Belgium to buy Airbus H145M helicopters for the armed and police forces

On 17th June 2024, the Airbus company officially confirmed the Belgian procurement of H145M helicopters. The Kingdom of Belgium will acquire fifteen rotorcraft of that type for the country´s armed forces and another two for the Federal Police, with an optional purchase of three more examples in the future.

The purchase contract with Airbus Helicopters was, on behalf of Belgium, signed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.

The Belgian Air Component (Luchtcomponent / Composante air), as the air arm of the Belgian Armed Forces is officially called, is currently operating a fleet of three types of rotorcraft – AgustaWestland AW109, NHIndustries NH90 TTH and NH90 NFH.

Since the late 2000s, the Belgian A109 rotorcraft are being consistently withdrawn from active duty. Currently, there are just a few helicopters of that type remaining in service with the BAF but their upcoming retirement is already a foregone conclusion.

In the 2010s, Belgium acquired eight NH90 rotorcraft, four in Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) and another four in NATO Frigate Helicopter (NFH) configuration. However, yet in 2020, the military authorities of the country decided about the TTH withdrawal from active service, due to high operating costs and low readiness ratio.

In the near future, the NH90 TTH – together with the remaining A109 rotorcraft – are going to be replaced by Airbus H145M Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). The next step will be to release the NFH rotorcraft from the SAR duties and assign them solely to the frigate service. Then, the SAR missions will be taken over by the H145M LUH helicopters.

German Airbus H145M LUH SAR

The Belgian Police Air Support Unit (Directie luchtsteun / Service d’appui aérien) currently operates seven rotorcraft – three MD Explorer 900, two MD Explorer 902 and two MD 520N; as well as two Cessna C182 Skylane II aeroplanes. The just purchased three H145M helicopters are going to replace the MD 900swhich are scheduled for full retirement from active service until 2027.

The Airbus H145M is a military variant of the popular multi-role H145 rotorcraft, formerly known as Eurocopter EC145. The helicopter performed its maiden flight in June of 1999 and until today was made in approximately 1,700 examples.

Civilian variants of the helicopter are used for passenger and cargo transport, emergency medical services, search and rescue and utility tasks. The military variant is, in addition, used for special operation duties, medical evacuation, reconnaissance and light attack.

The H145M is being operated by more than ten air forces around the world, several police and law enforcement agencies, as well as the Royal Thai Navy. Among the newest customers there are the Royal Brunei Air Force, the Cypriot National Guard and the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence.

Bundeswehr, which is one of the most significant operators of the H145M rotorcraft, is currently discussing the purchase of up to eighty-two examples of the helicopter. Few of them will be delivered in leichte Kampfhubschrauber (light attack helicopter – LKH) configuration that also includes anti-tank missiles and is intended to replace the EC665 Tiger rotorcraft.

Airbus H145M LUH SOF (Special Operation Forces)

Cover photo: German H145M LUH SOF at the Belgian air base in Kleine-Brogel, 2023