This year in 2021, the AS532 Cougar has been in use with the 300 Squadron of the Royal Netherlands Air Force for over 25 years. This unit is part of the Defense Helicopter Command (DHC) and is based at Gilze-Rijen Air Base. On October 29, 1993, the contract was signed for the purchase of seventeen AS532U2 Cougar helicopters. The first medium-duty transport helicopters were delivered in April 1996. This means that in 2021 the Cougar has been in service with the 300 Squadron for 25 years. This unit is nicknamed Wildcat and that is why the helicopters often fly with this callsign. The 25th anniversary is a reason for the squadron to perform an anniversary flight by simultaneously sending six Cougar helicopters into the air in one large formation.
The planned six Cougars would make a scenic flight across the Netherlands from 1330LT. The helicopters would fly over in Roosendaal, after which a course was set for the coastline. The route continued via Hoek van Holland, Scheveningen, Hoofddorp and Utrecht. Ultimately, the helicopters would fly to Ede where a special photo shoot was organized for the formation. The Wildcat Formation would only land in Ede for a small group of photographers who had been informed up front by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The helicopters would land on the heath in two rows of three helicopters. The whole spectacle lasted only 15 minutes. The helicopters landed and would perform multiple hover formations for the photographers. After a nice demonstration, the Cougars flew on to Eindhoven for a Low Approach and then landed again at Gilze-Rijen just after 1600LT.
For the 300 Squadron, flying this Wildcat Formation a long and extensive preparation period ended to get all helicopters ready for flight. Flying such a formation requires a lot of coordination to ensure that everything runs safely. The formation was led by the commander of No. 300 Squadron who was at the controls of the Wildcat 01, which was the formation leader. Given the many positive reactions, the flight in the Netherlands has not gone unnoticed. Of the seventeen AS532 Cougar helicopters purchased by the RNLAF, twelve are currently still in operational service.
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