Allies Absent in Afghanistan – Helicopters Hired

Dec 04, 2012 16:10 EST

Latest updates: Over $180M in contracts.

Afghanistan is shaping up as a test of the NATO alliance. Thus far, the report is mixed. While a number of allied countries have committed troops, few of the NATO countries’ available helicopters have been committed, despite promises made and commanders’ requests from the field. Britain, the Netherlands, and the USA had contributed much of the combat helicopter support in the most active combat zones, alongside some CH-47s from non-NATO partner Australia. They’ve been supplemented by helicopters from some east bloc countries like Poland and the Czech Republic (Mi-8/17s), and by a few CH-47D Chinooks and Bell 412ERs from Canada. The sizable helicopter fleets belonging to NATO members like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain have also seen some use in Afghanistan, with the Italian contingent (currently CH-47s, NH90s and A129 attack helicopters) covering a wide area to the west. The most serious fighting, and corresponding need, remains in the south.

That has created political tensions within the alliance, especially when set against the backdrop of European shortfalls in meeting NATO ISAF commitments. At one point, the USA was forced to extend the deployment of 20 CH-47 heavy helicopters by 6 months, in order to try and make up the shortfall. With Canada and the Netherlands out of the picture after long combat deployments in the south, the situation is likely to become even more strained. Over the longer, term, however, a 2-track solution has emerged. Track one involves keeping up the pressure, and some members of NATO have responded. Track 2 has involved stanching the wound by chartering private helicopter support that can take care of more routine missions in theater, freeing the military helicopters for other tasks.

Contracts and Key Events

FY 2012 – 2013

 

Dec 3/12: AAR Airlift Group Inc. in Palm Bay, FL receives a $143.7 million option year modification for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. Note that this is not the same as the recent FY 2013 contract; see the March 9/10 entry for the previous award to Presidential Airways.

The option will run from Dec 1/12 – Nov 30/13, but contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was a competitive acquisition by the U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott AFB, IL (HTC711-09-D-0021).

Dec 3/12: The Canadian Commercial Corp. export agency in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada receives a $37.1 million option year modification for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. Note that this is not the same as the recent FY 2013 contract; see the March 9/10 entry for the previous award.

The option will run from Dec 1/12 – Nov 30/13, but contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/12. This contract was a competitive acquisition by the U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott AFB, IL (HTC711-09-D-0022).

Nov 2/12: FY 2013. US Transportation Command’s Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL exercises an option for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision in Afghanistan, from Nov. 1/12 to Oct 31/13. The contract has several parts to it, and firms compete for each task order. Winners and their improbable maximum amounts included:

$97.8 million to Columbia Helicopters Inc. in Aurora, OR (HTC711-11-D-R021, TO 0002-0003). Columbia Helicopters made its name in heli-logging, but the logging industry is quiet right now in the western USA. They operate civilian BV-107 (CH-46 Sea Knight) and BV-234 (CH-47 Chinook) helicopters in their fleet; their military counterparts are widely used in the Afghan environment.

$31.8 million to Construction Helicopters Inc. in Howell, MI (HTC711-11-D-R022). Construction Helicopters’ specialty is just what their name implies, though the construction industry has been kind of slow lately. At the heavier end, the firm flies S-61 civilian Sea Kings, elderly S-58T Choctaw/Wessex, and Bell 214B-1 Huey Plus “Biglifters” from their Helimax subsidiary. At the lighter end, their fleet includes UH-1B Huey and Bell 206 Jetranger machines, which would find themselves very challenged in Afghanistan’s lift-killing environment.

$72.4 million for Canadian Helicopters Ltd. in Ottawa, Ontario, via the Canadian government’s Canadian Commercial Corp. (HTC711-10-D-R025). CHC provides helicopter services for use in oil & gas, mining and forestry, emergency medical services, police support, and other tasks that include support for the Canadian Forces’ North Warning System. These industries and roles require flight into and through remote areas, while contending with difficult weather and terrain in order to get the job done. To that end, Canadian Helicopters operates a diverse fleet of Bell Textron, Eurocopter, and Sikorsky platforms. They also operate the Canadian Helicopters School of Advanced Flight Training, which trains elite military and police pilots as part of their customer base. According to the firm, the Commander of the US Navy Helicopter Special Warfare Squadron describes this training as “best in the world”.

