The Belgian Defence Alouette II: an endangered species

 

On Thursday March 26th 2009, the Belgian Defence Ministry has published the request for proposals for the public sale of its last twenty-three SA.318C Alouette II helicopters. Most of these light machines are currently stored at the Zutendaal airbase Depot. Despite the fact that most of them are in non flying condition and in need of inspection, these helicopters are estimated at a total value of 500.000 Euros. The sale has been split-up in three equivalent packages, identified as Lot A (8 helicopters), Lot B (8 helicopters) and Lot C 7 helicopters). The tender submission deadline is set on May 28th, 2009.

 Alouette II A61 300309

Alouette II A-61, one of only three remaining operational in flight near Hasselt

The Belgian Defence Alouette II’s were purchased in four batches between 1959 and 1967 to replace the Army Light Aviation fixed wing Piper L-18C Super Cubs.

A first batch of seventeen (s/n A-01 to A-17) Sud-Est SE.3130 Alouette II ((later known as Sud-Aviation SA.313B) was bought in 1959 quickly followed in October 1960 by a second batch of twenty-two aircraft (s/n A-18 to A-39). The SE.3130 Alouette II was the first turbine-powered helicopter in the world to go into production, the new machine incorporating the reliable 400 hp Turboméca Artouste I turbo- shaft. In July 1960, soon after delivery to the 16 Esc Lt Avn the first Belgian Army Alouette II’s were rushed  to Congo from their Belgian base in Germany to assist in the military operations following the troubled events in the wake of the former Belgian colonies independence.

In early 1967 it was decided to purchase a third batch of seventeen, more powerful Alouette (s/n A-40 to A-56) SA.3180 (later known as SA.318C), equipped with the 530 hp Turboméca Astazou IIA turbo shaft engine, followed by a fourth order for twenty-five aircraft on October 30th, 1967 (s/n A-57 to A-81). Of interest is the fact that aircraft A-47 to A-77 were assembled at the SABCA plant of Gosselies.

 Alouette II A61 300309

A-61 keeping up with one of his younger Wing Heli compagnions, an Agusta A-109BA

In 1968 a final batch of six SA.3180 Alouette II (s/n A-90 to A-95) were ordered for the Rijkswacht/Gendarmerie (now Federal Police). Until 1993 the Alouette II of the Gendarmerie were mostly flown and maintained by personnel of the Belgian Army Light Aviation (Lt Avn) at Brasschaat AB. Two of these helicopters (A-90 and A-95) were even used by the Lt Avn "Blue Bees" demonstration team. Later, the five remaining aircraft were stationed at the Federal Police’s newly formed Air Support Unit based at Melsbroek. The main missions of these Alouette’s were aerial observation and road traffic patrol. Almost at the end of their career the remaining police helicopters were re-registered to fit into "G-xx'" serial system. The last operational Alouette II of the Belgian Police accomplished its last flight in October 2000 after a 32-year career.

 Alouette II A64 Bierset 300309

A-64 in the Alouette hangar at Bierset airbase on 30 March 2009

The Alouette II equipped the School of Light Aviation (shadow Squadron name until 1964: 15 Smd Lt Avn) at Brasschaat AB  as well as the three Light Aviation first line squadrons (Esc or Smd) all based in Germany in support of the 1 (BE) Corps units:

16 Esc Lt Avn at Butzweilerhof AB

17 Smd Lt Avn at Werl AB

18 Smd Lt Avn at Aachen-Merzbruck AB 

The Alouette II served with the Belgian Army, in liaison, photographic, medevac, communication and training roles.

 

At the end of the Cold War and the consecutive arrival on strength in the early nineties of the Agusta A109BA Hirundo the Alouette II’s were only used for helicopter training at Brasschaat and liaison duties by the 16 Esc Lt Avn. This squadron relocated with its two sister units at Bierset airbase to form the Group Light Aviation (Got Lt Avn) in 1995. At that time all the remaining Artouste-equipped Alouette II were taken out of service and subsequently put for sale or donated to museums.

Alouette II A61 300309 Bierset

 Alouette II A-61 hovering over the Bierset airbase Agusta flightline, unfortunately this could soon be a thing of the past

After the closure of the School of Light Aviation at Brasschaat in 2006 only a few SA.318C Alouette II remained in service at Bierset within the newly designated 16 Bn HLn (Bataillon d'Hélicoptères de Liaisons) for flying training and general communication purposes. In accordance with the transformation of the Gp Lt Avn into Wing Heli on March 1st, 2004 - and the transfer to the Air Component on July 2004 -  the 16 Bn HLn  was inactivated on January 31st, 2004 and quickly reactivated on October 1st, 2004 as 16 Squadron MRH relinquishing its SA.318C Alouette II liaison helicopters for the A109BA. At the same time the Wing Heli established an independent Liaison Flight to operate the remaining Alouette II’s. Until recently those vintage but faithful helicopters were mostly operated to maintain the qualifications of the staff and reserve pilots.

 

More on the Belgian Defence Alouette II can be found at the dedicated BAHA Wiki pages: http://belmilac.wetpaint.com/page/Sud+Aviation+SA313B-C+Alouette+II

Put for sale on March 27th, 2009

Lot A (8 a/c):
A-22 airframe TT 9594h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-50 airframe TT 8700h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-53 airframe TT 8552h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-57 airframe TT 8797h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-62 airframe TT 7924h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-69 airframe TT 8000h, in flying condition - current
A-73 airframe TT 7398h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-77 airframe TT 7887h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection

Lot B (8 a/c):
A-40 airframe TT 8797h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-44 airframe TT 8700h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-47 airframe TT 8346h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-55 airframe TT 8797h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-64 airframe TT 8464h, in flying condition - current
A-66 airframe TT 8625h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-78 airframe TT 7989h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-79 airframe TT 7700h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection

Lot C (7 a/c):
A-43 airframe TT 8799h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-49 airframe TT 9790h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-59 airframe TT 7497h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-61 airframe TT 7953h, in flying condition - current
A-65 airframe TT 7924h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection
A-68 airframe TT 8301h, non flying status, need 800h inspection
A-70 airframe TT 7925h, non flying status, need 3200h inspection

 Text and pictures by

© Vincent Pirard/AviaScribe  & Daniel Brackx (April 2009)

Last updated 02/04/09 09:18   Daniel Brackx

daniel.brackx@telenet.be