Helix Surveillance Aircraft in Mozambique Operations?

By defenceWeb

An Ultimate Air/CADG Helix ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft has spent several days in Mozambique, where it has allegedly been used to monitor Islamist insurgents.

A photo of the aircraft (ZS-TAX) at Pemba Airport placed the aircraft there by 24 April. It was parked next to what appears to be a Cessna Grand Caravan belonging to Ultimate Air. Flight tracking websites showed that the Helix came back to South Africa on 25 April, and the aircraft was seen at OR Tambo International Airport outside Johannesburg on 26 April, still fitted with its surveillance gimbal.

The aircraft is believed to have been in Mozambique to monitor Islamist insurgents in Cabo Delgado province.

The Helix evolved from the Ultimate Unmanned Viper 1000C aircraft, based on the Stemme S15 motor glider launched in 2016. The resulting Helix, owned by Singapore-headquartered CADG, was unveiled at the September 2018 edition of the Africa Aerospace and Defence exhibition. Both CADG and Ultimate Unmanned are sister companies to Ultimate Aviation, which is believed to have supplied aircraft (including a Bell Long Ranger helicopter) to private military contractors in Mozambique. These contractors are believed to include Frontier Services Group and Dyck Advisory Group.

According to CADG’s website, it has regional offices in the United States, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Kenya and is most active in the Middle East and Africa, with operations in some 20 African countries. It provides aviation, logistics and procurement, engineering, construction and camp construction services, amongst others. Aviation services are rendered by sister company Ultimate Aviation, specialising in cargo and passenger transport in remote environments, including combat zones and disaster relief areas. Ultimate Aviation is headquartered in South Africa and incorporates Ultimate Heli.

CADG is offering the Helix as a platform that can be purchased outright, with CADG supplying training and maintenance support, or as a capability that can be leased by the client. Applications include surveillance, anti-poaching, maritime patrol, anti-piracy, border patrol, convoy surveillance/support, seismic mapping and geographical survey.

The Helix is an optionally piloted vehicle, capable of carrying hundreds of kilograms of sensors, including long-distance day and night cameras on two underwing hardpoints and a fuselage mount. The base model Helix-1 system can be flown with a single pilot while the mission equipment is controlled from a ground station, while the Helix-2, currently under development, can take the pilot out of the cockpit entirely. The Helix aircraft is fitted with a Hensoldt Optronics Argos II HD day and night camera.

The Helix aircraft has a wingspan of 18 metres, a maximum takeoff weight of 1 100 kg and payload of 350 kg. It is powered by a Rotax 914F2 engine delivering 115 hp giving an operating speed of 93-270 km/h and range of 1 300 km on internal fuel or 2 500 km with external fuel. The aircraft can be configured with a single pilot and a camera mounted under the fuselage, or with two seats.

In May/June 2019, the Helix was deployed to the Kruger National Park where it helped in the apprehension of half a dozen suspected wildlife poachers during a successful demonstration. Half a dozen suspected poachers were apprehended after being detected by the Helix aircraft, including during night operations. After being tracked from the air, rangers with tracker dogs were then deployed to capture the suspects.

Ultimate Air had not responded to defenceWeb enquiries at the time of publication.

This article was published by defenceWeb on April 28, 2020.