$161.5 million for AAR Airlift Group Inc. in Palm Bay, FL (HTC711-10-D-R026, TO 0001- 0002). AAR moved its its airlift services center to Florida (vid. Nov 8/10 entry), after it purchased Aviation Worldwide Services and its subsidiaries from Blackwater/Xe in April 2010. They will perform passenger and cargo lift missions using their new S-92s (vid. Jan 11/11 entry) and some of their fleet of 15 S-61N Sea Kings.

$214.3 million to Vertical de Aviacion Ltd. in Bogota, Columbia (HTC711-10-D-R027, TO 0001-0002). In Colombia, US Southern Command and Special Operations Command South have relied on Vertical’s Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters, and BAE Jetstream J-32 turboprop planes, for many years.

$24.6 million to Evergreen Helicopters Inc. in McMinnville, OR (HTC711-10-D-R028). Evergreen International Aviation is also under contract to US TRANSCOM for larger cargo charters, and won a 2007 contract to provide helicopter MEDEVAC services for the US Army in Hawaii, using its Bell 412EPs. Its helicopter fleet is very diverse, from S-61 civilian Sea King and AS330 Puma medium helicopters, to utility models like the Bell 412EP, and even light helicopters like the AS350 or MD500D/E.

FY 2013 options

Nov 3/11: FY 2012 contracts. U.S. Transportation Command’s Directorate of Acquisition at Scott AFB, IL issues 6 contract option years for “rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance, and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation…. in Afghanistan” from Nov 1/11 – Oct 31/12.

Columbia Helicopters, Inc. in Portland, OR wins a $54.7 million option year modification (HTC711-11-D-R021).

Construction Helicopters, Inc. in Howell, MI wins a $29.3 million option year modification, though there has been no previous public announcement under this contract (HTC711-11-D-R022).

Canadian Helicopters, Ltd. wins a $65.9 million (last year: $65.7 million) option year modification, which is handled through the Canadian government’s Canadian Commercial Corp. in Ottawa, ON (HTC711-10-D-R025).

AAR Airlift Group, Inc. in Palm Bay, FL wins a $99.4 million (same as last year) option year modification (HTC711-10-D-R026).

Vertical de Aviacion, LTDA in Bogota, Colombia wins a $145.8 million (last year: $139 million) option year modification (HTC711-10-D-R027).

Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. in McMinnville, OR wins a $22.8 million (last year: $29.3 million) option year modification (HTC711-10-D-R028).

FY 2012 options

FY 2010 – 2011

 

AAR’s S-92
(click to view full)

July 5/11: Columbia Helicopters, Inc. of Aurora, OR receives a $17.1 million task order for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan from July 1/11 to Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 4 bids received by the USTRANSCOM Directorate of Acquisition at Scott AFB, IL (HTC711-11-D-R021).

Jan 31/11: AAR S-92s. Sikorsky delivers 2 of their S-92 Superhawk helicopters to airlift services provider AAR CORP., for operations in Afghanistan, under a $450 million USTRANSCOM contract to provide up to 5 years of airlift service in Afghanistan (vid. Oct 5/10 entry). AAR will perform passenger and cargo lift missions, using the S-92s and some of its fleet of 15 S-61N Sea Kings.

AAR’s S-92s were certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration to FAA/EASA harmonized Part 29 airworthiness requirements, as amended through Amendment 47, without exception or waiver. The FAA certified an easily configurable interior with variable seating while carrying up to three 4 square foot cargo pallets secured to rings in the seat tracks and cabin walls. For each pallet, Sikorsky developed a special fire containment cover to contain and suffocate flames, and added smoke detectors. To separate the passengers from cargo, Sikorsky designed a fabric partition, and added a fire extinguisher and Protective Breathing Equipment for passengers and crew.

This contract is significant to Sikorsky because the S-92’s 129 commercial orders haven’t been accompanied by much military traction yet. Even though AAR is a commercial service, S-92 performance in Afghanistan’s challenging conditions could improve its H-92 counterpart’s chances for competitions like the USA’s revised Presidential helicopter competition, Germany’s combat search and rescue competition, and other military opportunities. AAR | Sikorsky.

Nov 8/10: AAR announces that Melbourne, FL will be the new location for its airlift services and specialized aircraft modifications businesses, which the Company acquired when it purchased Aviation Worldwide Services and its subsidiaries like Presidential Airways in April 2010. Since completing the acquisition from Blackwater/Xe, AAR has installed a new leadership team, and is rebranding the businesses.

Relocation was part of that plan, and local and state agencies in Florida apparently helped make it worth AAR’s while. AAR currently has facilities in Clearwater, Jacksonville, Medley and Miami, employing 1,200 highly-skilled workers and contributing approximately $150 million annually in economic impact to the state of Florida. At full employment, AAR says that the new Melbourne location will add an additional $42.3 million to the state’s economy.

The business will move to hangars, facilities and offices at and near Melbourne International Airport. The relocation will be conducted in phases and is expected to be completed by spring 2011, creating as many as 225 jobs by the end of 2012 in AAR Airlift Group and AAR Aircraft Services – Melbourne. AAR Airlift Group is led by US Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser (ret.).

 

Nov 1/10: Canadian Commercial Corp. in Ottawa, Canada wins a $65.7 million option year modification modification for helicopters and their associated personnel, equipment, tools, material, and maintenance to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan.

The contract will run until Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition with 13 bids received by U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-10-D-R025)

Nov 1/10: Aviation Worldwide Services Co. acquisition Presidential Airways, Inc. in Camden, NC wins a $94.4 million option year modification for helicopters and their associated personnel, equipment, tools, material, and maintenance to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan.

The company operates a varied helicopter fleet that includes S-61s, Bell 412/212 twin-Hueys, AS330J Pumas, and light MD530s. The Pumas are most frequently seen as contracted VERTical REPlenishment (VERTREP) support aboard American supply vessels. Presidential Airways has also done a fair bit of helicopter support work for the US State Department; the helicopter that spirited Rep. Alan Grayson [D-FL] out of Niger during the 2010 coup, for instance, was a Presidential Airways bird.

The contract will run until Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition with 13 bids received by U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-10-D-R026).

Nov 1/10: Vertical de Aviacion, LTDA in Bogota, CO wins a $139 million option year modification for helicopters and their associated personnel, equipment, tools, material, and maintenance to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. In Colombia, US Southern Command and Special Operations Command South have relied on Vertical’s Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters and BAE Jetstream J-32 turboprop planes for many years.

The contract will run until Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition with 13 bids received by U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-10-D-R027).

Nov 1/10: Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. in McMinnville, OR receives a $25.3 million option year modification modification for helicopters and their associated personnel, equipment, tools, material, and maintenance to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan.

The contract will run until Oct 31/11. This contract was a competitive acquisition with 13 bids received by U.S. Transportation Command Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-10-D-R028).

Oct 5/10: AAR announces a $450 million, 5-year task order to provide airlift services under the U.S. Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) new long-term, multi-billion-dollar Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract for rotary-wing airlift in Afghanistan. The task order has a 1-year initial term with four 1-year renewal options, and AAR was awarded 6 of 18 aircraft included as part of USTRANSCOM’s initial requirement.

Per the IDIQ contract, AAR is now approved to provide support in all 3 airlift categories: medium, heavy and super-heavy. The “super-heavy” category will be filled by 2 new S-92 Superhawks from Sikorsky, and 4 more heavy-lift Sikorsky S-61s. AAR and its subsidiaries like Presidential Airways are currently supporting operations in Afghanistan with 15 fixed-wing planes and 17 medium- and heavy-lift helicopters. The new platforms are expected to be deployed between December 2010 and February 2011.

 

S-61T, banking
(click to view full)

March 9/10: Blackwater/ Xe affiliate (which soon became an AAR Corp. affiliate) Presidential Airways, Inc. in Camden, NC receives a $39.1 million task order for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance, and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. The task order will run from March 5/10 – Nov 30/10. This contract was a competitive acquisition by U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-09-D-0021).

March 9/10: A $20.5 million task order for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance, and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. The task order will run from March 5/10 – Nov 30/10. This contract was a competitive acquisition by U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-09-D-0022).

Like the previous Dec 19/08 contract, it is formally issued to Canadian Commercial Corp., an arm of the Canadian government; but the service provider remains Canadian Helicopters, Ltd. (CHC) in Toronto, Canada. That previous contract covered 3 fully crewed and maintained Bell 212 “Twin Huey” helicopters, essentially civilian versions of the USMC’s UH-1Ns.

March 9/10: Evergreen Helicopters, Inc. in McMinnville, OR receives a $20.1 million task order modification for rotary wing aircraft, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance, and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. The task order will run from March 5/10 – Nov 30/10. This contract was a competitive acquisition by U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, IL(HTC711-09-D-0023).

March 5/10: There are other ways to help alleviate to the Afghan helicopter shortage. An American general praises the Czech Republic for its work donating 12 helicopters (6 Mi-17s, 6 Mi-24 gunships) to the Afghans, and helping the Afghan NAAC maintain and fly its 25 Mi-17 and 9 Mi-24 helicopters. The Czech Republic is also heading up a NATO initiative aimed to enhance the use of Mi helicopters for the Alliance’s combat operations abroad, and has sent 3 more upgraded Mi-171S helicopters that operate in Paktika province. Prague Daily Monitor; see also Feb 9/08 entry.

March 3/10: Stockholm News reports that non-NATO member Sweden submits budget documents that propose:

”…solutions for helicopters so that the Armed Forces from 2013 will be able to use helicopter capacity abroad, something that has been missing during the current ISAF deployment in Afghanistan.”

Feb 22/10: Sikorsky announces that the US State Department has entered into an indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity agreement to purchase up to 110 modernized S-61T Sea King helicopters, for “passenger and cargo transport missions in support of its worldwide operations.” The S-61T is a joint development with visionary S-61 operator Carson Helicopters, Inc., and Sikorsky’s release adds that:

“Providing an alternative to the Pentagon’s current purchase and use of Russian helicopters, Sikorsky’s American-made modernized S-61 aircraft is mission-ready now for deployment to Afghanistan and the surrounding regions.”

Read “New S-61T Helos for the Us State Department” for in-depth coverage, and ongoing updates.

 

Afghan Army Mi-17s
(click to view full)

Nov 12/09: Russian firms, and state bodies like the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS), are reportedly offering to sell civilian Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters on a commercial basis to NATO, in support of ISAF operations in Afghanistan.

2010 would feature an Mi-17 sale to the Afghan government, but not to NATO. Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Oct 31/09: The Daily Mail reports:

“The most senior soldier to be killed in Afghanistan foreshadowed his own death in a damning memo about the shortage of helicopters. Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe told his superiors that British troops would die because they were being forced to make trips by road. Less than a month later, he was blown up by a roadside bomb. In his final despatches to commanders in London, classified ‘Nato Secret’, he had dismissed helicopter operations in Afghanistan as ‘not fit for purpose’.”

The issues of adequate blast-resistant vehicles and available helicopters are 2 sides of the same coin, in any environment that features a lot of land mines. On a related note, one might also ask if there’s enough combat engineering.

FY 2007 – 2009

 

CHL’s 212, Nunavut
(click to view full)

April 5/09: The USA won a pledge from allies during the recent NATO summit, to send as many as 5,000 more troops to help in Afghanistan. As the Miami Herald reports, however:

‘’It was unclear, however, exactly how much Obama won at the gathering of the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Some of the troops included in the announcement already had been committed before the summit.”

There is some question regarding how many of these pledged forces will be front-line combat troops, and there was no public mention of more helicopters, either from European militaries or via financed lease. See: CS Monitor | Miami Herald | Washington Post | Britain’s Times Online | The Guardian of London | The Scotsman | Bulgaria’s Novinite | Agence France Presse | Chinese government’s Xinhua | Times op-ed “It is time all Nato countries did their bit.”

 

Apr 3/09: Evergreen Helicopters, Inc., of McMinnville, OR received a $158.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for helicopters, personnel, equipment, tools, material, maintenance and supervision necessary to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. Work is expected to start April 3/09, and run until Nov 30/13. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 4 offers received by United States Transportation Command’s (USTRANSCOM) Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-09-D-0023).

Feb 8/09: The Afghan National Army Air Corps takes delivery of the last 3 of 12 helicopters donated by the Czech Republic: 6 Mi-17 utility helicopters, and 6 Mi-24 attack helicopters. NATO release.

Dec 19/08: Canadian Helicopter in Ottawa, Canada won a $31.4 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for helicopters to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in that country. The order is contracted through the Canadian government’s Canadian Commercial Corp., and includes all of the helicopters, associated personnel, equipment, tools, and maintenance involved.

