Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program
February 10/17: Bell Helicopters will provide long-lead items and components for the US Navy’s AH-1Z aircraft. valued at $49 million, the agreement covers 27 Lot 15 AH-1Z Vipers operated by the USMC, and work is expected to be completed by March 2018. According to manufacturer Bell, the AH-1Z is the only helicopter in the world to feature air-to-air missile attack capabilities.
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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