seconded RNZAF engineering personnel.
The first A109LUH (NZ) has completed its test flying and the second will continue its flight trials after it has been painted in NZ colours. A small team of aircrew and technicians are currently being trained in Italy; this team includes personnel that will be employed as the simulator instructors once the Flight Training Device (simulator) is delivered in early 2011. These trained personnel will return to NZ with the first aircraft, ready to conduct Operational Test and Evaluation and to prepare for training duties.