The Dutch Ministry of Defence has confirmed the purchase of 14 new Airbus H225M Caracal special operations helicopters to replace the Eurocopter AS532 Cougar transport helicopters. The transition to the new Airbus H225M Caracal transport helicopters will begin in early 2028. The purchase is part of a plan by the Dutch Ministry of Defence to convert a squadron of the Defence Helicopter Command into a Special Operations Force (SOF). As part of the project, the acquisition includes a new mission equipment package for the transport helicopters, as well as temporary simulation capacity for training and teaching. Similar to the Cougars, the new transport helicopters will be based at Gilze-Rijen Air Base.
For 27 years, the Cougar helicopters have served the Dutch Defense in a variety of duties including personnel transport, equipment transport, and medical evacuation. Some of the helicopters have also been used by the Dutch Navy as shipborne aircraft. Furthermore, the military has used these helicopters for firefighting, with a flexible water bucket (bambi-bucket) suspended beneath the aircraft. Despite continued efforts to enhance the Cougar helicopters, including a scheme to extend their operational lives until 2030, it has been determined that the acquisition of new helicopters is required to meet the Dutch Special Operations Forces’ expanding operational requirements.
The Eurocopter EC725 Caracal, now called Airbus Helicopters H225M, is a long-range tactical transport military helicopter developed from the Eurocopter AS532 Cougar for military use. It is a twin-engined aircraft and can carry up to 28 seated troops along with two crew, depending on customer configuration. The helicopter is marketed for troop transport, casualty evacuation, and combat search and rescue duties, and is similar to the civilian EC225 Super Puma. The EC725 was developed to meet a French Air Force requirement for a specialist helicopter for Combat Search and Rescue operations. By 2015, the EC725, re-designated as the H225M, was being manufactured on two separate production lines in France and Brazil.
The H225M is capable of undertaking various mission roles including combat search and rescue, long-range tactical transport, aeromedical transport, logistic support and shipboard maritime operations. The helicopter can be equipped with various military equipment and armaments, such as a pair of 7.62 mm FN MAG machine guns mounted within forward left and right windows, or a pair of 68 mm (2.75″) Thales FZ side-mounted rocket launchers, each with 19 rockets, or the MU90 Impact aerial-launched torpedo. Furthermore, a combination of gun pods, rocket pods and Hellfire air-to-surface missiles can be mounted externally via the HForce Generic Weapon System (GWS) and targeted with Thales Scorpion helmet-mounted sight display (HMSD) and Wescam electro-optical sensor.