The 1st Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter Squadron is set to receive three of eight AH-11B aircraft by the end of 2018.
A group of pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter Squadron (EsqdHA-1) of the Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) tested the upgraded capabilities of the Super Lynx AH-11B aircraft. EsqdHA-1 is set to receive eight upgraded aircraft by the end of 2020. For two weeks, four pilots logged a total of 20 flight hours in Super Lynx aircraft N-4001, to train Brazilian officers on the new version of the aircraft.
On that occasion, pilots tested the efficacy of emergency procedures, along with navigation equipment, tactical processor, and radar, among other features. MB Commander Bruno Tadeu Villela, deputy commander of EsqdHA-1, carried out the first flight after the modernization process.
“It was an indescribable experience. The additional power of the engines, the upgraded cockpit, navigation equipment, and sensors all make the aircraft even more interesting to fly,” Cmdr. Villela said.
The flights constituted the practical part of the differentiated Tactical Commander (TACCO) training course, held at the headquarters of Leonard Helicopters, in Yeovil, United Kingdom. Cmdr. Villela said the initial phase of the TACCO course, three weeks, consisted of ground school to cover the upgrades of the aircraft’s systems.
In all, 58 service members from EsqdHA-1, including 18 officers and 40 enlisted personnel, took part in the first training program. The modernization agreement includes a set of eight courses for MB service members. “The information we need to start the process of transitioning over to the AH-11B was provided during both phases of the course,” said Cmdr. Villela.
Brazilian service members took the course without difficulties as they are already familiar with the AH-11A and are fluent in English. “We were aware of the challenges that we would encounter throughout the course. Accordingly, service members’ preparation before the start of classes was essential for its success,” said Cmdr. Villela, who is part of the group of pilots that will oversee the squadron’s transition to the AH-11B. “We have a lot of work ahead of us to qualify pilots and mechanics, and the outcome will be the future of our squadron,” he said.
Since January 2018, EsqdHA-1 works on improving its internal protocol to transition to the AH-11B. Service members who take the courses in the United Kingdom will develop the curricula and the specific projects for the squadron’s courses. They will work as instructors to pass on the knowledge to the rest of the squadron.
Expanding MB’s operational capacity
MB Commander Alexandre da Silva Doring, commander of EsqdHA-1, highlighted that the main changes to the AH-11B involved the installation of more powerful and reliable engines, fully digital avionics compatible with night-vision goggles, and a modern electronic warfare system. The LHTEC CTS-800-4N engines are equipped with full authority digital engine control with several modifications to the aircraft power system.
The aircraft received the following changes and installations: modification of the hydraulic system configuration; installation of a glass cockpit, a digital display system comprising three multifunction digital displays integrated with a tactical processor that will consolidate and distribute information from the aircraft’s sensors and tactical equipment; installation of a GPS navigation system with the capability to plan area navigation flight routes and instrument landing system procedures associated with the traffic collision avoidance and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast systems; and a new winch system. “With these improvements, the aircraft will operate with enhanced safety and improved data compilation through the tactical processor, essential in hostile operating environments, where efficient exchange of information is fundamental,” said Cmdr. Doring.
“The Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon [UNIFIL], in which the squadron participates since 2001 with one aircraft on station, will benefit from the modernization of the AH-11B,” Cmdr. Villela said. During UNIFIL, the helicopter is used for reconnaissance of the area the MB ship patrols, and to identify vessels of interest. As such, the aircraft uses its own radar to increase the area the ship’s radar covers, since it is faster and has vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.
“You can verify areas of responsibility and determine targets of interest in less time. These targets may then be identified using the aircraft’s FLIR [forward-looking infrared cameras], which can detect infrared radiation, and enable the ship to make a decision on what to do about the target,” Cmdr. Villela said.
Cmdr. Doring emphasized that the Lynx AH-11B will lend greater efficiency to the mission and expand the possibilities of existing sensors, as well as the reaction capability of the ship on which it is stationed. This will benefit the protection efforts of any maritime area entrusted to MB.
Expanding vessel potential
EsqdHA-1’s mission is to provide an aerial component to the fleet’s surface ship weapon system. The squadron has a standing force of 322 service members, including 26 officers and 296 enlisted personnel.
The aerial unit has 12 Super Lynx AH-11A aircraft. Eight of those are part of the modernization program to get to the AH-11B standard. Five of these are already in the United Kingdom for modernization and, according to the schedule, three are set for delivery by the end of 2018.
Cmdr. Villela believes that, with its various systems and sensors, the AH-11B will place EsqdHA-1 on the cutting edge in terms of naval attack aircraft. “The installation of a full glass cockpit, chaff launchers, and state-of-the-art flare will enable the squadron to evolve operationally in a manner comparable to when the AH-11A was first introduced in 1998. With the new aircraft, the squadron will be able to fulfill its missions with greater efficiency and safety,” he concluded.