Canadian firm Viking Air of Sidney, BC achieved a double-breakthrough with its recent sale to Vietnam. Its modern DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 400 variant of the legendary global bush plane will become the Vietnamese military’s first western aircraft, and the Vietnamese Navy’s first fixed-wing aircraft.
While Vietnam has attracted a lot of attention for its recent submarine and fighter deals with Russia, its long coast and large Exclusive Economic Zone interests made its current lack of fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft a major handicap. The new Twin Otters will be used for transport, resupply, maritime surveillance, and search and rescue throughout Vietnam’s coastal regions. Their short takeoff and fresh water landing capabilities could even make them useful in parts of Vietnam’s interior.
Vietnam’s Twin Otters
Representatives of the Vietnamese Navy, in collaboration with the GAET Company from the Ministry of Defense, worked with Viking and its local representative, Canam Active Enterprises Inc. for several years to develop this contract. The 6 Twin Otters are said to have sold for about C$ 6 million each. Three will be equipped for amphibious operations, with convertible interiors covering VIP, commuter, and utility layouts; the other 3 will be equipped as designated “Guardian 400” maritime patrol variants. The sale also includes sensor package options, and a comprehensive spares support package.
Ikhana Aircraft Services in Murrieta, CA handled the Guardian 400 conversion. Their RWMI DHC-6-400RG Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) raises the Twin Otter’s maximum operating weight from 12,500 pounds to of 14,000 lbs. on wheeled landing gear, or 13,600 lbs. on amphibious floats. An IAI Elta ELM-2022A maritime radar system and MiniPOP day/night surveillance turret are added, along with crew operating and convenience stations that include a lavatory and upgraded climate control.
The ELM-2022A is especially interesting. Its 256-target Track-While-Scan (TWS) capability is very good, but may be challenged in the very crowded environs of the South China Sea. In addition to maritime surveillance of large targets up to 200 nmi, IAI notes that the ELM-2022A “shares a high degree of commonality with the EL/M-2032 Fire-Control Radar [that equips many fighters], enabling Air-to-Air operationa [sic] modes.”
The Twin Otter’s low operating cost and endurance make that a very interesting option for Vietnam, which needs better aerial and maritime awareness. The 3 Guardian 400 Twin Otters are a long way behind even the small C295-AEW collaboration between IAI and Airbus. On the other hand, they’re an affordable start that can also help Vietnam begin the process of training their fighter pilots to operate with surveillance aircraft.
Contracts & Key Events
Contracts & Key Events
July 14/14: 1st Guardian MPA. Ikhana Aircraft Services in Murrieta, CA congratulates Viking Air Ltd. and Israel’s IAI and ELTA Systems Ltd. on the delivery of Vietnam’s 1st DHC-6-400 “Guardian 400” Twin Otter maritime patrol aircraft. Ikhana handled the conversion from DHC-6-400, using expertise from their RWMI DHC-6-300RG/-400RG™ Supplemental Type Certificate to increase maximum take-off weight, and adding internal systems along with IAI ELTA’s ELM-2022A maritime radar and day/night sensors.
When asked, Ikhana said that the other 2 Guardian 400s would be delivered by the end of the summer. Sources: Ikhana, “IKHANA Aircraft Services Congratulates Viking Air Ltd, ELTA, and the Vietnam People’s Navy for DHC-6-400 Twin Otter Guardian Delivery”.
Sept 5/13: Vietnamese Navy chief of staff Vice Admiral Pham Ngoc Minh leads a ceremony in the northern city of Haiphong, forming the VPN’s DHC-6 seaplane squadron. Source: China’s Xinhua, “Vietnam establishes seaplane squadron”.
July 10/13: Training. The 1st contingent of Vietnam Navy pilot delegates graduate flight and maintenance training for the Viking Guardian 400. They represent 8 of 37 total Vietnam People’s Navy students enrolled in the program.
The program clocked about 500 flight hours and 350 cycles on runway, soft field, and water-based operations, with 6 weeks of mechanical training for the technicians. Viking Air Field Support Representatives will be based in Vietnam as a supplement. Sources: Viking Air, June 18/13 and July 10/13 releases.
Nov 23/11: Training. Viking Air says that flight training has now begun in Victoria, B.C. for the first contingent of Vietnam Navy pilot delegates. It’s part of a 17-month course that includes English as a Second Language training at Camosun College, followed by flight and technical training at Viking’s sister organization, Pacific Sky Aviation.
If they run into any problems, Canada has a large Vietnamese community, especially on the west coast, so help is close at hand. Sources: Viking Air, Nov 23/11 release.
May 4/10: Contract signed for 6 planes, 3 of which will be the Guardian maritime patrol variant.
Deliveries will take place from 2012 – 2014. All technical and flight training, from initial pilot qualification through to DHC-6 amphibious float operating experience, will be provided by Viking’s Pacific Sky Aviation, based at Victoria International Airport. In addition to Viking Air as a spares supplier, Team JAS in Jacksonville, FL and Universal Avionique Inc. in Miami, FL have become the first factory-endorsed component centers for Viking’s aircraft. Victoria Times-Colonist | ASD News | Wings magazine.
* Viking Air – Twin Otter – Series 400.
* Ikhana Air Services. Did the conversion work for Guardian 400 planes.