The Eurocopter Company manufactures the Cougar family of twin engine helicopters, of which more than 350 have been ordered. Eurocopter is a subsidiary of EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) company formed by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany, Aerospatiale Matra of France and CASA of Spain.
The helicopter is in service with 28 air forces, eight armies and five navies. 64 are operational with the French Army. As well as the AS 532 A2 combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter, there are two other versions of the Cougar: the AS532 Horizon surveillance system operated with a ground station, and the AS532 UB/AB utility version.
Orders and deliveries
Orders include four for Slovenia which were delivered in 2003/2004 and 12 (four CSAR and eight utility) for Bulgaria, ordered in November 2004. The first AS 532 was delivered to Bulgaria in August 2006.
Deliveries for Bulgaria began in August 2006 and the final (12th) AS 532 was delivered in July 2009. The first eight helicopters delivered to Bulgaria are being used as utility helicopters for carrying troops or injured people on stretchers with other medics or passengers.
Spain ordered an additional two transport helicopters in December 2007. In November 2010, the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) of France awarded a $294m contract to Eurocopter for the upgradation of four Cougar helicopters. The upgrade will involve the replacement of the avionics and self-protection systems and installation of a new terminal information system in helicopters.
Cougar multi-role helicopter design
The helicopter has a high level of crashworthiness, including impact tolerance and redundancy in vital systems and components. The occupants of the helicopter are protected up to impact velocities of 11.4m/sec. The fuel tanks are self-sealing, with a fuel crossfeed system that provides continuity of supply if one of the fuel circuits fails.
The main rotor and the tail rotor are equipped with high-impact-tolerance Spheriflex hubs, which have unlubricated metal antifriction bearings. The rotors are tolerant to impact from rounds from 20mm cannon and 12.7mm machine guns. The gearboxes are capable of running for 30 minutes up to one hour and 30 minutes without lubrication.
The helicopter is fitted with a 272kg capacity rescue hoist and an external sling. The enlarged sponsons provide additional stowage for carrying extra fuel, life rafts, floats or other equipment. The helicopter is equipped with emergency flotation landing gear for over-water missions.
Combat search and rescue (CSAR)
Eurocopter’s combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter is in service with the armed forces of France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
A personnel locator system (PLS) is used to locate survivors, which is based on an encrypted communications homing system.
This communicates with the Thales Avionique Nadir mk2 navigation computer, which selects the navigation mode according to the phase of the mission and controls the integrated flight display, which is presented on four flat screens.
Nadir mk2 interfaces to the positional and navigation equipment on the helicopter, the global positioning system, the inertial navigation, Doppler radar, the VHF omnidirectional radio range equipment (VOR), tactical air navigation (TACAN) and distance measuring equipment (DME).
The Cougar is equipped with observation domes to the cabin doors, searchlight, forward-looking infrared sensor (FLIR) and panoramic view detection radar with homing and personnel location system functions. The crew are equipped with third-generation night-vision goggles, and the mk2 Cougar aircraft cockpit and cabin area is night-vision goggle compatible.
In search-and-rescue missions involving pick-up from the sea, higher operating modes of the helicopter’s SFIM PA 165 digital auto-pilot are used and manoeuvres in transition and hovering flight are performed automatically.
The aircraft is equipped with two outboard 20mm cannons, pod-mounted rockets and two 12.7mm machine guns.
The search-and-rescue helicopter is fitted with a radar warner and a missile launch warning system. The helicopter also has radar and infrared jammers and a chaff and flare decoy system.
Eurocopter and the French ONERA research centre worked in cooperation on the jet exhaust deflectors / diluters, low infrared reflectance paint and low radar reflectance surfaces and in reducing the acoustic, radar and infra-red signatures of the helicopter.
The Cougar is equipped with two Turbomeca Makila 1A2 engines. The engines provide a maximum continuous power of 1,240kW and are able to maintain their maximum take-off power of 1,380kW for five minutes.
Centrisep multipurpose air intakes are provided for operations in high-dust / particulate or desert conditions.
For extreme long-range missions, the combat search and rescue helicopter can carry auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo hook well, sponson tanks, cabin floor tanks and up to five ferry tanks. Rescue missions of 500nm and return to base are possible without in-flight refuelling. An in-flight refuelling capability is being developed by Eurocopter.
The AS 532 U2/A2 can climb at the rate of 6.2m a second. The maximum and cruise speed of the helicopter are 278km/h and 231km/h respectively. The range and service ceiling of the helicopter are 573km and 3,450m respectively. The maximum endurance of the helicopter is four hours. The helicopter weighs around 4,560kg, and the maximum take-off weight is 9,000kg.