Dutch to upgrade Cougar helicopters

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The Dutch defence ministry has announced plans to perform a mid-life update for its 17 Eurocopter AS532 Cougar transport helicopters from 2012.

To extend operations of the type until 2026, the work is required because changed regulations mean that the aircraft - received from 1996 - do not conform with modern navigation requirements. Eurocopter will also halt the delivery of some current spare parts in 2015.

The MLU programme will install new distance-measuring equipment and a VHF radio, plus systems that will enable the Cougar to use updated military GPS. Other enhancements will include a satellite communication system, Link 16 datalink and Tetra radios to support civilian emergency services.

In the cockpit, the aircraft will get digital maps that will enable pilots to see both tactical and navigational symbols on one screen, and a new forward-looking infrared sensor will also be acquired.

 
© Bill Graveland/Rex Features
The Netherlands has previously deployed its Cougars to Afghanistan

Eurocopter will upgrade the first two helicopters starting in 2012, with the Dutch Defence Materiel Organisation to modify the remaining examples at its Woensdrecht maintenance centre by 2017.

The project budget is between €50 million ($65.6 million) and €100 million, including upgrades to a flight simulator.

The Cougar was used by Dutch forces in Afghanistan prior to their withdrawal from the NATO-led mission in the country last month.