“Izmir Cougars”- Turkish Army Aviation
By: Carlo Kuit& Paul Kievit/ Bronco Aviation
“Our primary mission is to provide aviation support to our Land Forces at specific places and at specific times, as an Army Aviation Regiment under the control of Army Aviation Command focusing on the west part and especially middle of the west and southwest of Turkey” as Lt. Col. Baysan starts to explain the tasks of the 3rd regiment (3ncü Kara Havacilik Alayi) based at Izmir-Gaziemir. Lt. Col Baysan graduated as an Army pilot in 1998 and is currently one of the instructors for the AS532 “Cougar” helicopter fleet.The Army Airbase of Gaziemir is located just northwest of the International Airport of Izmir, Adnan Menderes. The history of the 3rd regiment (3ncü Kara Havacilik Alayi) dates back to 1975 when the Aegean Army Command was established in Izmir.
After the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 led many countries to reduce their Armed Forces. During this period the Turkish Army went through a major change switching their focus on future combat environments, high mobility, firepower, night operations, optimize their mobilization system and adapt the army structure to Battalions, Brigades, Corps and Armies.The Turkish Army Aviation Command was established on the 15th of August, 2003 under the Land Forces Command in order to establish a Central Command and Control System.
The 3rd regiment (3ncü Kara Havacilik Alayi) at Gaziemir has currently two battalions (Helicopter Taburu) on strength; the AS532UL’s are part of the Medium Helicopter Battalion and the UH-1’s and AB205’s are part of the Light Helicopter Battalion and are in use for training and liaison duties. The S-70’s are notany longer part of the inventory of the 3rd regiment. “A decision has been made back in 2008 to relocate the S-70 fleet in the Southern part of Turkey to execute missions in the mountains in which the S-70 performs best” according to Lt. Col. Baysan. Relatively new to the unit is an Attack Detachment equipped with two AH-1Ps‘Cobra’ helicopters. This in order to allow Attack Helicopter crews to train in a different environment than the area near Güvercinlik, 40 kilometers North of Ankara, where the unit is stationed.
To supplement the AH-1W fleet, a number of AH-1P/S was offered by the United States. In total the Turkish Army received 36 ex US Army Cobras in five separate batches; twenty AH-1Ps in 1993; twelve AH-1S on March 5, 1995 and four TAH-1P on March 29, 1995. The TAH-1Ps were necessary as no simulators had been purchased. The capability of the AH-1s was restricted so an upgrade program was required. The upgrade programstarted during July 1995. Subsequently all the AH-1P/S ‘Cobras’ have been upgraded, the upgrade was executed in association with IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries). The improvements are the addition of a 20mm Cannon, Tactical Navigation System (TNS), ALQ-144 1R Suppresser, improved Internal Wiring and AN/APR-39V (3) and ARC-182 Self-Defense systems to counteract the SA-7 missiles.
Lt Col. Baysan continues “Lastly we have the Cessna-T-182 for Fixed Wing basic training, the aircraft have been replacing the U-17 training aircraft since 2010”.The initial bath of twenty AS532 Cougars were ordered in 1992 with deliveries as of 1997 as part of “Phenix 1”. During 1997, the Turkish Government signed anew contract for an additional thirty AS532UL’s. The contract consisted of an agreement for this batch of helicopters to be built in Turkey, and for this purpose a consortium between Eurocopter and TAI (Tusas Aerospace Industries Inc.), called EUROTAI was established. The contract named “Phenix 2” contained the supply of ten AS532ULs for the Turkish Army and twenty AS532s for the Turkish Air Force of which all were delivered by 2003.
The UH-1H Iroquois helicopter has been the standard utility helicopter of the Turkish Army from 1970 until the first deliveries of the S-70 in 1993. Between 1970 and 1974 the United States Army delivered 58 UH-1Hs of which 42 were diverted to the Army. After two AB205A-1’s had been bought in 1968 an order for a further 44 AB205s was awarded to Agusta for delivery from 1974 onwards, twenty being intended for the Jandarma (Military Police). In 1983 forty-six were of the type were ordered for delivery in 1983-85 (including four for the Jandarma). An agreement was signed in September 1982 with Bell Helicopters for the assembly and part manufacturing of 70 UH-1Hs, 25 being delivered by Bell Helicopters from May 1984 to February 1986 (of which ten were for the TurkishAir Force). Four sets of each fifteen helicopters were assembled by the “901.Uçak Ana Depo ve Fabrika” between 1984 and 1992. Since 2003 a modernization and engine replacement has been performed on 52 UH-1Hs to UH-1HT and 23 AB.205 to AB.205T standard.
“Currently the whole fleet of Army “Cougars” have been equipped a glass cockpit which has been modified and installed locally by TAI (project Yarasa)” according to Lt Col. Baysan. He continues “In our Regiment’s inventory we have four SAR Cougars (local name AS532USAR) for Immediate Response in case of an accident or a natural disaster. In addition to the flight crew there are some extra personnel on board: one extra SAR Technician, one Doctor or a Medic and 2 SAR Experts completing the crew of seven. For any possible mission thehelicopter and all of its crew are organized according to the 24-hour concept during day and night. This type of mission is rather unique to the Turkish Army; reason to be involved in SAR duties is the vicinity of the Aegean Sea. We cooperate as well with the Coast Guard in case this is required. The SAR Cougars are modified locally (TAI) with approval of the Airbus Company. We have additional functionality compared to the standard AS532UL: Search Light, Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR), loudspeakers and auto-hovering capabilities. Two of the USAR type are located at Gaziemir. We also have a detachment at the Turkish part of Cyprus. In order to be certified for SAR duties an additional 20hrs of training is required by the crews”. Lt. Col. Baysan concludes.
