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Magazine Helicopter Industry #102

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HELICOPTER INDUSTRY I

HELICOPTER INDUSTRY I MILITARY I E specially this Covid-19 and the introduction of the new Chinook fleet is on top of the mind of Lt Col. Niels van den Berg, the current Commander of 298 squadron. Niels transitioned from 300 Squadron during 2011 and is 298 Commander since September 2018. «My main focus is to have stability in the squadron. We worked very hard over the last seven years implementing new procedures, quality assurance and improve operations which has shown to be successful. There is no need to change». Niels continues «The big challenge for the squadron is implementing the new CH-47F fleet and remain open for business to support international missions. The moment we have both the new CH-47F and legacy CH-47Ds in use with the squadron this will be a turning point in potentially briefly impacting availability for operations. We expect under the current Covid-19 situation to be completed with the conversion by 2022». The first new CH-47Fs are expected to arrive in Royal Netherlands Air Force during December 2020. As Boeing Philadelphia has been identified as Critical Infrastructure the impact by Covid-19 has been minimal. The total number of new CH-47F MYII CAAS Chinooks within the Royal Netherlands Air Force will be twenty. Fifteen will be assigned to 298 Squadron at Gilze-Rijen Air Base while five remain with 302 Squadron at Fort Hood in the United States. HI I 44

COVID-19 CRISIS IMPACT “After the announcement by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the 16th of March, in which the intelligent lockdown was announced in the Netherlands, we took a week and a half to rethink how we as squadron would move forward” according to Niels. “We decided to focus on crew checks, flight currencies and certification flights to safeguard our basic skillset and readiness status as we are not able to set up complex exercises with our sister squadrons (300 and 301 Squadron) and the 11 Air Mobile Brigade. We have about half of the squadron working from home and rotate personnel every other couple of days to avoid risks of virus infection. Luckily 2019 has been a very good year for us in terms of training and flight hours. Therefore, we can absorb a bit before we are being negatively impacted” Niels adds. The Helicopter Weapons Instructor Course (HWIC) which was taking place at that moment in Germany was cancelled mid-March. “Currently we only allow four persons for planning and the execution of flights. Therefore, we work in solitude as squadron”. DEFENSE HELICOPTER COMMAND (DHC) The Heavy Rotary Squadron is one of four flying squadrons which are part of the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC). Since the establishment of the DHC in July 2008, 298 Squadron transferred to Gilze-Rijen Air Base from Soesterberg Air Base. The purpose of the DHC is to integrate all of the Helicopter Units of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (AH-64Ds, AS532U2s, CH-47D/Fs and NH90s) under one Central Command structure across two airbases and save costs. Only the NH-90 fleet of 860 Squadron is based at Naval Air Station De Kooy in the Northern part of The Netherlands. The other three units reside at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. HISTORY OF THE 298 SQUADRON The squadron has its heritage dating back to April the 16th, 1945 when the squadron was operating at Gilze-Rijen Air Base as «No. 6 Dutch Auster Squadron» with six Auster’s. Soon after the end of World War 2 the Squadron was transferred to the Dutch West Indies. On March the 1th, 1950, 298 AOP (Air Observation Post) was established. Over the years, ‘298’ has flown various types of aircraft and helicopters. The Auster’s were replaced by L-18C «Piper Cubs» and L-21B ‘Super Cubs’ to support the role of artillery spotters. The first Helicopter arrived in 1955 (H-23B «Raven»). The Alouette II followed in 1959 for ‘Search and Rescue’ (SAR) missions. These were replaced by Alouette IIIs from 1964 onwards. Twelve Bo-105C «Bolköw» helicopters were also part of the 298 Squadron from 1975 to 1979. THE NEW CH-47 MY II CAAS CHINOOK In the period 2010-2015, The Netherlands prepared for the replacement of the ageing 11 D-models as well as the expansion of the Chinook fleet with three helicopters. After extensive deliberations, the standard US Army MYII CAAS configuration was considered to be the most efficient choice for a successor. The Netherlands was able to utilize options in the existing MYII production contract between US Army and Boeing. For that, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) with the US Army for fourteen new CH-47F MYII CAAS Chinooks was signed on November the 12th, 2015. On April the 14th, 2016 the US Department of Defense awarded Boeing a contract to build 12 CH-47Fs followed by an additional order on April the 28th, 2017 for the remaining two new CH-47F’s. HI I 45