The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has started taking delivery of the improved H225M medium-lift helicopter in Singapore, meant to progressively replace the Super Puma workhorses that have been in service since 1983.
In a Facebook post yesterday, the RSAF said it will be conducting flight tests and training on the H225M helicopters, which are manufactured by European plane maker Airbus.
"When operationalised, the H225M helicopters will take over the roles of the Super Pumas," RSAF added.
A Ministry of Defence (Mindef) spokesman had told The Straits Times earlier this month, in response to queries, that the RSAF will start taking delivery of three helicopters in the coming months.
The H225M has about 20 per cent longer range capability than the AS332M Super Pumas, and will complement the CH-47 helicopters to meet the Singapore Armed Forces' lift requirements for a wide spectrum of operations, said RSAF.
These include aeromedical evacuations, search-and-rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security operations.
In a statement yesterday, Airbus Helicopters chief executive Bruno Even said the delivery was "exceptionally significant" as Airbus and the RSAF overcame the Covid-19 pandemic challenges last year to achieve a smooth handover of the helicopter.
Mindef had said in June last year that its delivery will be from early this year onwards instead of the previously projected end-2020 due to supply chain disruptions arising from the pandemic.
Mr Even added: "The RSAF has been a long-term partner of Airbus since its first Aerospatiale SA316B Alouette III entered into service more than 50 years ago.
"We appreciate the trust Singapore has placed in our helicopters, and we look forward to the H225Ms playing a critical role in the RSAF for many years to come."
Airbus said that 104 H225Ms are currently in service across the world, having accumulated more than 143,000 flight hours. The helicopter completed its first flight in November 2000.
It is used by countries such as Brazil, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand and Kuwait, Airbus added.
In November 2016, Mindef announced it had awarded a contract to Airbus Helicopters for the acquisition of the H225M, adding that the replacement aircraft were selected after a rigorous evaluation process.
The RSAF's Super Pumas have been used to transport Special Operations Task Force troopers for troop insertion, and as an overhead escort to protect cargo on board merchant vessels, in addition to search-and-rescue missions and evacuations.
They were also used to fly the state flag at the National Day Parade (NDP). They last flew the state flag at the 2000 NDP, with the CH-47D Chinook taking over the following year.