The Belgian Navy’s new Caiman helicopters, which became operational in August of 2015, are now preparing for the naval aspect of their jobs.
Therefore, the crew of the RN03 call-signed Caiman went to the Netherlands Naval Air Station De Kooy where they practiced deck landings on the Dutch patrol vessel HNLMS Zeeland from February 8 – 12.
NHIndustries, the prime contractor of the NATO Helicopter Management Agency, delivered four naval-version NH90 Caiman helicopters to the Belgian Department of Defense.
The helicopters will be used to perform two tasks, to conduct search and rescue operations and to extend the detection range of the Belgian frigates they would be embarked on.
Lieutenant Commander 1st Class sea Bart Blok, Head of Operations of the Dutch 860 Squadron said: “A ship has but a radar range of some 22 miles (about 40 km). The Caiman increases that range up to 150 miles (about 277 km).”
A Caiman helicopter can stay in the air three hours before the fuel runs out. It therefore goes without saying that the helicopter needs to be able to effectively land on a ship’s deck to refuel or swap the crew. This is not always an easy task.
“The Caiman helicopter is much heavier than the Alouette III helicopters that I previously operated,” said Kenneth, a pilot of the Caiman RN03. “Nevertheless, the helicopter can feel the wind. Putting it on board is still hard work.”
To make sure everything goes without major problems a Dutch instructor is onboard the Belgian helicopter.
“He teaches us the tricks of the trade,” Kenneth continues. “The Dutch bought the Caiman much earlier than we did. That’s exactly why we come to the Netherlands – to benefit from their know-how.”