USMC Seeks Eagle Eye UAV
The U.S. Marine Corps is interested in procuring Bell Helicopter's Eagle Eye unmanned aerial vehicle tilt-rotor because that aircraft has the speed necessary to keep pace with the MV-22 Osprey, according to its deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Michael Hough.
"We want a UAV that can go 250, 300 kt. to keep up with the V-22," he said at a recent American Helicopter Society dinner. "I want it to fly for 6-8 hr. I want it to carry a 200-lb. payload, and I want it to be fixed by three guys.
"There are a couple of UAVs out there that already do this," Hough added. "I might just join the Coast Guard to take advantage of it."
The U.S. Coast Guard is procuring the Eagle Eye as part of its Deepwater modernization plan and Marine officials have said publicly that they are interested in a joint UAV procurement with the Coast Guard.
The Eagle Eye would address many of the concerns military analysts have about the V-22 in a threat environment dominated by rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired missiles and man-portable air-defense systems—all of which are growing in sophistication and lethality.
The idea, Hough said, is to send a more advanced UAV like the Eagle Eye into harm's way prior to the dispatch of the V-22. That way, "you don't put anybody in trouble," he explained.
Indeed, with the UAV "there's no reason you're going to go into a hot zone. They can tell you how, what, when, and where, because they can fly for six to eight hours; they can go six, seven-hundred miles; [and] they can stay on station," Hough added.
Enstrom Reports Product Improvements
Enstrom Helicopter has announced a product improvement program aimed at reducing product complexity and lowering operating costs for Enstrom helicopter operators, the company said. The improvements include doubling the current one-year warranty on the helicopter to two years and 1,000 hr. The company will also fully prorate all Enstrom gearboxes for their published lifetimes and has developed a single piece tail rotor pitch link on its 480B Turbine model. The improvement program covers both the piston and the turbine models.
Bayard duPont, director of product support, said that feedback from operators "is showing increasing reliability of our helicopters and we are passing the savings onto our customers."
Canada Accepts AFS Filter STC for Bell 407
Bell 407 helicopters operated in Canada will now be able to use Aerospace Filtration System Inlet Barrier Filters following acceptance by Transport Canada of the U.S. STC for the filter system.
The Canadian certification will allow Bell's production facility in Canada to install the filtration system into newly built 407s. Current operators of Bell 407s can also have the filter systems installed.
Certification of the system by Transport Canada followed in-flight snow ingestion trials by Aerospace Filtration and Aeronautical Accessories, Inc., a Bell Helicopter subsidiary. The trials were actually done in Bristol, Tenn. during a freak snowstorm earlier this year, according to Michael Scimone, AFS managing director. He added the company has now submitted all of the required documentation to get FAA STCs for the filters planned for Bell's 206L-3 and L-4 helicopters. The system for the 206s is identical to that certified for the 407, but had to be submitted under a separate certification request, he said. Certification for the 206 systems is expected later this year.
The Aerospace Filtration system includes a single filter design optimized for both hover and forward flight, improving engine performance over the entire airspeed envelope in comparison to the use of inlet particle separators. It is also designed to filter out more than 99 percent of dust and sand, giving more engine temperature margins, thus more load carrying capacity, according to the manufacturer. Scimone said the company has delivery more than 3,500 filters to military and civilian customers. They are particularly showing great success on U.S. Army OH-58Ds and AH/MH-6Js flying in Iraq, filtering out the extra-fine desert sand, allowing turbine blades to make it to TBO rather than having to be removed after only a few hours.
Canada Evaluating Helo Proposals
The Canadian government last month accepted two bid proposals—from Sikorsky and AgustaWestland—for a new maritime replacement helicopter. A contract winner will be announced this summer, at which point final contract negotiations will commence, said Jeremy Sales, spokesman for Canada's Department of National Defence.
Sikorsky is offering the S-92, with a General Dynamics' mission system. AgustaWestland is offering the Cormorant, a variant of the EH-101, with a Boeing mission system. NH Industries' NH-90, with a Lockheed Martin mission system, was ruled technically non-compliant last year.
The procurement has been controversial ever since 1993, when Canada's Liberal government scrapped a plan to buy 50 Cormorants to replace the Defence Forces's 30 antiquated CH-124 Sea Kings. The decision angered the Canadian military and resulted in cancellation fees of $500 million.
However, Canada's new Liberal Party Prime Minister, Paul Martin, has made military modernization a priority. Indeed, since taking office last December, Martin has committed to four major procurements worth a cumulative C$7 billion dollars (US$5 billion). This includes C$3 billion dollars for the procurement of 28 new maritime replacement helicopters. "This $3-billion dollar project was, in fact, one of the very first initiatives this government moved on," Martin said.
Still, the current selection criteria is controversial. The government plans to procure the contractually mandated "least expensive," rather than "best value," solution. In fact, since the proposals already have been deemed technically compliant, the evaluation process now will focus mainly on cost, Sales said.
