Mar 03, 2015 01:28 UTC
India will restart
its reconnaissance/surveillance helicopter (RSH) procurement process, after having botched the first two attempts. Previous finalist Airbus Helicopters (AS550 C3 Fennec) will compete again, along with other finalist Kamov (Ka-226T2 Sergei). And Bell Helicopter will re-enter the fray. Bell had been a part of the first competition back in 2003. It will be fielding its Bell 407GT, the militarized version of its 407GX.
How safe are the Indian Army’s aging fleets of Chetaks (Aerospatiale SA316 Alouette III) and Cheetahs (SA315B Alouette II/III mix)? These old designs have consistently proven themselves in high altitude operations, and remain useful as long as their airframes remain safe. The problem is that at their age, the safety margin is pretty slim. Or worse.
In 2003, India issued an RFP for 197 light helicopters estimating a deal worth between $500-$600 million to buy 60 helicopters outright, with the remaining 137 being built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Eurocopter’s AS550 C3 Fennec and Bell Textron’s 407 competed in the second and final round of summer trials, and as 2007 ticked toward a close, it looked like we had a winner. As often happens in India, however, the process ended up completely derailed. A new RFP out for a successor “Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter program” (RSH) went out in 2008, and testing was done in 2010. Has the RSH competition gone the way of the 1st aborted contract, even as India’s high altitude border posts struggle for adequate support?
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Feb 24, 2015 00:50 UTC
Germany is to allow its problematical NH90s back into the air after the most recent fire incident. It has a protocol solution
that involves adding steps to takeoff that would allow a pilot to anticipate imminent flames if they are about to appear. A longer-term solution is still in the works.
NH90: TTH & NFH
The NH90 emerged from a requirement that created a NATO helicopter development and procurement agency in 1992 and, at almost the same time, established NH Industries (62.5% EADS Eurocopter, 32.5% AgustaWestland, and 5% Stork Fokker) to build the hardware. The NATO Frigate Helicopter was originally developed to fit between light naval helicopters like AW’s Lynx or Eurocopter’s Panther, and medium-heavy naval helicopters like the European EH101. A quick look at the NFH design showed definite possibilities as a troop transport helicopter, however, and soon the NH90 project had branched into 2 versions, with more to follow.
The nearest equivalent would be Sikorsky’s popular H-60 Seahawk/ Black Hawk family, but the NH90 includes a set of innovative features that give it some distinguishing selling points. Its combination of corrosion-proofing, lower maintenance, greater troop or load capacity, and the flexibility offered by that rear ramp have made the NH90 a popular global competitor.
As many business people discover the hard way, however, success can be almost as dangerous as failure. NH Industries has had great difficulty ramping up production fast enough to meet promised deliveries, which has left several buyers upset. Certification and acceptance have also been slow, with very few NH90s in service over a decade after the first contracts were signed. Booked orders have actually been sliding backward over the last year, and currently stand at around 500 machines, on behalf of 14 nations.
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Feb 18, 2015 00:00 UTC
Latest updates[?]: U.S. army to purchase 41 more Lakotas for $220.5 million. That will make a total of 372 to date.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This is DID’s FOCUS Article regarding the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter program, covering the program and its objectives, the winning bid team and industrial arrangements, and contracts.
The US Army’s LUH program will finish as a 325 helicopter acquisition program that will be worth about $2.3 billion when all is said and done. It aimed to replace existing UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa utility variants in non-combat roles, freeing up larger and more expensive UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for front-line duty. In June 2006, a variant of Eurocopter’s EC145 beat AgustaWestland’s AB139, Bell-Textron’s 412EP Twin Huey, and MD Helicopters’ 902 Explorer NOTAR (No Tail Rotor) design. The win marked EADS’ 1st serious military win in the American market, and their “UH-145″ became the “UH-72A Lakota” at an official December 2006 naming ceremony.
Eurocopter has continued to field new mission kits and deliver helicopters from its Mississippi production line, while trying to build on their LUH breakthrough. A training helicopter win will keep the line going for a couple more years…
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Jan 30, 2015 08:38 UTC
Maj. Gen. Michael Lundy, the Army's aviation chief, indicated that in facing two competing technologies from two vendors for the medium-capacity variant of the Future Vertical Lift program, the Army would like both. One can be fitted for the troop carrying role, and the other for the attack/reconnaissance role. The Bell V-280 Valor (tilt rotor) has been theoretically competing against the Sikorsky/Boeing SB>1Defiant. Lundy told BreakingDefense.com
that the decision was akin to the split between the Apache versus the Black Hawk.
