The French Air Force has successfully completed a series of test flights on a Caracal aircraft from the Escadron d’Hélicoptères (EH) 1/67 Pyrénées, in Africa and two MC-130J Hercules tankers from the US Air Force (USAF).
The test evaluated the in-flight refuelling capabilities of 14 helicopter pilots, qualifying them for the procedure.
Additionally, the forces certified seven pilots for night time refuelling, marking a first in history.
The latest in-flight refuelling milestone is expected to open up new possibilities for combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) and special operation missions.
Last November, the French Air Force achieved a milestone after a US Marine Corps (USAMC) KC-130 tanker refuelled its Caracal aircraft, marking the first operational in-flight refuelling of the French helicopter.
During the procedure, a USMC C-130 Hercules transport aircraft refuelled a Caracal EC725 helicopter, which belonged to the 1/67 ‘Pyrénées’ squadron.
Airbus Helicopters’ EC725 is a long-range tactical transport helicopter designed for troop transport, casualty evacuation, combat search and rescue, maritime surveillance, humanitarian support, medical evacuation and shipborne missions.
The helicopter is equipped with a modern digital cockpit, a four-axis autopilot, and a Fenestron shrouded tail rotor landings and takeoffs in confined landing sites and during loading / unloading on the ground while the rotor is turning.