Ever since the Ecuadorian Air Force received its first H145 helicopter, they have been providing vital services for citizens. From assistance during natural disasters to anti-drug trafficking missions and evacuations, the H145 brings out the best it has to offer in the heights of the Andes.
Ecuador suffered devastating floods in July of 2022: 10 rivers burst their banks, with slips affecting roads and trapping thousands of people. Known as the Cobra in Ecuador, the H145 helicopters of the FAE sprang into action to airlift stranded inhabitants located following reconnaissance flights over the most severely affected areas. “The Ecuadorian winter was particularly wild in the ranges and on the eastern coast,” explains Major Luís Armas of the FAE. “We used our H145 helicopters to perform essential SAR and medevac missions and airlifting of supplies to places where the roads had been washed out.” The Cobras have clocked more than 2,000 flight hours since the first H145s entered into service in May 2021, mostly consisting of operations of vital importance to the local population such as those described above.
The H145 fleet: Serving their country
The Ecuadorian Air Force received the last three of a total of six H145 helicopters in April 2022. These helicopters are configured for combat search and rescue (CSAR), medevac, fire fighting, humanitarian aid and tactical troop transport missions, among others. They are incredibly versatile due to their extensive range of special features, including a rescue crane, jungle penetrators, external cargo hook, weapon mountings, armour plating, night vision goggles, electro-optical systems, fast-roping and rappelling systems and emergency floatation gear. “One of the factors that led us to choose the H145 was its excellent performance in the hot and high-altitude conditions typical of the city of Cuzco in Peru. That was where we carried out the capability assessment flight as members of the technical committee during the project development phase,” said Major Luís Armas. “Compared with the competitors we analysed, the H145 met all our requirements, but the most decisive factor was its performance in hot and high-altitude conditions.” Indeed, the H145 has proven itself to be perfectly adapted to the conditions of the Andes. In recent years, it has achieved a number of feats, including landing where no other twin-engine helicopter has ever landed before: the summit of Aconcagua at a height of 6,962m.
Ready for the most demanding military missions
While the FAE’s H145 fleet is mainly used to provide assistance for the civilian population on vital SAR, medevac and support missions during natural disasters, over recent months they have also proven their worth for military and law enforcement operations. “In the month of June, there were significant protests in Ecuador and many parts of the country were cut off. During this period of civil unrest, the H145s carried out various public security operations across the country along with life-saving medevac missions for both military personnel and civilians,” explains the Major.
A long history of mutual trust
The Ecuadorian Air Force is the main military customer for the H145 in Latin America. Its contract consists of a complete package embracing the helicopters themselves, special mission equipment and logistical support. It also includes full training for 12 pilots and 15 technicians covering everything from basic instruction to specific training for special operations, as well as an operational exchange with members of the French National Gendarmerie to share knowledge on public security operations. “Airbus Helicopters has provided full support for the programme to purchase these six H145s in each of the execution stages, including training, logistical support and knowledge transfer; they have even gone above and beyond the terms agreed in the contract. In doing so, Airbus Helicopters is supporting the Ecuadorian Ministry of National Defence in its efforts to develop new operational capabilities with the H145,” concludes Major Luis Armas.