The Army Aviation School located in Güvercinlik is essential to expand and maintain quality within the pilot community. Besides for the Turkish Army the Navy, Gendarmerie, Coast Guard and Police Aviation are being trained at Güvercinlik. Pilot Training is split in two phases: Basic Training and Advanced Training. Rotary Wing Pilot Basic Training is conducted with the AB206 and UH-1H/AB-205. Advanced training is provided either with S-70s or AS-532s for an additional 14 weeks and 35 hours of flight which is finalized with a check ride before operational duties can be executed by the young pilots.
Lt. Col. Baysan adds “In our regiment, training exercises are arranged and organized according to our Combat Tasks and Missions. Within this context, all training exercises for Air Combat Operation, Transportation of personnel, Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) operations and medical evacuations are planned and executed both during night and day. We are especially proud of our night operations capabilities. In addition to that, Search and Rescue operations and medical evacuation tasks we carry out in natural disasters constitutes a great proportion of our duties”. He continues “Just after taking the Basic Flight Training and graduating from the Army Aviation School based in Ankara, the pilots will be assigned to a unit and receive their Combat Preparation Flight Training according to the tasks they are going to perform. The pilots who accomplished and finished the Combat Preparation Flight Training Program become active pilots. All the training process we follow is continuous and has a repeating pattern.The training exercises are carried out by the instructor pilots we have in our Regiment. At the end of the training period, the Instructor Pilots assesses all new pilots. According to the instructor’s assessment, the pilots who are not sufficient have to undergo additional flight training in order to be an active pilot within our unit.
In every Army Aviation Regiment there are standardization and control units that encompasses experienced pilots. These check all the active pilot’s knowledge and standardization level in repeating intervals and determine the need of an additional training for the pilots who are insufficient about the knowledge and skill. Each pilot takes Instrument Flight Rating, Standardization Exam and their flight checks once a year.The other flight crews also take verbal and written practical exams during the year in order to maintain their knowledge about maintenance and flight missions. Insufficient flight crew was also subjected to the additional training” according to the Lt. Colonel. “The most challenging for new pilots fresh from the Army Aviation School is to adapt to the AS532. The usage of the foot paddles is opposite to that of the UH-1 and AB205. In those helicopters you will have to give left foot paddle as the main rotor is turning anti-clockwise. The AS532 has a clockwise rotor thus usage of right foot paddle is a must”. Furthermore the position in the cockpit of the AS532 is much more elevated compared to the UH-1 which provides less visibility” as the Lt. Col details.
The initial pilot training at the Army Aviation School takes about 51 weeks in which flying starts with the AB206 with around 100 hours of flying. The next phase will be transition to the UH-1/AB205 with an additional 80 hours of flight. Based on the demand by the Turkish Army graduate Army pilots continue with their advanced training on the S-70 or AS532UL; this process will take about 35 flying hours which is being conducted within the various regiments. Not all pilots will start with the advanced training as there is also demand from the regiments to have pilots flying on the UH-1/AB205. Lt. Col. Baysan explains “When a new pilot is added to the unit a 25 hours familiarization program is followed with an official check ride before we have the pilot added to active duties on the AS532”. Currently about thirty-eight pilots are on active duty with the 3rd regiment. “On average we have a demand of about 8-15 new pilots per year” according to Lt. Col. Baysan. The third regiment has currently one female pilot on active duty since two years’ operating on the UH-1. In total there are 21 female pilots within the Turkish Army Aviation operating various types of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft except for the S-70 and AH-1s.Since 6 months a simulator is available for students to train on. This simulator was built with support of Havelsan. This company was established by Turkish Air Force Foundation in 1982 as a Turkish-American Company named Havelsan located in Ankara.
“The helicopters and Cessna’s are subject to the different levels of maintenance according to the flight hours and time intervals. All the maintenance is done exactly according to the technical documents that have been published by the supplier and is conducted by our experienced branch technicians. We are self-supporting and perform maintenance in intervals of 10, 25, 50,100-200 hours. Basically all maintenance up to 1000 hours is performed at Gaziemir. After 3000 hours or 15 years each airframe is being overhauled in Ankara by the 5th Main Maintenance Centre Command” according to the Chief Technician. “The maintenance in our authorization level is done as quickly as possible in order to be ready for any kind of mission. However the 5th Main Maintenance Centre Command based in Ankara does some of the detailed maintenance, checks and repairs beyond our authorization level of maintenance.
Currently the 3rd regiment is involved in continues deployments to Cyprus for which a number of AB205s and AS532s are being deployed. Furthermore the pilots and crew are part of a regularrotation schedule to East Turkey to support the fight against terrorism and security of its borders which has full focus. Each of the regiments (Gaziemir, Malatya, Ankara and Istanbul) are part of the rotation schedule providing round the clock security of the Turkish borders.