CSAR-X: And Boeing Makes One… for a Little While
Back on June 13, 2005, while covering the “US101” EH-101 variant’s approval as the next US Presidential helicopter, DID noted that the rivals for this bid (Lockheed’s “US101” and Sikorsky’s H-92 Superhawk) would likely be squaring off again for an $11-12 billion contract to provide the USA’s next generation Combat Search And Rescue helicopter. Lockheed remained firm on its European EH101 platform, while Sikorsky would eventually announce the HH-92 Superhawk as its contender in Febrary 2005.
In September 2005, DID wrote a background/analysis called “US CSAR Competition: And Boeing Makes 3…” as that firm entered the fray on two fronts. Boeing’s choices left its rivals in a difficult competitive position, and even though one of those options was withdrawn before the end of the contest, Boeing’s HH-47 would eventually win it all and fly off with a contract estimated at $10 billion for 145 aircraft. This DID FOCUS Article chronicles the CSAR-X program impetus and winning entry, as well as ongoing contracts and key events in the program as they come up.
- The CSAR-X/ PRV Program
- Chinook to the Rescue: Boeing’s HH-47
- HH-47 CSAR: Key Events and Contracts
- Additional Readings & Sources: The CSAR-X (PRV) Program
The CSAR-X competition had at least as many complications and happenings as the missions they will execute. The latest twist is big: cancellation of the program in the FY 2010 budget. Those decisions and their aftermath are covered in DID’s supplementary article “GAO re: CSAR-X… Re-Compete the Contract!“. For more information concerning Boeing’s Sikorsky & Lockheed competitors, and Sikorsky’s competitive dilemma in September 2005, read these sections from “And Boeing Makes 3…”:
The CSAR-X Program
The HH-60 Black Hawk variant currently performs many missions. It is designed to conduct day or night operations into hostile environments and especially to recover downed air crews or other isolated personnel during war. The HH-60G also participates in military operations other than war, such as civil search and rescue, emergency aeromedical evacuation (MEDEVAC), disaster relief, international aid, counterdrug activities and NASA space shuttle support.
Now an aging helicopter fleet, combined with increased threat capabilities, is creating pressure for new machines. When it first deployed in 1982, the Pave Hawk’s operational life was estimated at 7,000 flight hours. The oldest Pave Hawks in the fleet will reach that milestone soon, and Air Force Gen. John Jumper, head of the Air Combat Command, has told National Defense Magazine that the entire Pave Hawk fleet will have exceeded its 7,000 flight-hour life expectancy by 2019.
In January 1999, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) also noted that the HH-60G was deficient in areas such as survivability, range/ combat radius, payload capacity/ cabin volume, battle-space/ situational awareness, mission reaction (deployment) time, adverse weather operations and service life limit.
On October 01, 2003 the CSAR mission passed temporarily from Air Combat Command (ACC) to Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOCOM), which determined that it needed new aircraft for combat search-and-rescue missions (CSAR). Traditionally, the CSAR mission has been limited to the recovery of downed aircrew from within hostile territory. However, the mission is evolving with the nature of modern warfare to enable rapid insertion and/or recovery of special operations forces.
AFSOCOM sought 132 medium-lift helicopters to replace the aging fleet of 105 HH-60 Pave Hawks used for combat search-and-rescue missions, with the new aircraft slated for delivery by 2010. Initially, the Air Force had planned to select a replacement helicopter in 2004, but in mid-2002 this was delayed by two years. The Air Force will thus begin the process of acquiring a new CSAR aircraft in FY 2005, with an award to be made in FY 2006. The new Personal Recovery Vehicle (PRV) CSAR program was expected to involve $1.5 billion in development costs and $9.5-10 billion in production costs.
In March 2006, program authority passed back to ACC from AFSOC, but the program continued, eventually announcing Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook as the winner in early November 2006. The program is variously estimated at between $10-15 billion. The USAF’s $15 billion figure includes operations and maintenance estimates, while Boeing’s $10 billion estimate includes development and acquisition only. The total number of helicopter could be as high as 145, with 4 test platforms and 141 helicopters.
A USAF article notes that the program will take place in two parts. The first increment, Block 0, will deliver an improved capability. The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) milestone is scheduled for 2012, and will involve 10 operational aircraft. If the Department of Defense exercises the second increment (Block 10), the acquisition program could continue through 2019.
