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Lufttransportstaffel 8; Alpnach, January 23, 2015

The Swiss Air Force, part 5; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Eurocopter EC635 is a small multipurpose helicopter which is developed by the Eurocopter Group as a military version of the Eurocopter EC135. At Lufttransportstaffel 8 the EC635 is next to the operational military tasks, like the SAR mission, also used for the training of new helicopter pilots of the Swiss Air Force.

Lufttransportstaffel 8 is one of the two units which are based at the Swiss airbase Alpnach. Alpnach is located in the Obwalden region in the middle of the country. The airbase lies quite high and is located on the north side of the Swiss Alps. Lufttransportstaffel 8 is together with Lufttransportstaffel 6 part of the Lufttransport Geschwader 2. Alpnach Air Base was officially opened with 18 employees on January 15, 1964. This date may be indicated as the actual establishment of the helicopter base Alpnach. Until this moment, only aircraft flew from the airbase. In March 1964, the first rescue operation was carried out with an Allouette II from Alpnach. In the 60s and 70s several Leightfleigereinheiten (Light Flyer Unit) were established in Switzerland. In these days the first structural helicopter squadrons entered service in several countries in Europe. Switzerland also took part in this trend and therefore Lufttransportstaffel 8 was founded in 1974. This unit was the last helicopter unit which was founded in Switzerland. When the unit was established, Lufttransportstaffel 8 received several helicopters. Since 1991, the unit received the AS332 Super Puma for heavy transport tasks. Later in 2001, the fleet was supplemented with the AS532 Cougar. The Cougar is an improved version of the Super Puma and also has a larger capacity than the Super Puma. The Allouette III helicopters were used for transport and SAR duties. The Allouette III remained in service with the unit until the end of 2010. The replacement of the Allouette III of the Swiss Air Force is the Eurocopter EC635. These small helicopters are versatile and can be used for training of pilots, light reconnaissance and SAR duties.

The Eurocopter EC635 is a multipurpose helicopter which is developed by the Eurocopter Group as a military version of the Eurocopter EC135. The helicopter is a twin-engine powered aircraft and can carry up to eight people including the pilot. Furthermore, the helicopter is able to carry a variety of military equipment or several

light weapons. The helicopter can be used for troop transport, medical evacuation, cargo transport, reconnaissance, surveillance and support missions. The Eurocopter EC635 is designed to meet a Portuguese requirement for a light fire support and medical evacuation helicopter. The EC635 was first publicly displayed at the Aviation Exhibition in Africa in May 1998. The Portuguese Ministry of Defense subsequently signed a contract for the supply of nine EC635T2 helicopters which were equipped with the Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 engines. The delivery of the first Portuguese helicopters was expected in 2001. However, continued delays in production have led that the Portuguese Ministry of Defense has broken the agreement in August 2002. The main reason that was given was that not all Eurocopter aircraft could be delivered between August 2001 and April 2002. Eurocopter however, claimed that differences over the inclusion of weapons on the helicopter were the reason for the cancellation. The Royal Jordanian Air Force eventually bought the nine Portuguese helicopters in October 2002 and the first aircraft was delivered in July 2003. Jordan placed an order for a second series of four helicopters in January 2006.

The EC635 is based on the Eurocopter EC135. The helicopter is an improvement of the design for military operations, and can also carry weapons systems. The helicopter can be equipped with different types of motors depending on the requirements of the customer. The helicopter is equipped with the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B2 (EC635P2+) or the Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 with the (EC635T2+). The motors are mounted on the luggage compartment and feature a fully independent Digital Engine Control System. The motors drive a four-bladed rotor with blades of fiber composite. This rotor is specifically designed to reduce vibrations and noise in the airframe. The vibration levels are also reduced by a built-in Anti Resonance Isolation System (ARIS). The EC635 can be equipped with either a conventional cockpit which consists of a traditional or a glass cockpit dashboard. The glass cockpit variant uses a Thales Avionique Nouvelle "suite MEGHAS Flight Control Display System and active matrix LCDs. There are four configurations designed by Eurocopter for the EC635. The first version is the Troop Transport version and can be equipped with additional seats to carry up to seven passengers. The Medical Evacuation version can carry up to two stretchers and up to five medical workers. The transport version has 4,9m³ capacity for freight. The latest version is the armed attack version that can be armed with light weapons. This helicopter variant can be equipped with military equipment such as FLIR, cameras, weather radar and electronic equipment for reconnaissance.

In April 2006, the Swiss Defense Procurement Agency (ARMA Suisse) ordered 20 EC635s for the Swiss Air Force. The helicopters were in Switzerland to replace the obsolete Aerospatiale Allouette III. The helicopters were going to be used in the transport role and the role of advanced training helicopter. Two of the helicopters were put into operation in the role of VIP transport. The first four helicopters were built by Eurocopter, but the remaining 16 are built by RUAG Aerospace in Alpnach, Switzer- land. The delivery of all helicopters was completed in 2009. From the end of 2010, the EC6335 has taken over the duties of the Allouette III fully incorporated in Switzerland. On May 14, 2012 the renovation of the halls two and three at Alpnach was started, because these halls were over 40 years old. The unit received a new hall. In hall number four are now the EC635 helicopters of the unit parked. Lufttransportstaffel 8 has just like the other helicopter units in Switzerland an operational SAR task. There is at Alpnach always 24/7 a Super Puma or Cougar standby for an emergency call. Also an EC635 is standard configured in the SAR configuration to be standby. These helicopters are often used in places where the large helicopters cannot operate. The helicopters of the unit are also maintained at Alpnach.

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