The Spanish Navy’s first upgraded Agusta Bell 212 medium helicopter has successfully completed its test flight at INAER Maintenance’s prototype integration centre in Alicante, southern Spain.

Carried out by SENER-INAER AB212 joint venture (JV), the flight represents the first in a series of trials approved by the National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA), through special experimental airworthiness certification.

A total of seven Spanish Navy’s Third Aircraft Squadron AB212 helicopters are being upgraded by the JV as part of a contract awarded under the AB212 helicopter life extension programme of the Spanish Navy (PEVH-AB212) in 2011.

Aimed at ensuring the versatility of the helicopters beyond 2025, the programme involves replacement of the aircraft’s electrical system and the outdated analog avionics with a fully digital cabin comprising all flight, navigation and engine parametre indicators, a new air data computer (ADC), as well as an attitude and heading reference system (AHRS).

Besides the replacement of the V/UHF communications and ICS systems with the latest generation devices, the helicopters are fitted with a new radar system for marine and meteorological information, an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) surveillance system, an AIS transceiver for tracking ships, a GPS moving map system and a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS).

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"The programme involves replacement of the aircraft’s electrical system and the outdated analog avionics with a fully digital cabin."

Additional enhancements include modifications to the auxiliary fuel tanks, and the addition of a missile approach warning system (MAWS), a ballistic protection system in the flight and passenger cabin, armoured and anti-crash seats for the crew, and defence weapon systems.

The remaining six helicopters will enter flight testing in two batches, each comprising three helicopters, in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

The first helicopter will be handed over to the navy in the second half of 2014, while the delivery of the final AB212 is scheduled for 2015.

Acquired by Spain between 1974 and 1980, the AB212 helicopters and their various configurations, including the anti-submarine warfare carrier (ASW), have participated in multiple exercises, as well as national and international missions.

Image: the Spanish Navy’s upgraded AB212 helicopter features advanced weapons and fully digital cabin. Photo: copyright of SENER Group.

Defence Technology