Chinook to the Rescue? Boeing’s HH-47
Enter Boeing in September 2005, with a pair of very different wild cards. One was a PRV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor in partnership with Textron, but that entry was withdrawn in October 2005.
The other was a variant of an old standby – the CH-47 Chinook. Built on a new airframe, the Boeing HH-47 CSAR-X rescue aircraft is equipped with advanced countermeasures and structural, avionics, and survivability enhancements similar to those utilized in U.S. Special Operations MH-47G heavy assault rotorcraft. Many of these enhancements were also adopted in the new CH-47F Chinook transports.
The Chinook had a number of issues in its favor: proven long-range performance, significant combat experience, and proven performance under difficult conditions including the “hot and high” environment of Afghanistan. Variants are in use by militaries worldwide.
Like its existing Special Forces counterpart, the HH-47 would be fully equipped to include a net-ready cockpit, forward-looking infrared (FLIR), terrain-following and terrain avoidance radar, and in-flight refueling capabilities. The HH-47 also touts a fully coupled autopilot, integrated multimode radar for nap-of-the-earth and low-level flight operations in poor visibility conditions, improved digital maps, and Link 16 capability. SOCOM doesn’t talk much about its technology, but it’s highly likely that most if not all of these capabilities are already in use or in the process of being installed in 160th SOAR “Night Stalkers” MH-47E/Gs.
Features that are likely to be new include special corrosion protection for the fuselage and rescue hoist, improved power, vibration reduction and transportability enhancements, an environmentally controlled patient treatment area, a 48-inch starboard door, rotor blade de-icing and wire strike protection. With its internal auxiliary fuel tanks, the HH-47 would be capable of self-deployment over 1,160 nautical miles without refueling.
The HH-47 will also feature uprated T55-GA-714A engines producing 4,868 maximum shaft horsepower, which enables the aircraft to reach speeds in excess of 175 mph and provides the capability to transport a payload of up to 21,016 lbs. This, too, is already a standard feature on MH-47G and CH-47F models, and these uprated engines have been ordered by Egypt for its CH-47 Chinook fleet. More countries are likely to follow, as modernization programs for the worldwide CH-47 force continue.
Finally, the new aircraft will be equipped with an improved air transportability kit, fully compliant with 3 hour pack-up and re-assembly time requirements, to simplify aft pylon removal and cut build-up time. The transportability kit approach will make strategic deployment by C-5 aircraft a simpler and faster option when speed into theater is of the essence, as it often is for CSAR aircraft. This will also help compensate for one of the HH-47’s negatives – a profile that makes naval embarkation and operations more difficult.
Boeing team partnerships include:
- Armor Holdings (Simula cockpit and cabin seating systems)
- Eaton’s Aerospace (hydraulic safety & debris monitoring)
- Ehmke (thermal acoustical blankets, fabric expertise)
- Harvard Custom Manufacturing (cables, electromechanical assemblies)
- Keystone Helicopter, a Sikorsky subsidiary (patient treatment area)
- Honeywell (T55-GA-714A engines)
- Rockwell Collins (CAAS avionics suite)
In the end this was the winning entry, beating Sikorsky’s HH-92 Superhawk and Lockheed/ AgustaWestland’s HH-101. Flight International writes that its key advantage turned out to be the extensive array of already-integrated equipment via the MH-47G, which cut the time and expense of delivery for the Block 0 and Block 10 configurations.
Even so, everything is a tradeoff. Replacing the 11-ton maximum weight HH-60 with a 25-ton HH-47 as opposed to the 15-ton Lockheed Martin US-101 and the 14-ton Sikorsky S-92 adds advantages in carrying capacity and standardization across a larger fleet, along with proven performance in difficult high-altitude or hot conditions. On the flip side, the larger Chinook is an easier target for unguided RPGs (vid. Red Wing Down in Afghanistan), needs a larger landing zone which may force it into vulnerable hover mode at times, and is louder which gives the enemy more warning that you’re coming.
The EH101 may have been hurt in the US competition by Canada’s poor experience with the CH-149. Even with the CSAR-X loss, however, it remains the US VH-71 Presidential helicopter, the heavy-duty anti-submarine helicopter flown by several European countries, and a battlefield troop transport for others. However the smaller Eurocopter/ AgustaWestland NH90 looks set to grab a dominant role in Europe in both of those capacities.
