SINGAPORE – The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) on Wednesday (Dec 15) showcased the new capabilities of its latest H225M medium lift helicopter, which can carry heavier loads, fly further and last longer than the Super Puma workhorses it will replace.
Its increased stability and manoeuvrability also allows it to undertake more demanding missions, ranging from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to medical evacuation and search and rescue operations.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How took a ride in the H225M at Sembawang Air Base on Wednesday, noting the significance of the new choppers to meet future demands on helicopter capabilities.
Said Mr Heng: “(Singapore’s) Super Puma fleet has served us very well… we always get the right thing and then we use it to the best effect for as long as we can.
“But at the same time with the passage of time, things have evolved: not only that the assets themselves have aged but also the threat scenarios have also evolved.”
The first three RSAF H225Ms, built by Airbus, are in the process of being delivered and have been undergoing flight tests since then.
The first orders were placed in November 2016.
The AS332M Super Pumas, which will be progressively replaced, have served the RSAF for more than three decades since 1985, flying missions such as Operation Flying Eagle, which offered disaster relief for parts of Indonesia and Thailand hit hard by the 2004 tsunami.
Speaking to the media, Lieutenant-Colonel Oh Chun Keong, commander of the PC’s Tactical Air Support Group, said the H225M is capable of the set of missions currently undertaken by the Super Pumas, yet provides better lift capability.
“You can take more crew,” he said.
The H225M can carry more than 20 personnel, 11 stretchers with medical support or up to 4,750 kg of cargo slung underneath itself.
It has a range of over 400 nautical miles, about 20 per cent more than the Super Pumas as well.
LTC Oh, 43, also said less manpower is needed to support the new helicopters and delivery of the new choppers are ongoing.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman declined to confirm when the new helicopters will begin to see operational use, as well as the timeline for the replacement exercise.
Captain Darryl Chong, 26, is among the pioneer batch of pilots and crew members who began training with the new helicopter almost two years ago.
CPT Chong, who flew the Super Puma previously, said: “Compared to the Super Puma, even though (the H225M) is more manoeuvrable, it is also more stable for us.”
He attributed this to upgraded, yet more reliable, systems “across the board”, including better gyros.
“What the Super Pumas have, the H225M has, but better versions of it,”
Handling operations in the cabin behind the cockpit are aircrew specialists like Third Warrant Officer Dinesh Kumar Suppiah.
3WO Kumar, 41, praised the H225M’s hoist system, which is used to hoist up casualties and other objects via a cable.
“One of the key features of this aircraft is a dual electrical hoist system, while the Super Puma had a single hoist.”
Either can work even if the other fails, though they cannot be operated simultaneously.
Other improvements include a longer cable length, which allows rescues with taller surrounding obstacles such ship masts and antennas, and a new motor which allows faster hoisting.
He said: “Having a longer cable length actually (enables us) to hover higher to avoid the obstacles and still carry out the rescue mission.”
Both men are training subsequent batches of pilots and aircrew specialists.
Also, some of the older Chinook heavy lift helicopters in Singapore’s fleet are being replaced by the new CH-47F variant.
The Chinooks are currently undergoing operationalisation at the PC’s Oakey helicopter detachment in Queensland, Australia, which involves RSAF crew members being trained to operate them.
The new variant was used in the latest iteration of the Singapore Armed Forces’ Exercise Wallaby in Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia.
Mr Heng also visited the RSAF’s Participation Command at both the air base and Chong Pang Camp.
During his visit, he witnessed a search and rescue demonstration by the RSAF’s Rescue 10 team, involving one of the Super Pumas hoisting up a simulated casualty.
The team is deployed twice a month on average, mostly for medical emergencies aboard merchant vessels in the South China Sea.
He also had a hands-on session with a simulator for the RoBot System 70 anti-aircraft missile system.
Of the new choppers, CPT Chong said: “The closest analogy I can give is like upgrading your car… you would feel that it flies better, flies more powerfully.”