Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program
March 2/17: After a few months of delay, the USAF may soon re-release a request for proposals for the replacement of the UH-1 Huey helicopter fleet. The delay originated after a number of manufacturers told the service their off-the-shelf solutions would not meet all of the proposed requirements, with only the Sikorsky HH-60U Black Hawk fitting the earlier requirements. Speaking on the matter, USAF chief Gen David Goldfein said that the “delay in the UH-1 replacement is actually based on the dialogue we’re having with industry and what they’re saying they can produce based on our RFP.” “We want to make sure when the RFP hits the streets it’s right,” he added. Alongside the Black Hawk, Boeing and Leonardo are looking to offer a militarized version of the Italian firm’s commercial AW139 helicopter. An attempt at providing a media flight for the MH-139, however, had to be cancelled following the malfunction of one of its modular avionics units.
The US Marines’ helicopter force is aging at all levels, from banana-shaped CH-46 Sea Knight transports that are far older than their pilots, to the 1980s-era UH-1N Hueys and AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters that make up the Corps’ helicopter assault force. While the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey program has staggered along for almost 2 decades under accidents, technical delays, and cost issues, replacement of the USMC’s backbone helicopter assets has languished. Given the high-demand scenarios inherent in the current war, other efforts are clearly required.
Enter the H-1 program, the USMC’s plan to remanufacture older helicopters into new and improved UH-1Y utility and AH-1Z attack helicopters. The new versions would discard the signature 2-bladed rotors for modern 4-bladed improvements, redo the aircraft’s electronics, and add improved engines and weapons to offer a new level of performance. It seemed simple, but hasn’t quite worked out that way. The H-1 program has encountered its share of delays and issues, but the program survived its review, and continued on into production and deployment.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record. This article covers the H-1 helicopter programs’ rationales and changes, the upgrades involved in each model, program developments and annual budgets, the full timeline of contracts and key program developments, and related research sources.
The H-1 Helicopters
UH-1Y & AH-1Z: Performance Issues
The H-1 Upgrade Program
H-1 Upgrade: Force Size & Structure Shifts
H-1 Program: Budgets & Industrial Partners
Contracts and Key Events
FY 2015 – 2017
FY 2005 – 2006
FY 1999 – 2004
Additional Readings & Sources
Helicopters & Ancillaries
News & Views
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