While the selection of Boeing’s HH-47 seems to indicate a preference set that might have made naval-capable HH-53X based on the special-forces capable MH-53 Pave Low attractive, Sikorsky’s CH-53 fleet will continue production under the Marines’ CH-53K program for about 150 helicopters. The H-92, meanwhile, appears to be following the S-76’s path from military competition loser to successful VIP and medium civilian helicopter. The Canadian Forces remain its sole military customer, and the US Air Force’s 66-aircraft Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) medium-lift program may be its last shot at becoming a significant military platform.
HH-47 CSAR: Key Events and Contracts
Unless otherwise specified, The Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH is issuing the contracts, and Boeing Helicopter in Ridley Park, PA is the recipient. Boeing’s Ridley Park, PA facilities are also home to the MH-47G Special Operations and CH-47F Chinook programs.
June 2/09: Cancellation The Pentagon’s DefenseLINK:
“The Air Force is terminating for convenience the System Development and Demonstration Contract for the HH-47 Combat Search and Rescue Recovery Vehicle Program with the Boeing Co., of Ridley Park, Pennsylvania for $712,156,535. This contract termination is a result of the CSAR-X program cancellation directed by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (FA8629-07-C-2350).”
April 6/09: After clearing the move with President Obama, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates takes the unusual step of making his FY 2010 budget recommendations public, in advance of their formal submission to the President. He recommends termination of the CSAR-X contract, and its possible move away from the USAF – a blow that would strike at the USAF’s own belief in its moral duty to its airmen:
“This program has a troubled acquisition history and raises the fundamental question of whether this important mission can only be accomplished by yet another single-service solution… We will take a fresh look at the requirement behind this program and develop a more sustainable approach.”
February 2007 – May 2009: Legal Quagmire for CSAR-X. The GAO orders the USAF to re-compete the contract – twice! The key to the first decision was the bid’s model for determining competitor costs, which the GAO agreed was not followed. The second decision called the whole program into question, and created a full re-compete among the 3 bidders.
That article will remain the focal point for all news dealing with the re-compete, and for interim developments involving the competitors.
Nov 21/06: Both Lockheed (Nov 20) and Sikorsky (Nov 17) have filed formal protests over the Boeing’s CSAR-X win with the Government Accountability Office. The firms expressed concerns that the criteria used by the Air Force were not applied uniformly, that competitors received different instructions during the competition, and that less expensive options were passed over. See the complete Aviation Week article.
Nov 9/06: Boeing announces that it was won the CSAR-X competition with its HH-47. The release sets the program value at $10 billion, and notes that Boeing expects to produce 4 test aircraft and 141 production HH-47s.
Nov 9/06: A $712.2 million cost-plus-award fee/ incentive-fee contract. This initial contract award is for Block 0 System Development and Demonstration (SDD) of the Combat Search and Rescue Replacement Vehicle (CSAR-X) program. At this time $3 million have been obligated. Solicitations began October 2005, negotiations were complete September 2006, and work will be complete in 4th quarter FY 2012 with initial operational capability (FA8629-07-C-2372). A US Air Force Link story notes that this initial contract could be worth up to $4.1 billion to Boeing as Block 0 continues up to IOC in 2012.
Aug 14/06: Boeing formally selects Honeywell engines for the HH-47. Unsurprisingly, it’s the T55-GA-714A turboshaft engine like the MH-47G and CH-47F. Honeywell are currently delivering more than 200 engines per year to the U.S. Army to upgrade their fleet, and the new engines have been proven in the sand, heat and high altitude of Iraq and Afghanistan. Additional system features include inlet particle separators for longer life and an infrared suppressor for reduced aircraft signature.
July 27/06: Boeing formally selects Eaton Aerospace as a partner. Eaton Aerospace manufactures and supplies critical flight safety components for the CH-47 Chinook hydraulic system and specialized debris monitoring detection technology for the helicopter’s engines and transmission system. Operations in Jackson, MS; Costa Mesa and Glendale, CA; Jackson, MI; Glenolden, PA, Bethel, CT and Sarasota, FL, support the production of these complex products.
July 11/06: Boeing announces an agreement with Rockwell Collins, Inc. of Cedar Rapids, IA to provide the avionics systems for the proposed HH-47 Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) helicopter program for the U.S. Air Force. The Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System already serves on the MH-47G and CH-47F Chinook variants.
June 28/06: Boeing selects Armor Holdings as a partner for its Simula cockpit and cabin seating systems. The cockpit seats are qualified to the latest U.S. military requirements and include adjustable cushions for pilot comfort and reduced fatigue over long missions. The cabin seats can be stored and support the mission-required configurations of the aircraft. The seating systems also have energy-absorbing capabilities that provide protection to the occupants under crash conditions.