The first helicopter must be delivered within 48 months of the contract award and then one per month thereafter. The contract provides for a C$2 million incentive for early delivery of the first helicopter and a C$3 million penalty for late delivery of any aircraft. There will be two separate but interrelated contracts: one for the helicopter itself; the other for 20 years of in-service support.
German Border Police Get More Super Pumas
The German Border Police (Bundesgrenzschutz—BGS) have purchased 10 used Eurocopter AS332L Super Puma helicopters that will be upgraded to AS332L1s as part of its fleet modernization program. These will replace 11 of the 22 SA330 Pumas now in service. Four of the aircraft will go into the BGS's coast guard and maritime patrol service and the remaining six will be used for onshore and transport service. Eurocopter will be responsible for definition, testing and certification of the four maritime aircraft. The first of these will be completed by Eurocopter and the remaining three by Astec Helicopter Services, a division of CHC. Astec will be fully responsible for the six onshore aircraft.
The six onshore AS332L1 upgrades will have three-axis autopilot, while the maritime aircraft will have four-axis autopilot, rescue hoist for SAR missions and emergency flotation devices. All the aircraft will have full de-icing equipment, night-vision goggle compatibility, tactical multi-frequency radios, AeroNav2 with digital moving maps, and provisions for sensor pods and weather radar. Conversion of the aircraft will take place through 2007.
The BGS fleet modernization program began in 1997 and includes plans for a total of 25 Eurocopter EC135s and 15 EC155s. The EC135s will replace the SA318 Alouette II fleet while the EC155s will replace the current fleet of Bell 212 helicopters. The BGS also currently operate 22 BO105s, three AS332L1 Super Pumas and 11 SA330 Pumas not counting the 11 being replaced.
Eurocopter Adds New Maintenance Center
Azur Aï¿½ro Assistance, an aircraft repair station based at Cannes (France) Mandelieu Airport and Nice Cï¿½te d'Azur Airport, has been certified as an approved maintenance center for Eurocopter helicopters. The certification covers the EC120, AS350 Ecureuil and AS365 Dauphin. Services now offered by the newly certified center include all maintenance operations up to major inspections, all aeronautical administrative procedures, JAR 145 and JAR OPS training, and customized modifications for executive/VIP configurations. In awarding the certification, Eurocopter President Fabrice Brï¿½gier said that the approval "recognizes the know-how of Azur Aï¿½ro Assistance. Since 1998, (the maintenance center) has contributed to flight safety thanks to its expertise in the field of airplane and helicopter aeronautical maintenance." The certification was received by Salim Zeghdar, general manager of the company.
Eurocopter President Fabrice Brï¿½gier (left) presents maintenance certificate to Salim Zeghdar, general manager, Azur Aï¿½ro Assistance
USAF Accelerates Common Helo Procurement
The U.S. Air Force has suspended its service life extension program (SLEP) for the HH-60G Pave Hawk and opted instead to accelerate its procurement of a new common helicopter type.
"We have some requirements that the HH-60G does not meet," said Lt. Col. Griffith Massey, who oversees requirements for the Air Force Special Operations Command. "The six main areas are speed, range, cabin space, survivability, battle-space awareness and all-weather operability."
The Air Force initially had planned to fly the HH-60G until 2020. However, Massey noted, that is not economical. The Pave Hawk is one of the most heavily used assets in Iraq and Afghanistan and thus requires "significantly more money" for maintenance, he said.
Consequently, the HH-60G service life extension program was canceled in February and replaced by a less costly and less comprehensive structural integrity program, which will keep the aircraft viable through 2012. This, not coincidentally, coincides with the establishment in January of a procurement office at the Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for a new Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV).
The new personnel recovery vehicle will replace two helicopter types: the HH-60G for combat search and rescue (CSAR) and the UH-1N Huey for domestic transport and patrol missions. Cost savings of more than $600 million will be achieved through a common helicopter, Massey said.
The Air Force expects to procure 195 medium-lift helos: 132 to replace 105 HH-60Gs and 63 to replace some 80 Hueys.
A draft solicitation with tentative requirements is expected to be unveiled this month. A request for proposals (RFP) is anticipated later this year or in early 2005. The Air Force would like to take delivery of its new common helo before the end of this decade, service officials said.
CH-124 Sea Kings Again Airborne
Canada's CH-124 Sea Kings are once again airborne and operationally deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I am satisfied, given the results of the inspections and the test-flying program, that it is safe to resume normal Sea King flying operations," said Maj. Gen. Marc J. Dumais, commander of the First Canadian Air Division.
Flight restrictions imposed on the aircraft on Nov. 3 kept the Sea King from being deployed at sea except in emergencies. This followed a ban of all flight operations, save those necessary for the preservation of life, from Oct. 29 until Nov. 3.
These restrictions were lifted completely on Feb. 27, and the Sea King began operating off the HMCS Toronto in April. The HMCS Toronto sailed to the Persian Gulf in January together with the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
The 40-year-old Sea King has been plagued with myriad problems. This most recent grounding was caused by sudden and inexplicable torque losses in the helicopter's engines.
