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EDA signs helicopter crew training deal

Six NATO and Partnership for Peace nations will receive helicopter crew training services in the UK under a two-year contract awarded via the European Defence Agency. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK will send students to Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, England, under the deal with AgustaWestland.

Using a new facility at the Empire Test Pilots' School, the interim helicopter-tactics training service will provide 20 courses to pilots, navigators, flight engineers and rear crew members.

"The training will help prepare contributing member states' helicopter crews for joint deployment on allied military operations at the same time as they develop their own indigenous tactics training capabilities," AgustaWestland said.

Each three-week course will deliver "individual, joint, collective and coalition training" for up to 20 students, according to the company, tailored to meet operational requirements in Afghanistan. "The founding principle is to deliver whole crew training based on recent operational experience," AgustaWestland said.

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Starting later this year, classes will cover tactics, techniques and procedures in areas including airspace management, formation flying, troop insertion and extraction, threat countermeasures and combat search-and-rescue. Students will then receive synthetic training using two high-fidelity simulators. Each has a 180° visual system and can be rapidly reconfigured to represent the cockpit and cabin of different aircraft types, including the AgustaWestland AW101 (above) and the Mil Mi-171.

Door-gunner training will also be provided.

"The collaboration between these six nations has significantly reduced cost and de-risked future national programmes, whilst still delivering high value and tangible benefits," EDA helicopter project officer Andy Gray said.

The multinational agency first explored the combined interim training system idea in 2008, when it awarded a feasibility study to AgustaWestland.