contract. After a complex development phase, the prototype helicopter completed its maiden flight in November 2017. Following a successful test phase in October 2019, this helicopter was then returned to the customer.
In February 2017, as part of the 2018 Army Dispatch, the Federal Council commissioned the series project and thus the entire value retention of the Swiss Air Force's fleet of Cougars. After the successful value retention program to modernize the TH89 Super Puma to become the TH06, the TH98 Cougar was also modernized to make it the TH18. The fleet is now in technically faultless condition for continued operation until the planned end of use in the mid-2030s. The last of the eight TH18 Cougars has been modernized and returned to the Swiss Air Force as part of a ceremony.
A chapter comes to an end
For all the employees who supported the series production and made it all possible, the delivery of the last helicopter means that a chapter is coming to an end. The retrofitting of certain changes in the fleet, which took place in parallel, is now also complete, with the exception of the prototype pen serialization, which will be concluded in July. Improvements were made to the helicopter throughout the entire production process and incorporated into the fleet during the retrofitting phase so that all helicopters were in the same final state of construction.
Contract supplements allowed further system improvements to tactical communication and the ISSYS self-protection system to be offered. These improvements are currently under development and should be retrofitted in the fleet by mid-2024.
The project team will continue to work in an adapted form until these aspects are also implemented. The modernized and additional retrofit elements are being retrofitted in close coordination with RUAG's maintenance operations, which will support the installation process and the flight tests during the final phase.
As a future-oriented technology partner of the Swiss Armed Forces, RUAG makes a significant contribution to sovereign security for Switzerland. The life cycle management, operation and availability of military systems are paramount.
To extend the useful life of the helicopter, which was already 20 years old, and ensure its availability until 2035 at the earliest, RUAG modernized the fleet of TH98 Cougars. The goal of the value retention was to harmonize the Super Puma and Cougar transport helicopters. This will allow more uniform and simplified operational procedures and proper training.
RUAG is proud to make a significant contribution to Swiss sovereign security as a strategic technology partner of the Swiss Armed Forces.
On this occasion, a ceremonial handover of the last TH18 to the Swiss Air Force took place on 5 May 2022.