The Brazilian Army Aviation has 20 AS550A2 Fennec (H125M) and 16 and AS350L1 Ecureuil/Esquilo (H125) helicopters in its inventory, all of which are designated HA-1. Under the upgrade plan, Helibras is rebuilding two Fennecs and one Ecureuil/Esquilo, and is equipping the fleet with a ‘glass’ cockpit, crashworthy seating, and other systems, with the goal of keeping them in service through to the mid-2030s. Of the 36 HA-1s set to go through the upgrade process, 12 have been delivered back to the army to date.
The work was performed at Helibras’ factory in Itajubá, Brazil, with some of the new equipment having been either produced or refurbished by local industry. When the modernization contract is completed, 33 aircraft will have been upgraded and three will have been completely reconstructed and upgraded. Beyond this process, Helibras is also pitching the HForce Generic Weapons Systems to the Fennec portion of the HA-1 fleet, though no decision on this has yet been taken by the army.
Developed by the Helibras Engineering Center, the upgrade package received military certification from the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology and the Institute of Industrial Coordination and Development (DCTA / IFI). Some of the systems produced and / or with local support included the glass cockpit by AEL Systems, autopilot by Sagem Defense Aeronautics, digital intercom system by Becker Avionics Brazil, Nav-Com radio by Rockwell Collins and ballistic protection by BCA The retrofit guarantees 25 more years to the helicopter, which is used in training, reconnaissance, attack and security, by adding new technology and increasing availability.
Airbus two-tonne H125M (formerly the Eurocopter AS550 C3e) Fennec responds to military requirements for a cost-effective armed platform with a very small footprint and excellent manoeuvrability. As the most capable armed scout helicopter in its category, the single-engine H125M combines power, discretion and targeted firepower. Based on the Airbus H125 (the Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil and AS355 Ecureuil 2 series) they are named after the fennec fox. The armed versions of the AS550 and AS555 can be fitted with coaxial weapons, rockets, torpedoes and various other munitions.