Eurocopter EC635 P2+

Eurocopter EC635 P2+ (c/n 0608, T-354 of the Swiss Air Force), static display at the 75th Anniversary of Meiringen airfield, Meiringen, June 2016.

If you think that silhouette of the EC635 strongly resembles an another, well-known helicopter by the Eurocopter/Airbis company, you are absolutely right. It is because that rotorcraft was developed as a specific, military variant of Eurocopter EC135 – the popular multi-purpose light helicopter designed in the mid-1990s, already manufactured in approximately 1,500 examples and used by more than 300 operators worldwide.

The story of that rotorcraft began in the mid-1990s, when the Portuguese army authorities decided about re-creation of army aviation unit. That process officially started in 1997 and was finalized by establishing the Army Light Aviation Unit (Unidade de Aviação Ligeira do Exército – UALE) on 1st June 2000.

The new formation required a dedicated rotorcraft and therefore the Portuguese army issued its requirement specification for a light combat support and medical evacuation helicopter. It was responded by Eurocopter Group that developed a special, military variant of the EC135. Such suited rotorcraft, designated EC635, was for the first time disclosed to general public in May of 1998, at Aviation Africa trade show in the Republic of South Africa.

In October of the next year, the Portuguese Ministry of Defence and Eurocopter signed an agreement for delivery of nine EC635. The rotorcraft had to be powered by two Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 engines and known as T2 variant. Deliveries of these new Portuguese helicopters were scheduled for 2001.

However, issues with production and development of the EC635, especially integration of its weapon suite, caused a significant delay in their delivery. Until the mid-2002 there still were no helicopters handed over to the UALE and, as a result, the Portuguese MoD cancelled the order in August of that year.

Eventually, the would-be Portuguese rotorcraft were acquired by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, based on a contract signed in October of 2002. They were delivered to Jordan next year and then the country ordered another four examples.

Three years later, twenty examples of the EC635 were ordered by the Swiss Air Force. The rotorcraft were delivered in 2008 and 2009, with majority of them assembled in Switzerland by RUAG Aerospace. The Swiss helicopters were built in a few specialized variants, including training, utility, surveillance, search-and-rescue, combat and VIP transport helicopters. The Swiss EC 635 P2+ version is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B2 turbine engines.

In 2009, twenty-four EC635 T2+ helicopters were acquired by the Iraqi Army. That helicopter features structurally reinforced airframe and is powered by two Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 turbine engines. The Iraqi EC635s are used in combat, for example against the Islamic State insurgents.

In 2021, thirty-six EC635 helicopters were ordered by the Spanish Ministry of Defence for the country´s air force and navy. The deliveries began already in the next year. The latest customer of the EC635 rotorcraft is the British Army Air Corps that ordered thirty helicopters of that type in January of 2022.

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