The Ecuadorian Army has taken delivery of the first two of nine Ecureuil AS350 B2 light utility helicopters under contract from Eurocopter at La Balvina in Sangolquí, Ecuador.
The delivery follows the contract awarded under an extensive modernisation programme in July 2010 to replace the existing fleet of SA 315B Lama helicopters currently in service with the army.
The AS350 Ecureuil is a multipurpose light utility helicopter powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 engine and is designed for passenger transportation, aerial activities and law enforcement missions.
The new Ecureuil is equipped with a cockpit compatible with night vision goggles (NVG) and rescue hoists and can also be used for army pilot training programmes and reconnaissance, as well as search and rescue (SAR) and firefighting missions.
The aircraft features an aerodynamic strake fitted to the tail boom, an angled engine exhaust duct for better yaw control and can travel for three hours at a speed of 140 knots.
Additionally, Eurocopter will also deliver seven Fennec AS550 C3 support helicopters under the same contract by 2015 to replace a total of 19 SA342 Gazelle helicopters.
The AS550 Fennec is a single-engine lightweight military helicopter capable of operating at temperatures above 50°C and at an altitude of 6,000m.
The helicopter features a NVG-compatible cockpit, day/night aiming system and a nose-mounted, forward-looking infrared radar (FLIR) with laser for scout, close air support and urban warfare missions.
Currently, the Ecuadorian army operates 30 Eurocopter helicopters, including two Ecureuil AS350Bs, two A315B Lamas, two SA316 Alouettes, 19 SA342 Gazelles and four AS332 Super Pumas aircraft.