The Canadian air force still hasn't identified a specific cause of the problem, which occurred at least three times last year. However, pilots have been given specialized training to cope with an engine loss and also for emergency evacuation procedures at sea, Dumais said.
Moreover, new maintenance procedures have been adopted, a special inspection of the torque-measuring system now is required and bleeding of that system's hydraulic fluid has become standard, he added. The Sea King is slated for replacement in 2008.
Middle East Helicopter Market Gets Own Air Show
The first Middle East air show dedicated solely to the helicopter market will be held this December in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Helishow Dubai 2004 is scheduled for this coming December 6-9 at the Dubai International Airport Exhibition Halls. Creation of the show indicates the growing helicopter market in the Middle East, and follows on the heels of the first helicopter pavilion introduced in the biennial Dubai Air Show held last December. Organizers of the Dubai Air show stated that the Helicopter Pavilion was "highly successful." (January 2004, page 40)
Abdulla A Abulhoul, managing director, Mediac Communications & Exhibitions LLC, noted that the Middle East has significant potential for both the defense and civil markets, including military upgrades, transport and utility helicopters, SAR, fire fighting, corporate/VIP operators, offshore oil support, EMS, newsgathering, agriculture and aerial inspection, plus private ownership. "A lot of effort and groundwork has gone into the planning and coordination of this high tech event and we are sure that this event is going to take off remarkably," he said. Mediac Communications & Exhibitions LLC are the organizers of the new show.
EH Industries Becomes AgustaWestland International Ltd
EH Industries has been renamed AgustaWestland International Limited, with new offices opened at Farnborough, England. The renaming was designed to mark a new era for the company "and strengthens the AgustaWestland brand," said Richard Case, managing director of AgustaWestland. It also expands the marketing of the EH101/ US101 to all of the company helicopter models. "AgustaWestland International now represents all the products of Agusta Westland in the export market and is firmly established to manage the global business," he said. AgustaWestland International Ltd. is a subsidiary of AgustaWestland, owned by GKN plc of the UK and Finmeccanica SpA of Italy.
The newly renamed company is headed by Sir Donald Spiers as Chairman and Giacomo Saponaro as Managing Director.
USMC Reiterates Support for CH-53X
The joint vertical heavy-lift aircraft does not obviate the requirement for a CH-53X remanufacture, according to the Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation, Lt. Gen. Michael Hough.
"Anything that weighs over 15,000 lb. either has to go by [CH-53E] or has to go by " joint transport rotorcraft," he said at a recent American Helicopter Society dinner. "Anything over [28,500] lb., really, has to go by JTR. There's a lot of stuff in the Marine Corps."
The joint transport rotorcraft, or 20-ton, heavy-lift aircraft, is being pushed by the Army with renewed backing from the Pentagon. The Army would like to procure a new heavy-lift aircraft by as early as 2012, when it plans to field its Future Combat System. That's also when the Marine Corps expects to begin procuring the CH-53X.
Some analysts say the Marines should forgo the CH-53X. The aircraft's mission can be fulfilled instead by the joint aircraft, they argue. ("Vertical Envelopment," March 2004, p. 30.) However, most observers—including many officials within the Army—doubt the aircraft will be procured that soon. They think the 2020 timeframe is more likely, and this scenario is driving the Marines' support of the CH-53X.
"I don't know if you can get that thing by 2012," Hough said. "It might be closer to 2015 and '16 the way things are realistically. I need the `53X. It's the workhorse. It's what makes the Marine Corps expeditionary right now. The JTR has great capability and great purpose, but it doesn't fill the CH-53X's need."
Official Helicopter Blue Book Published
HeliValue$, Inc. has issued its 2004 Official Helicopter Blue Book, providing specifications and Helicopter Equipment Lists and Prices (HELP) for 90 models of helicopters from 12 manufacturers. Manufacturers include AgustaWestland, Bell, Bell/Soloy, EH Industries, Enstrom, Eurocopter, FH 1100 Manufacturing, Kaman, MD Helicopters, Robinson, Schweizer/Hughes and Sikorsky. The annual publication lists operating and physical statistics of each model, maintenance costs, fuel consumption figures and average fuel efficiency, original list prices by model year plus resale ranges and average resale trends. It also lists available kits with resale ranges plus resale ranges of airframe parts. The Blue Book data is available both in a hard copy loose-leaf binder and on a CD. Additional information can be obtained from www.helivalues.com or by contacting HeliValue$ at 847-487-8258 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taiwan Reaches 100,000 Hr. Mark with S-70C
The Taiwan S-70C Hawks operated by the Taiwan Air Force and Navy have hit the 100,000-hr. milestone with the Navy's S-70C (M) Thunderhawks and Air Forces' S-70C Super Blue Hawks. The Taiwanese forces have been using the S-70C Hawks since the late 1980's.