The Chilean Air Force has kick-started the process to buy 14 light helicopters by issuing a request for information to potential vendors.
The planned acquisition is meant to replace the handful of Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters used for training at the service’s tactical helicopter school with Aviation Group 9, where prospective rotary-wing aircraft pilots receive flight and tactical training.
The RFI, seen by Defense News, follows the government’s approval in late February for the service to begin the procurement process.
The UH-1Hs have a secondary transport and liaison mission supplementing both Bell 412s and Sikorsky S-70s. As such, the Hueys are also frequently used for community support and civilian emergencies, including fighting wildfires in central and southern Chile in the summer season while fitted with Bambi Buckets provided by the Agriculture Ministry.
The RFI notes the replacement helicopters should offer the same capacities and be able to operate in daytime and nighttime search and rescue missions, as well as provide medical evacuation, administrative transport and liaison services.
A military source in Santiago told Defense News that “the acquisition of the new helicopter has urgency,” and that the process leading to the selection and purchase “is planned to be completed within the second half of 2023.″
The source added that it is becoming more expensive to fly and maintain the UH-1Hs, while operational availability is dwindling, and that half of the 10 helicopter types in inventory are airworthy. The military source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to discuss such details with the press.
Other requirements include a glass cockpit and external lights both compatible with night vision goggles, as well as ancillary equipment including wire cutters, an external cargo hook, a winch with a cargo capacity up to 200 kilograms (441 pounds) and snowshoe pads.
Source : Defense News