Eurocopter has performed the first flight of a prototype Sikorsky CH-53GA transport helicopter for the German army.
Performed at the manufacturer's Donauwörth facility on 10 February, the event came three years after the award of an upgrade deal that will extend operations of the type from 6,000 to 10,000 flight hours, or until 2030.
The CH-53GA, which features new flight control, avionics, communication and navigation equipment, plus long-range auxiliary fuel tanks and replacement self-protection systems, is eventually expected to be used to support German forces serving in Afghanistan.
Eurocopter says production work to modify the army's current CH-53Gs will start in Donauwörth in 2011, with "the first helicopters made available to the German army before the end of 2011". Modification work under the 40-aircraft project will conclude during 2013, it adds.
Flightglobal's HeliCAS database says the German army has an active fleet of 91 CH-53G/GS helicopters, with these having been delivered between 1968 and 1973.