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Die Deutsche Heeresflieger; Celle, June 2, 2010

The Last Operational Huey�s at Celle; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

After a successful trip to the southern part of France, I ended the trip with a visit to Celle, which is located northeast of Hannover, Germany. Celle is a helicopter training base of the German Bundesheer. The training unit at this base uses the UH-1D Huey and the Bo-105 Bölkow.

Currently there are Huey’s and Bölkows based at the German Celle, but this is going to change. The Huey’s are going to move to Fassberg at the end of this year. This base is located approximately fifty kilometers north of Celle. Fassberg is currently the home base of one of the German helicopter maintenance units which is responsible for the maintenance of the Huey. It is also the home base of the Transport- hubschrauberregiment 10 (THR10) (Transport Helicopter Regiment 10). The Huey’s which are based at Celle will be merged with THR10. Therefore there are in the future only two Huey units left in Germany. The Huey's at Celle are assigned to the Waffen Heeresflieger Schule (HFWR) (Armed Helicopter Flying School). The German armed forces had in total over 341 Huey’s in service. 165 of them are currently still operational. The Huey will disappear very soon, because the helicopter will be replaced with the modern NH-90. The first NH-90’s will come to Celle, because the operational conversion training for this type will occur here. All the Huey's of the German Army will eventually be replaced by the NH-90. The German Army has ordered up to 80 NH-90 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) and the German Air Force have ordered up to 42 helicopters of this type, plus an option for twelve more. Finally, the Navy in Germany will receive up to 30 NH-90 helicopters of the type NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH).

Two variants have been developed of the NH-90, namely; the NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) and the Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH). The NFH version is primarily intended for anti-submarine warfare and it is adapted for landing on a frigate. This type will be designated as NH-90M, where M stands for Marine. Furthermore, this type can execute tasks like surface warfare. This means attacking other warships with sea target missiles. Additionally, the helicopter is also used for; search and rescue, assistance in intercepting drug shipments, boarding marines or police personnel to

hostile ships. These helicopters are also used to supply ships the so called Vertrep (vertical replenishment) and troop transport. These aircraft are equipped for day and night flights and they are able to fly in all weather conditions. The primary role of the TTH version is the transportation of troops and cargo. Also, these helicopters are used for Search And Rescue duties. Other tasks include: medical evacuation (MEDEVAC - Medical Evacuation, with up to 12 stretchers), special operations, electronic warfare, airborne command post, VIP transport and pilot training. The NH-90 TTH has self-sealing fuel tanks to protect the helicopter against gunfire in crisis areas. Unfortunately, the NH-90 project is currently undergoing some difficulties and the production of these machines is therefore delayed. Until that time, the Huey's just keep flying in German service. Though they will not fly from Celle anymore, because all the Huey's have left to the nearby Fassberg.

I arrived at Celle at 9 AM. The weather today was unfortunately very gray and there were thick clouds hanging above the base. The sun was shining fifty kilometers to the west of Celle. We could start our tour at Celle after a brief introduction of our guide who is a Bölkow pilot. We walked to the platform and our guide wanted to start a hangar tour first. But that plan was changed when we saw that three Huey's were being prepared on the platform. All three would depart within a short time. We stood on the grass strip in front of the three helicopters. The distance between us and the helicopters was too small for my big lens and therefore I walked a little bit back to compensate this. The noses of the helicopters were pointing towards us, which is ideal for photography. The crew was already busy checking the system and it didn’t take too long before the first machines were started. The rotor blades started to move and the helicopters produced the typical sound of the Huey. The exposure of the pictures was quite good. I had expected more dark pictures because of the bad weather. Especially the light effects were beautiful when I managed to capture a few red strobe lights at the bottom side of the helicopter on photo. The flying activity at Celle was good. Two Bölkows from Fritzlar came in for a fuel stop and they landed on the platform where we stood.

The pilots of the Fritzlar Helicopters came back when we walked to the hangar; we asked them if we could take some photographs of their helicopters. This was not a problem and therefore we walked to the two helicopters. A Bölkow from Celle came back from its mission right at that moment. The pilot of the helicopter brought his helicopter in front of us in a hover. After this he switched his big searchlight on. This gave me one of the best exposed photos of the day. Half of the Huey's had already moved to Fassberg. Fortunately there was plenty of room in the hangars and I was able to catch the Huey's from some decent angles. After fifteen minutes I captured all the present Huey's on picture and we could move on to the next hangar. This hangar was the Bölkow hangar. Also this hangar was pretty full with helicopters, but I was able to shoot a few decent pictures here as well. There was a balcony in this hangar and I made a few overview shots from here. I saw one Bölkow starting up when I came out of the hangar. Again it was very easy to make some photographs of the helicopter. The number of aircraft movements increased drastically in this way. Next we visited the maintenance hangar. There was not much to see in this hangar. The helicopters in here were in pieces and they were surrounded with tools and other stuff. I didn’t make a single shot in this hangar. Our visit to Celle was over after the short visit to the maintenance hangar. We saw almost every single helicopter which is based at Celle. On our way back we walked again along the Huey line, because a new machine was added to this line. After we saw the extra Huey our visit was really over. Again the visit to Celle brought me a beautiful series of photographs with the Huey as the most important subject this time.

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