Snakes and Rotors: The H-1 Helicopter Program
June 19/17: Bell Helicopters is considering a plan to manufacture AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters in Romania within the next 4-5 years. News of the deal comes almost twenty years after a previous attempt to assemble the AH-1 in the country fell through. The announcement follows Bells’ signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Romanian company IAR-Ghimbav Brasov Group last November that would see the local firm cover possible maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) of the AH-1Z should it be procured by Bucharest. While Romania has yet to launch a formal tender for their replacement, Bell is just one of several manufacturers, including Airbus, who are positioning themselves for an anticipated requirement.
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
Fill in the secure form below to activate your subscription right away (or pick another plan)