June 13/06: Boeing announces an agreement with Keystone Helicopter of West Chester, PA, to design, manufacture and deliver a patient treatment area for the HH-47. Sikorsky subsidiary Keystone will design and manufacture an interior patient treatment area to provide life-sustaining emergency medical care for up to six littered or eight ambulatory patients. Keystone’s new design facilitates rapid installation, removal and storage of the medical interior, while providing unobstructed access to each patient.
March 3/06: Boeing announces an agreement with Harvard Custom Manufacturing of Salisbury, MD. HCM will make electronic cables, harnesses and electromechanical assemblies for the HH-47. HCM applications include complex cables and harnesses, mechanical and box build assemblies, avionics and space flight hardware for an array of military and commercial customers. Its electrical assemblies are found in several military aircraft, including the CH-47 Chinook, V-22 Osprey, E2-C Hawkeye, EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler.
Feb 16/06: Boeing announces an agreement with Fluid Mechanisms in Long Island, NY to supply the machine package for the aft pylon and ramp sections of the HH-47’s airframe. This includes including 242 machined components and assemblies, and an additional 172 purchased parts and assemblies. The AS9100 certified firm notes its ability to work with Boeing in a fully digital Model Based Definition (MBD) format, eliminating the need for paper and blueprints by using a CATIA viewer for direct analysis of electronic models. Fluid Mechanisms also upgraded its coordinate measuring machine software to allow for direct translation and programming at the inspection level, and overhauled supporting documentation and information management on the shop floor.
Feb 16/06: Boeing announces an agreement with Ehmke Manufacturing in Philadelphia, PA to produce various fabric products for the HH-47. Ehmke will assist in the design, production and integration of the thermal acoustical blankets used in the helicopter’s interor. They also offer safety harnesses, soft-sided cases, electronic carrying cases, hard cases, medical first aid kits, aviation ground support covers, straps and web assemblies.
Additional Readings & Sources
- GlobalSecurity.com – MH-47G Special Operations Aircraft
- DID Focus Article – US Army in Flight on Production of (Re)New H-47 Chinooks. Explains the modernization program for the entire H-47 fleet, which will expand the CH-47 and MH-47 special ops helicopter fleet while modernizing it.
- GlobalSecurity.org – Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) Combat Search and Rescue CSAR Replacement Aircraft Program. Offers good program history and details.
- PIXS (Preaward Information eXchange System) – Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV)
- DID – US CSAR Competition: And Boeing Makes 3…
- Aviation Week (Nov 21/06) – CSAR-X Losers Protest Award To Boeing
- USAF (Nov 21/06) – CSAF’s Vector: CSAR-X. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, USAF Chief of Staff, goes over the program and the USAF’s intent.
- Military.com (Nov 14/06) – New Chopper Too Vulnerable? Discusses the potential downsides of the HH-47 selection with a member of the US Air Force rescue community. Everything is a tradeoff.
- Flight International (Nov 10/06) – Why Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook won the CSAR-X competition
- USAF Air Force Link (Nov 9/06) – ASC plays critical role in replacement helicopter contract. ASC = Aeronautical Systems Center, who was involved along with Air Combat Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, et. al. Also contains key program details re: the initial contracts and IOC timeframe.
- Jane’s Defense Weekly (Oct 31/06) – OPINION – Beating brownout is a CSAR priority
- DID (March 6/06) – CSAR-X Update: Authority Being Transferred. AFSOC won’t be responsible for this function any more, and supervision of the contract transfers back to the USAF.
- Aviation Week (Sept 14/05) – Two CSAR-X Competitors Make Opposite Pitches. Covers Boeing’s HH-47 and CV-22. See also Boeing’s HH-47 release.
- DSCA (June 27/05) – Egypt to Update Chinook with 50 CH-47D, T55-GA-714A Turbine Engines
- Lt Gen Michael W. Wooley, USAF, Air & Space Power Journal (Spring 2005) – America’s Quiet Professionals: Specialized Airpower – Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
- Air Force Magazine: March 2005 – The Air Commandos. About AFSOC.
- National Defense Magazine (July 2002) – Search-and-Rescue Helicopter Competition Delayed Until ’06
- National Defense Magazine (Sept 2001) – Air Force Eyes Replacement for Aging Pave Hawk Helos. Includes some good information re: reqired CASR capabilities and why they’re important.
- U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet – Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk