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The Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation of the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded Airbus a GBP 122 million (EUR 142.6 million) contract for six Airbus H145 helicopters to provide aviation support for UK troops in Brunei and Cyprus, DE&S announced on 18 April 2024.

The contract, which fulfils a requirement that was formerly part of the UK’s ongoing New Medium Helicopter (HMH) programme, follows on from the MoD announcing on 13 November 2023 its intention to procure the Airbus H145s for duties in Brunei and Cyprus.

The Airbus H145s will replace what were originally five Bell 212s serving with the Army Air Corps’ (AAC’s) No 667 Squadron in Brunei and three Griffon HAR2s operated by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) No 84 Squadron out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus (tasked with search and rescue), although on 31 March 2023 British Forces Cyprus officially transitioned from Griffin HAR2s to Puma HC2s.

H145s in Cyprus will be used to support UK troops conducting jungle training, including essential medical evacuation, while the helicopters based in the Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) on Cyprus will support UK training and military exercises (including joint UK/Republic of Cyprus activities) as well as covering emergency response and aerial firefighting duties.

It is expected that the Airbus H145s will take over aviation duties in Brunei and Cyprus during 2026.

The H145 is already familiar to the UK armed forces, as three of the type are already operated under the UK’s contractor-operated Military Flying Training System regime, where the H145s are known as Jupiter HT1s. The procurement of additional helicopters of the same type thus makes sense from a logistical and training perspective.

DE&S additionally stated that, as a commercial off-the-shelf procurement, the purchase of Airbus H145s for duties in Brunei and Cyprus avoids a bespoke UK solution, providing economies of scale with an existing large worldwide fleet. This, DE&S noted, demonstrates the MoD’s “commitment to the principles outlined in the Defence Acquisition Reform recently announced by Minister for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge”, who stated that “Reforming defence acquisition to make every pound count and rapidly provide our armed forces with critical military capabilities is essential to our nation’s security”.

Cartlidge had stated that “purchasing the H145s will support our forces in Brunei and on Cyprus with a trusted capability whilst avoiding unnecessary over-speccing and overspending”.

The Director Helicopters at DE&S, Keith Bethell, was quoted as stating that the H145 contract “is a great example of an agile acquisition process that has secured new modern equipment to meet our armed forces enduring requirements”.

Meanwhile, the wider original NMH programme, which is largely now about replacing the fleet of 23 RAF Puma HC2s operated by No 33 and No 230 squadrons out of RAF Benson in Oxfordshire (as well as six special-forces-roled AS365 N3 Dauphin IIs operated by the Army Air Corps’ No 658 Squadron), remains unresolved, with three contenders downselected by an invitation to negotiate issued on 27 February 2024: Airbus Helicopters UK with the H175M, Leonardo Helicopters UK with the AW149 and Lockheed Martin UK offering the S-70M Black Hawk.

Airbus has been contracted by the UM MoD’s DE&S organisation to supply six examples of the H145 (Hungarian H145Ms illustrated) for UK armed forces duties in Brunei and Cyprus. (Photo: Airbus)