The AS550 "Fennec" (H125) is a related militarized helicopter development of the Eurocopter AS350 "Ecureuil" series. It is a light-class, versatile dedicated utility platform intended for such roles as reconnaissance, transport and attack sorties (as well as special forces support) and has seen considerable popularity around the globe. Introduced in 1990, the Fennec was developed into two distinct flavors: the single-engined AS350 and AS550 family and the twin-engined AS355 and AS555 family. Original production forms were the single-engine AS350 L1/L2 "Ecureuil" and service introduction occurred in 1990.
The Fennec was originally a product of Aerospatiale (AS) before falling under the Eurocopter name. It is now a product of Airbus Helicopters and known under the "H125" designation and marketed as such.
Outwardly, the helicopter relies on a conventional design layout with the powerplant fitted over the roof of the passenger cabin and used to drive an overhead main rotor as well as a tail rotor (the latter via a drive shaft running through the tail stem). The engine exhausts over the tail unit. The tail unit is completed with vertical planes at its extreme aft end and horizontal planes along the midway span of the empennage. At front is side-by-side seating for two crew while the passenger cabin can contain up to four passengers. The frontal section of the aircraft is well-glazed for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. Each pilot is afforded hinged automobile-style doors. The passenger section is also home to hinged door units though these are of larger area. The chin area can support an optics fit. The undercarriage is of a simple four-point skid arrangement reducing maintenance time and procurement costs.
Other single-engine forms have included the armed AS550 C2, the unarmed utility-minded AS550 U2 and the armed AS550 C3. The AS550 C3e is now the Airbus Helicopters "H125M".
The AS550 CS sports a crew of two with seating for four. It has an overall length of 42.5 feet with a width of 35 feet (main rotor included) and a height of 10.9 feet. Listed empty weight is 2,700lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 5,000lb. Power is from a single Turbomeca Arriel 2B turboshaft engine developing 847 horsepower driving a three-bladed main rotor over the fuselage and a two-bladed tail rotor at rear (offset to starboard). Performance includes a maximum speed of 155 miles per hour with a range out to 405 miles, a service ceiling up to 17,320 feet and a rate-of-climb of 2,030 feet-per-minute.
Twin-engine variants have gone on to include the original AS355 M/M2 Ecureuil 2, the armed AS555 AF, the 20mm cannon-equipped AS555 AN, the cannon-and-rocket-equipped AS555 AR, the unarmed naval-minded AS555 MN, the navalized AS555 MR, the armed naval variant AS555 SN and AS555 SR, the training and utility AS555 UN, the utility-minded AS555 UR and the navalized AS555 SP.
Armed versions can carry the 20mm GIAT M621 series automatic cannon as well as 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine gun pods. There is also provision for seven-shot or twelve-shot 70mm rocket pods. Some attack forms have also mounted the BGM-71 TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) series weapon.
Operators of the Fennec family of helicopters includes the Argentine Army, the Brazilian Army, the Colombian Navy, the Royal Danish Air Force, the Ecuadorian Army, the French Army and Navy services, the Indonesian Army, the Royal Malaysian Army, the Mexican Navy, the Pakistani Army and the Royal Thai Army. The Republic of Singapore Air Force is a former operator.
May 2018 - Ukraine has inked a deal for a batch of H125 helicopters from Airbus.