Canadian Helicopters’ release [PDF] says that the contract covers 3 fully crewed and maintained Bell 212 “Twin Huey” helicopters, essentially civilian versions of the USMC’s and USAF’s UH-1Ns. Revenue to the Fund is expected to be in excess of US$ 120 million over 5 years, assuming all option periods are exercised and expected hours are flown. That is far, far more than simply buying and crewing equivalent UH-1Y helicopters would cost – but the contract includes full operations in Afghanistan, as well as risk premiums that would be covered by insurance in other situations.

Work began on Dec 19/08, and the contract runs until Nov 30/13, but contract funds will expire at the end of the Pentagon’s current fiscal year on Sept 30/08. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 4 bids received by the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) Directorate of Acquisition at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-09-D-0022).

Dec 19/08: Presidential Airways, Inc. of Moyock, NC wins a $119 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for helicopters to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services in Afghanistan. The order includes all of the associated personnel, equipment, tools, and maintenance involved.

Work under this contract will be performed in Afghanistan and is expected to start Dec 19/08, to be complete by Nov 30/13. This contract was a competitive acquisition, with 4 bids received (HTC711-09-D-0021).

April 17/08: A contracted cargo drop that included food, water, and RPG-7 anti-armor rockets goes awry. ISAF’s statement said that:

“On March 25, a private helicopter company was contracted, on behalf of an ISAF unit, to resupply an Afghan National Police (ANP) outpost located in a remote mountain area” of Zabul province… Unfortunately, due to a human error in transcribing the latitude and longitude of the location, the load was dropped in another remote area…. forces sent aircraft for a visual reconnaissance, however, the missing cargo could not be found.”

April 11/08: Presidential Airways, Inc. of Moyock, NC receives a $16.3 million indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract for rotary wing aircraft (helicopters) to perform passenger and cargo air transportation services. The order includes all of the associated personnel, equipment, tools, and maintenance involved. The firm has been operating contracted fixed-wing transport services in theater for several years now.

Work will be performed in Afghanistan and is expected to start May 01/08 to be completed by Nov 30/08. Contract funds will expire at the end of this current fiscal year. This contract was a sole-source acquisition (HTC711-08-D-0021).

 

Nov 25/07: An Aviation Week report underlines the seriousness of ISAF’s helicopter issues:

“The helicopter shortage is the “single biggest operational problem” that is hampering the day-to-day operations of ISAF…. “We’re beseeching, begging, doing everything we can to convince nations to contribute more rotary-wing aviation assets, both transport helicopters and attack helicopters,” a Canadian NATO official says.

“It’s not that NATO nations don’t have helicopters. The problem is that they’e very expensive to ship to Afghanistan and to operate and maintain them there. I think there are several nations that prefer to keep their helicopters at home for this reason.”

Oct 25/07: US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates makes a speech at the Conference of European Armies. an excerpt:

“ISAF’s accomplishments are real and tangible to the citizens of Afghanistan…. our progress in Afghanistan is real but it is fragile…. Consider that earlier this year the U.S. extended its Aviation Bridging Force in Afghanistan in Kandahar because the mightiest and wealthiest military alliance in the history of the world was unable to produce 16 helicopters needed by the ISAF commander. Sixteen.

Meeting commitments means assuming some level of risk and asserting the political will necessary to deploy armed forces beyond one’s borders – fully manned and equipped, and without restrictions that undermine the mission. In Afghanistan, a handful of allies are paying the price and bearing the burdens of allies to create the secure environment necessary for economic development, building civic institutions, and establishing the rule of law. The failure to meet commitments puts the Afghan mission – and with it, the credibility of NATO – at real risk.”

Aug 17/07: Hummingbird Aviation, LLC in Hammond, LA, won an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) type contract for $112.3 million “to perform services necessary to perform rotary wing transportation services to transport Class I-X supplies, U.S. Mail and passengers. Rotary wing transportation services are to be performed in Afghanistan at military airfields.”

Services will be performed from Oct 1/07 – Sept 30/09 (the Pentagon’s FY08-FY09 period). This contract was competitively procured, with 2 offers received by the USTRANSCOM Directorate of Acquisitions at Scott Air Force Base, IL (HTC711-07-D-0033).

Additional Readings

Other contractors are also involved.

  • Vertical magazine (Aug-Sept 2008) – A 21st Century S-61 [PDF]. Detailed profile of the S-61T.

 

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