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Germany seeks CH-53 replacement, as retirement brought forward

Gareth Jennings, Donauworth - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly | 01 December 2015

The German Air Force (GAF) has begun the process of selecting a new medium/heavy-lift helicopter as it looks to phase its ageing VFW-Sikorsky CH-53G/GS/GA Stallions out of service earlier than originally planned.
Speaking at the site of Airbus Helicopters' Donauworth facility on 30 November, Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Germany and Head of Light and Governmental Programs, said that the German military is in the very early stages of a replacement process for the 1970s-legacy CH-53, but that he expects the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to issue a solicitation next year for a new platform to enter service in the early 2020s.
"We see no investment in further upgrades [to the CH-53]. It is [Airbus Helicopters'] responsibility to keep it flying through to about 2020, but we are close to the customer and we hear about specifications for a replacement," Schoder said, adding, "We are in constructive discussions with the German MoD [Ministry of Defence] as to our role in such a [replacement] programme."
Airbus Helicopters is currently in the process of putting the last four of 40 CH-53G/GS platforms through the CH-53GA modernisation effort (the remaining 26 CH-53G/GS helicopters in the GAF fleet will remain at that standard for a total fleet of 66 CH-53G/GS/GS platforms).
The CH-53GA is an enhanced variant of the CH-53G/GS, with improvements made primarily to the avionics, communications, and electronic warfare systems, and the integration of a forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor turret. An internal fuel tank has also been fitted, extending the helicopter's range to 1,200 km, and the airframe has been refurbished.
With the upgrade, it was expected that the CH-53GA-variant would remain operational with the GAF through to at least 2030 and possibly beyond. However, with the upgrade programme set to conclude in 2016 the GAF has now decided to replace the fleet with a new type entirely from 2020 to 2025.
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