The HUS EC725 Put Through its Paces

The new combat helicopter of the French Army Air Corps (ALAT) is currently undergoing its Operational Engineering Evaluation (EVTO). Over a little more than 18 months, all of its operational capabilities will be methodically tested.

The EC725 program was launched to provide the French Air Force with new Combat Search and Rescue (RESCO) capabilities. After 11 September 2001, the requirement for a helicopter specifically equipped for special operations was also reaffirmed in France.
The RESCO EC725 was therefore chosen as the basic aircraft for developing the “HUS” (Specialized Units Helicopter) version to meet the requirements of the DAOS (Special Operations Detachment of the ALAT).
In February 2004, a product team was created within the Airmobile Group of the French Army Engineering Branch (GAMSTAT) to manage the HUS EC725 program. This same product team was also tasked with performing the aircraft EVTO following its delivery to the Army on 6 April 2005.

Complex Work
“The EVTO being conducted here reflects the specific features of the aircraft,” explains Commandant Hervé Bertocchi, test pilot and the program’s product team leader. “The first special feature comes from the nature of the team itself: five of the six officers and non-commissioned officers in the team come from the armed forces and bring with them first-hand knowledge of special operations.”


© Frédéric Lert
Cliquer pour agrandir

Among these six men, three are pilots, one officer is a logistician, another non-commissioned officer is a flight engineer and engine and airframe specialist, and the final non-commissioned officer is a mechanic and avionics specialist.
“C3I(1), CME(2) and logistic specialists from the GAMSTAT can also come and help us out according to our needs,” concludes Commandant Bertocchi.
“We also work in complete synergy with the other product teams (NH90 and Cougar) of the GAMSTAT, with whom we share our experiences.” This cooperation is all the more vital given that the work is complex. In a little less than 300 flight hours, the product team must check the aircraft satisfies the requirements stated by the operational teams, and must also clearly specify the operational envelope for the ALAT.

A further role for the team is to define and validate the implementation procedures for the aircraft and its sub-systems. “Eurocopter has shown us the flight envelope and it’s up to us to see how we can make the most out of it,” explains Commandant Bertocchi. “We are also tasked with validating the maintenance operations and the associated documentation. All the maintenance operations on the HUS EC725 are performed here at least once.”

No time to lose…
To meet the need for speed, and to manage as effectively as possible the different build standards for airborne equipment and aircraft delivery, the GAMSTAT chose to split the EVTO into four modules(3). It has thus been easy to identify the opening of each domain in one or other of the modules and to send this information to the final user: the DAOS.
“As we progressed, the DAOS could then integrate each of our advances into its operations even before the end of the EVTO,” underscores Commandant Bertocchi.
“The DAOS has therefore been able to take over its new helicopter progressively, without losing time.”

The final module of the EVTO will comprise several final flight evaluation flights, which will assess the capabilities of the aircraft. One of the chosen scenarios is the rescue of a group of ten fully-equipped troops on a 400 Nm(4) return flight, without refueling.
Some final tasks will be necessary, however, before the green light can be given for the operational entry into service. This decision is expected at the end of the year.

In fact, the ALAT wants to test the maintenance procedures and equipment for the operations “in the field” far from any facility. It is only after this final step that the aircraft will be declared ready for external operations and, therefore, fully operational.

Alexandre Marchand


(1) Command, control, communications & Intelligence
(2) Electronic counter measurements
(3) The EVTO is broken down into four modules: standard vehicle; hoisting, roping, and sling transport; self-protection; and final evaluation flights.
(4) Nautical miles


“Eurocopter has shown us the flight envelope and it’s up to us to see how we can make the most out of it”

© Frédéric Lert
As we go to press, the eight helicopters ordered by the DAOS have been delivered ; all transited via the Gamstat, which performed acceptance flights.

STAY TUNED…

The RESCO EC725 of the French Air Force has already been qualified for the operations on board the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
The ALAT would like to extend this by opening the entire deck landing envelope of the EC725, above all on smaller ships, which are more likely to be involved in special operations.
As part of the last EVTO module, tests will therefore be conducted on board the frigates of the French Navy by the GAMSTAT this autumn.


© Frédéric Lert
The EVTO is divided into four modules, which focus on the basic vehicle, hoisting, fast roping and aerial sling work, and self-protection and final evaluation flights.