The South African Air Force will receive the last of 30 AgustaWestland A109 light utility helicopters (LUH) ordered in 1999 in March.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has told Parliament in a written reply to a question that 22 of the Project Flange helicopters had been delivered to the SAAF by 1 February this year. “The last aircraft, the 30th, is scheduled for delivery on 31 March 2009.”
The first of the 30 was delivered on 19 October 2005. The type has replaced the more than 40-year-old Alouette III in SAAF service.
SA has so far paid R2.451 billion for the rotorcraft, which is substantially more than the amount of R1.949 billion anticipated in 1999.
Project Flange has become the black sheep of the Strategic Defence Package and has been beset with difficulties and delays.
The MoD alludes to this in its answer, noting “a few minor specifications as determined in the original contract have not been met, however, these are in the process of being rectified.
“The specification deviations resulted from a new communication system (locally supplied) that requires minor software upgrades and a change to the cyclic and collective fight controls to accommodate a 5 to 95 percentile person in the cockpit. Prototype controls have already been successfully tested and the production to retrofit the fleet will now commence.
“It is not foreseen that there will be any deviations remaining at the final delivery of the last helicopter and on final handover of the system to the SA Air Force.”