Text & Pictures: Marc Arys © sbap 2015

On May 20, 2015, Major General Avi. Frederic Vansina, Belgian Air Component Commander declared the 18th Squadron “Initial Operational Capable” on the NH90 during a small ceremony held at Beauvechain airbase. Colonel Franchomme, Base Commander of the 1 Wing, thanked also all personel involved since the start of the project in 2007 and gave an overview of the important milestones aleardy achieved :

- initial contract signed in 2007
- contractual training started in Feburary 2013
- arrival of the 1st MTH at the 1 Wing on October 02, 2013
- German Wings for the 1st Belgian pilot on October 14, 2014
- first deployment (mountain flying exercise in Saillagousse - France) in November 2014
- arrival of the 4th MTH at the 1 Wing on November 2014
- Inital Operational Capability on May 20, 2015

The situation of the fleet as of today :

- 4 crews (out of 9)
- 29 technicians (out of 45)
- overall total flight hours : 833
- flight hours 2014 : 485
- flight hours 2015 : 238 (as of May 12)
- availability objective : 70%
- average overall availability : 67%
- availability 2015 : 74%

This Initial Operational Capability means the NH90 MTH can be dispatched for missions in 'friendly' territory. The future operational milestones are to implement the Air Mobile Support to the Light Brigade, the installation of the self-defence and electronic warfare packages and the technical and logistical supportability in host nations with 'low' support. Colonel Franchomme projected to reach Full Operational Capability by the end of 2016.

Following this ceremony we had the opportunity to witness a little demonstration to give a dynamic overview of the main operational roles and techniques currently masterd by the NH90 MTH capability within a simplified tactical scenario (hostage rescue).
After the NH90 had landed we were granted with a fly-by of all helicopters involved in a huge COMAO-exercice held within the fram of the THPU - Tactical Helicopter Procedures Update.
SBAP wishes to thank DG/COM and Comopsair IPR for the invitation in general and Lt. Verwilligen and Adj. Chef Van Brusselen, our guides for this event.

Maj. Gen. Avi. “Fred” Vansina

Col. Avi. G. Franchomme - BaseCo
Commemorative frame
Insertion of a How 105mm (fire support) and its team
Insertion of a recovery team via “fast rope”

Extraction of a hostage via hoist recovery

Extraction of the recovery/cordon team

Extraction of How 105mm and its team
NH90 MTH (RN05) on the apron after the exercise
Maj. Gen. Avi. Vansina and Col. Avi. Michel "Mich" Gelders CO of the 18 Sqn
with the commemorative frame
Belgian NH90 - RN08 and German Huey 73+43
form the Heeresfliegertruppe of the Bundeswehr

Being readied for the next mission

Loadmaster office door
The NH-90 MTH Crew badge

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