Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program
October 25/17: The US State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of the potential foreign military sale of 12 Bell UH-1Y twin-engine, medium-sized utility helicopters to the Czech Republic. If approved, the Central European nation will be the first foreign operator of the rotorcraft. Valued at an estimated $575 million, the package includes 25 T-700 GE 401C engines, 13 Honeywell Embedded GPS/INS systems and 12 7.62mm M240 Machine Guns. Other items requested by Prague include the Brite Star II FLIR system, aircraft survivability equipment, the AN/AAR-47 missile warning and laser detection system, AN/ALE-47 counter-measure dispensing systems, and joint mission planning systems. Bell Helicopter, Textron and General Electric Company will act as principal contractors on the deal.
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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