On 16 January, the second of two Agusta Bell AB-412CP KOALA helicopters for the Uruguayan Navy arrived in country, finally replacing the Westland WESSEX fleet, decommissioned in 2010.
The aircraft are part of a batch of ten delivered to the Italian Coast Guard from 1993. Five were modified to the AB-412EP configuration and five to AB-412HP, receiving an APS-71 7V2 search radar above the fuselage, weather radar in the nose, a turret with FLIR and cameras, a NIGHT SUN SC 16C searchlight, emergency floats and a rescue hoist. The Uruguayan examples belong to the AB-412HP group. Both were purchased in 2018 and a complete overhaul contracted to Leonardo Helicopters.
The Navy seeks to buy another two examples in the near future, which would allow a significant recovery of capabilities since the loss of WESSEX aircraft. Since 2010, the only helicopter operated by the service has been a single Helibrás HB-355 ESQUILO, donated by the Brazilian Navy in 2006, with extremely limited operations conducted by the six MBB Bo-105 PAH-1s procured from Germany in 2007: their capabilities vis-à-vis maritime operations is severely limited.
All helicopters were removed from service in 2019 and, in October that year, a Bell OH-58A was procured from Canada, officially entering service in February 2020. The aircraft is used primarily for training, the new AB-412s will focus on search and rescue, patrol, maritime traffic control and transport missions, all based at the Capitán Curbelo Naval Air Base at Laguna del Sauce. They will also be able to operate from the ROU ARTIGAS logistics vessel, the navy’s only unit with a flight deck. The AB-412s were delivered without the sensor turret, although it is anticipated that one will be installed in Uruguay.
Santiago Rivas and Florencia Lucero Heguy in Buenos Aires for MON