Brazilian Air Force Begins Aerial Refueling Campaign for its H-36 Caracal Helicopter

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) has commenced the first phase of the Testing Campaign for Flight Refueling (REVO) certification of the H-36 Caracal helicopter with the KC-130H Hercules tanker aircraft.

The testing campaign, scheduled between Dec. 10 to Dec. 21, ensures that Brazil is the first country in South America with the ability to refuel in flight with a helicopter.

The operation takes place at Ala 11 (Galeão), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), in order to certify both in daytime and night conditions (assisted with NVG and unassisted). In this way, specific evaluations of both aircraft will be conducted to determine a safe envelope containing speed, altitude and specific configurations.

During this phase, soil tests are carried out with the objective of attesting the correct operation of the system by means of functional checks and NVG compatibility between the aircraft by means of qualitative evaluations. The dry-flight flight tests are designed to evaluate the in-flight refueling capability by assessing the degree of turbulence, checking for possible interference in the anemometric system reading due to air disturbance and verifying the operation of the mechanical system in flight.

The coordination of the campaign is carried out by the Department of Aerospace Science and Technology (DCTA), which participates with two of its units: the Institute of Industrial Development and Coordination (IFI), a military organization that acts in the certification of quality management systems and the Institute Research and Testing in Flight (IPEV), which since 2014 has been working on the theoretical forecasts and preparation of this campaign.

In August of this year, approximately 10 military personnel involved in the operation conducted an exchange at the United States Air Force (USAF ), where it was possible to become familiar with each of the stages of the REVO. “It was an opportunity to see what procedures are applicable to our aircraft and to increase the level of safety of the tests,” says Lieutenant Luís Gustavo Leandro de Paula, an in-flight test engineer at IPEV.

The in-flight fuel transfer enables the H-36 to reach the 22 million km2 extremes of Brazil’s territory – Dimension 22 , to carry out rescue missions at sea, humanitarian aid, troop infiltrations and military transport at strategic locations. For Major Aviator Bruno Roque Teixeira, pilot of test and responsible for the planning of the campaign, the benefits of the REVO are the increase of the autonomy and reach of the aircraft. “In a peaceful setting, it will be possible to go further in a shorter time. This may be the differential to save more lives in a rescue at sea, “he points out.

The H-36 aircraft used in the mission are Falcão Squadrons (1st / 8th GAV) and Puma (3rd / 8th GAV), and KC-130H is Squadron Gordo (1st / 1st GT).

After the successful completion of the first stage, Phase II will be held in 2019, in which final certification verifications will be made. In compliance with the contract of the H-XBR project, a test kit from Airbus Helicopters will come to Brazil to support the completion of the certification process by means of wet-flight test (fuel transfer) and to train FAB, which will operate the H-36 Caracal in the future.

Pilots and Test Engineers at the Institute of Flight Research and Testing (IPEV) carried out simulated Flight Refueling flights in the institute’s simulator in early December as a preparatory activity for the trials that are taking place now.

During the simulated flights, a generic dynamic model of a heavy category helicopter was used in a visual scenario similar to that found in the campaign. Thus, the activity reached the proposed goal of preparing the flight test kits in terms of event chronology, task division, phraseology and methods to be applied during the tests.

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