August 2020 – QinetiQ has invested in a new Airbus H145 helicopter to extend capabilities and operational efficiencies for the LTPA (Long Term Partnering Agreement) Range Helicopter Service that covers the Ministry of Defence BUTEC and Hebrides sites in North West Scotland. The service provides a vital transport and supply line for critical MOD programmes including the Continuous At Sea Deterrent and the ferrying of key range operators to their remote locations on the Applecross peninsula, Rona island and St. Kilda. The introduction of a new aircraft for the service will extend service capabilities significantly and is expected to deliver considerable operational efficiencies.
Following the main assembly of the aircraft at the Airbus factory in Donauwörth in Germany, QinetiQ’s Air Test and Evaluation Capability team worked in partnership with Airbus Helicopters UK to undertake interim aircraft acceptance and complete a number of modifications and enhanced safety features. The additional specifications were required to meet the specific operational needs of the Range Helicopter Service. Full painting of the aircraft in QinetiQ livery was also completed prior to its first flight and subsequent delivery to Airbus in Oxford.
Final preparations and testing are now underway to ensure the new aircraft meets all projected LTPA requirements prior to entry into service in late 2020. Range specialists at MOD BUTEC and Hebrides have been working in close collaboration with the Airbus and QinetiQ project teams to complete the testing and acceptance programme and deliver a seamless entry into service of the new H145.
The decision to invest in the new aircraft was the culmination of many months of assessment and planning within a cross-business project involving QinetiQ’s Air Range Modernisation programme team and the company’s Air Test and Evaluation Capability team based at Boscombe Down.
The new H145 helicopter represents a substantial capability uplift for the ranges, with QinetiQ also investing in the new resource to further enhance MOD investment and extend the company’s fleet of civil aircraft. It also demonstrates the benefits of QinetiQ’s new civil aviation capabilities and its renewed partnership with the MOD via the LTPA.
“In view of the critical nature of the Range Helicopter Service, everyone has pulled out all of the stops to complete the acquisition of the new helicopter within a very challenging time frame, despite the restrictions posed by the COVID-19 lock down,” says QinetiQ’s Project Manager, Donald Lundie. “This is a significant programme in many respects as the capability gains and service enhancements provided by the new helicopter will be matched with significant cost savings and operational efficiencies. Such outcomes are fully aligned with our key objectives to modernise and develop capabilities while also ensuring value for money for the British taxpayer.”
The LTPA Range Helicopter Service provides vital capability and supply lines for teams at extremely remote locations and has continued to grow in both scale and importance over the past two decades. Today, flying typically amount to 400 hours a year across 800 sorties, with reliability, resilience and flexibility all essential requirements of the service. During May the H145 successfully completed Interim Acceptance for both ground and flight checks at Airbus’s facility in Oxfordshire and as such, ownership of the helicopter has now transferred to QinetiQ.
Photo courtesy QinetiQ