On 26 April 2012, the Belgian Air Force unveiled Agusta A.109BA Hirundo H24 in its new colour scheme for the 2012 display season. The front part of the helicopter retains the standard plain green camouflage scheme, while the aft part is adorned with the unit badges of the Nos. 17 and 18 Multirole Helicopter (MRH) Squadrons of the Beauvechain based 1st Wing.
The port and starboard cabin sliding doors received markings to commemorate the type’s entry into service with the Belgian Army 20 years ago and the 100,000 flying hours accomplished since then. The Belgian Government signed a contract for 46 A.109BA helicopters with Agusta on 8 December 1988 to replace the Army’s ageing Sud Aviation Artouste powered SA313 and Astazou powered SA318 Alouette IIs. The helicopters were licence-built by SABCA in Gosselies and the first of the type, H01, made its maiden flight on 25 June 1991. It was taken on charge by the Belgian Army Light Aviation at Brasschaat on 10 January 1992. The order was for 18 observation (H1 to H18) and 28 anti-tank (H19 to H46) helicopters. In 2003, the entire fleet was brought to the same multirole standard. Since the end of the Cold War, several defence reform programmes reduced the number of operational A.109BAs to 20, which all serve with the Beauvechain based 1st Wing and its Nos. 17 and 18 MRH Squadrons and No. 15 Operational Conversion and Training Unit (OCTU). Of the surplus helicopters, five demilitarised ones were sold to the Benin Armed Forces in 2006. Twelve were purchased by the Brussels based supplier of aircraft and aircraft parts Mad Africa Distribution sprl in 2009 (8) and 2012 (4). Six A.109BAs damaged in accidents or incidents were withdrawn from use, four of which found further use as instructional airframes or museum exhibits. Three airframes are stored as operational reserves.
© Jos Schoofs (May 2012)
Last updated 07/11/11 10:59 Daniel Brackx