he H145M joined the fleet of the Hungarian Air Force one year ago. This helicopter, which is currently being fitted with the HForce weapon management system, has changed the way Hungary’s Defence Forces fly. As of the end of 2020, three H145Ms have been upgraded with two more planned for March 2021. We spoke to Tamás Bali, Deputy Base Commander of the Hungarian Air Force, who has more than 30 years of experience flying helicopters.
For many decades, Hungary used Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters for utility missions and Mi-24 helicopters for attack roles. “We used those helicopters for as long as we could, but we were flying a technology that was created 60 years ago,” said Tamás. “We had to renew our fleet to communicate and work properly with the Hungarian Land and Special Forces. There were many helicopters in the European market, but the H145 was at the top of the list. Going from the Soviet helicopters to the H145M has been a big step up: it’s like a brand new era for us.”
“This military version of the H145 gives us the performance our Defence Forces need. Previously, our transport and attack helicopters didn’t have any sensor capabilities. We’ve jumped into the digital era with the H145M,” said Tamás. “Nowadays, the operational environment is digital. Helicopters that can’t connect with this digital environment are simply out of date. That’s the biggest difference I see today.”
Going from the Soviet helicopters to the H145M has been a big step up.
Tamás Bali, Deputy Base Commander of the Hungarian Air Force
The H145Ms of the Hungarian fleet are also equipped with a fast roping system, high-performance camera, dual cargo hook, hoist, disaster management kit, ballistic protection and an electronic countermeasures system to support the most demanding operational requirements. “The H145M will allow us to take over the SAR missions currently assumed by transport helicopters in Hungary. It will also be used for Special Forces missions. We’ll be able to perform reconnaissance missions and command and control (RC2) using the sensors to communicate in real time with the teams on the ground.”
“From a pilot’s point of view, the biggest difference I noticed when I flew the H145M was its stability. Soviet helicopters have what they call an ‘autopilot’, but it really isn’t one! With the H145M, the stabilisation is so sophisticated that you can make a 60-degree turn without touching the cyclic and the collective… before it was hard to even turn with a 30-degree bank angle! I honestly think the H145’s stabilisation system is the best in the world,” he said.
“Secondly, the automation: previously we didn’t have a Flight Management System, which significantly eases the pilot’s workload. For example, IFR flight is fully automated now; the H145 flies itself,” he said. “And finally, the performance: the power margin is just amazing. It means this helicopter can provide a much wider range of performance capabilities.”
Mission readiness of the H145Ms already in service is above 95 percent.
Together with the helicopters, Airbus is providing training for pilots and maintenance personnel. In total, 50 pilots will receive H145 training at the Donauwörth site, of which two thirds have already received their certificates. These pilots also need to complete VFR and IFR training courses, while instructor pilots will also receive Night Vision, Check Pilot and Hoist Crew training to increase the capabilities of the team once back in Hungary. Finally, the pilots will receive HForce training so they are fully versed in this new weapon system.
“The contract also includes training for 70 maintenance technicians. They will complete Level B1 and B2 training in Donauwörth and will then continue with on-the-job training back at our base. Airbus mentors will also spend an additional year with us,” said Tamás.
The Hungarian Air Force will operate a total of 20 H145Ms, of which 16 are already at the Szolnok Base in Hungary. They are fitted with the HForce weapon management system developed by Airbus Helicopters, which allows Hungary to equip and operate their aircraft with a complete range of ballistic or guided weapons. “We’ve already received the systems but the training will start next year, around June. We should then be ready to use the HForce system by around July.”
The HForce weapon system is modular and incremental, and can be fitted onto any military version of Airbus’ commercial helicopter range (H125M, H145M, H225M). It offers a large array of weapons, modern and easy target acquisition and a high level of targeting accuracy, features formerly reserved for high-end attack helicopters.