The plan depends on the assumption
- that other services have not been quite as bold in making - that sequestration will be lifted for FY 2016 onward. Lundy's tone was fatalistic, indicating that the Army was planning for that one rosy scenario because the others - however likely - wouldn't suit: "If we went to the worst case, it would affect almost every modernization program we’ve got in our branch."
In addition to vanquishing sequestration, the Army's modernization plans hinge on Congress approving their ARI plan, which involves shelving Kiowas and replacing that reconnaissance capacity with Apaches taken from reserve units, among other decisions that would be unpopular in many individual congressional districts.
The future is now
The JMR-TD program is the science and technology precursor to the Department of Defense’s estimated $100 billion Future Vertical Lift program, which is expected to replace between 2,000-4,000 medium class UH-60 utility and AH-64 attack helicopters after 2030.
In reality, FVL will fall far short of that number if it ever goes ahead, but those figures are the current official fantasy. While they’re at it, the Pentagon wants breakthrough performance that includes the same hovering capability as smaller armed scout helicopters, and a 100+ knot improvement in cruising speed to 230+ knots. That’s almost certainly achievable, thanks to new developments that involve very different helicopter designs.
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Jan 30, 2015 01:00 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Airbus sacked its military aircraft chief as European partners chafe at continuing delays in the delivery of the A400M heavy lift plane. Domingo Ureña Raso is out and the program's industrial activities will be transferred to another unit. A wider reorganization is underway, the details of which are to be announced in late February.
A400M rollout, Seville
Airbus’ A400M is a EUR 20+ billion program that aims to repeat Airbus’ civilian successes in the full size military transport market. A series of smart design decisions were made around capacity (35-37 tonnes/ 38-40 US tons, large enough for survivable armored vehicles), extensive use of modern materials, multi-role capability as a refueling tanker, and a multinational industrial program; all of which leave the aircraft well positioned to take overall market share from Lockheed Martin’s C-130 Hercules. If the USA’s C-17 is allowed to go out of production, the A400M would also have a strong position in the strategic transport market, with only Russian AN-70, IL-76 and AN-124 aircraft as competition.
Airbus’ biggest program issue, by far, has been funding for a project that is more than EUR 7 billion over budget. The next biggest issue is timing, as a combination of A400M delays and Lockheed’s strong push for its C-130J Super Hercules narrow the field for future exports. This DID Spotlight article covers the latest developments, as the A400M Atlas moves into the delivery phase. Will Airbus’ 3rd big issue become its own customers?
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Jan 27, 2015 02:40 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Boeing conducted a flight test from Payne Field in Everett, Washington. The four-hour flight was uneventful.
KC-135: Old as the hills…
DID’s FOCUS articles cover major weapons acquisition programs – and no program is more important to the USAF than its aerial tanker fleet renewal. In January 2007, the big question was whether there would be a competition for the USA’s KC-X proposal, covering 175 production aircraft and 4 test platforms. The total cost is now estimated at $52 billion, but America’s aerial tanker fleet demands new planes to replace its KC-135s, whose most recent new delivery was in 1965. Otherwise, unpredictable age or fatigue issues, like the ones that grounded its F-15A-D fighters in 2008, could ground its aerial tankers – and with them, a substantial slice of the USA’s total airpower.
KC-Y and KC-Z buys are supposed to follow in subsequent decades, in order to replace 530 (195 active; ANG 251; Reserve 84) active tankers, as well as the USAF’s 59 heavy KC-10 tankers that were delivered from 1979-1987. Then again, fiscal and demographic realities may mean that the 179 plane KC-X buy is “it” for the USAF. Either way, the KC-X stakes were huge for all concerned.
In the end, it was Team Boeing’s KC-767 NexGen/ KC-46A (767 derivative) vs. EADS North America’s KC-45A (Airbus KC-30/A330-200 derivative), both within the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress. The financial and employment stakes guaranteed a huge political fight no matter which side won. After Airbus won in 2008, that fight ended up sinking and restarting the entire program. Three years later, Boeing won the recompete. Now, they have to deliver their KC-46A.
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