Middle Wallop

MIDDLE WALLOP’S INTERNATIONAL Helicopter Exhibition (May 12-15) was inevitably dominated by talk of the forthcoming contract for the Army Air Corps’ new attack helicopter. It is anticipated that about 91 of the new breed will partially replace the TOW-armed Lynx from around 2001.

The contenders are: Agusta A129 Mangusta, BAe/Eurocopter Tiger, Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, GEC-Marconi/Bell AH-1W Cobra Venom, Marshall/Atlas CSH-2 Rooivalk and Westland/MDH AH-64 Apache/Longbow Apache.

Of these, front-runners are likely to be the Apache, Cobra Venom and Tiger, all of which were at the Middle Wallop show, together with the Rooivalk. The latter was making its UK debut and caused considerable interest — even though it is regarded as an outside contender. Following the announcement of a teaming agreement with Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge in its bid for the AAC contract, Atlas ‘flew’ the second prototype Rooivalk ADM, ZU-AHC, into Cambridge on May 6 inside a SAAF C-130B Hercules.

After re-assembly and test flying on May 9 and 10, it was flown to Middle Wallop on May 12 where it proved to be the star of the show. Also being extensively demonstrated by Bell Helicopter Textron was a Bell AH-1W SuperCobra in USMC colours. This type will form the basis of the extensively- upgraded Cobra Venom which is being offered to the AAC in conjunction with GEC-Marconi. Another newcomer was Eurocopter’s Tiger—the first prototype making its UK debut at the show. Eurocopter, teamed with British Aerospace, is also pushing hard for the AAC contract.

Final contender present was the McDonnell Douglas Helicopters Apache. A pair of standard production US Army AH-64As from B Company of the 2- 227th Aviation Regiment had been brought over for the show from their base at Hanou, Germany. The Apache remains the Army’s favourite but its high cost counts against it. The MoD’s final decision will also be influenced by the amount of UK workshare offered by each of the manufacturers.

Among other notable aircraft on display were a trio of Canadian Forces helicopters which had jumped on the D-Day bandwagon by applying invasion stripes and World War Two-style codes. CH-135 Twin Huey 135140/’KH-T’ and CH-136 Kiowa 136210/’KH-E’, both from 403 Squadron at Gagetown, New Brunswick, wore the period codes of the unit’s Spitfires when based at Tangmere, Sussex, while CH-136 136251 /’AG664/G9-M’ from 430 Squadron at Valcartier went one further, not only carrying the codes but also the serial of one of the unit’s Mustang Is when based at Odiham, Hampshire on D-Day.

Among the other regular foreign visitors, the Spanish Army UH-1H Iroquois was a welcome addition, while from even further afield, the RNZAF made one of its now regular appearances with a UH-1H from 3 Squadron at Hobsonville, arriving as usual, courtesy of an RNZAF C-130H. In the week prior to the snow, the latter also participated in Exercise Commonwealth Bullseye at Lyneham, a UK equivalent of the USAF Airlift Rodeo competitions.

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