Old birds yield slowly

By Staff Writer | May 1, 2015

An HH-60H from Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (HS) 11 during recent operations. The HS-11’s cruise onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt marks the Navy’s last deployment of SH-60Fs and Hs. MH-60s will replace them.

Major vertical lift-related events in the last two months kicked off aviation’s annual trade show season, with expositions focused on the U.S. Army and Navy following close on the heels of Heli-Expo in early March

The Army Aviation Association of America (“Quad A”) held its annual gathering March 23-25 in Nashville, Tenn., while the Navy League hosted its 50th annual Sea-Air-Space April 13-15 in National Harbor, Md., on the outskirts of Washington. The latter exposition covers the full range of Navy and Marine Corps operations, but included updates on their helicopter, tilt-rotor and vertical-takeoff-and-landing jet programs.


Helicopters were a focus of the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition, held April 14-16 in Shanghai. In the Southern Hemisphere, attendees and exhibitors gathered April 14-17 in Rio de Janeiro for the 10th LAAD Defence & Security trade show, which is sponsored by the Brazilian ministry of defense.

Here we present highlights of the Army Aviation and Navy League events. The other shows are addressed in Rotorcraft Report (on pages 14 and 15).

New Army Engine

The new Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) is the Army’s number one priority, the service’s acquisition chief told attendees of the 2015 Army Aviation Mission Solutions Summit. The more than 5,000 attendees included Army aviators, civilians and more than 200 representatives from 22 other countries.

The Army’s assistant secretary for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Heidi Shyu, said the Army wants the new engine as a more powerful, more fuel efficient, drop-in replacement for the General Electric T700s that power its Sikorsky UH-60s and Boeing AH-64s so those helicopters can fly more effectively in high and hot conditions anywhere in the world. ITEP’s increased range, she said, will also save the Army in the number of helicopters it needs.

The ITEP engine’s requirements are to burn 25 percent less fuel and produce 50 percent more power than the 2,000-shp-class T700 and its variants.

The Army’s goal is to bridge a capability gap by supplying ITEP engines for Black Hawks and Apaches before the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) fleet is fielded. The new-start FVL is intended to produce a new family of light to heavy vertical-lift aircraft with great commonality by the mid-2020s. The Army wants ITEP engines fielded by then.

Shyu told Rotor & Wing the Army is trying to get ITEP approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), adding the program looks “pretty sound” and that the Army has already developed its acquisition strategy.

So far, two contractors are pursuing ITEP, Shyu said: General Electric and a Pratt & Whitney-Honeywell joint venture called Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC). Both contractors have invested a fair amount of their own money in addition to the Army’s science and technology (S&T) investment, she said..

The two competitors anticipate a request for proposals for a preliminary design review this month, marking the conclusion of the program’s science and technology validation phase. That phase sought to validate that industry has the technology to meet ITEP’s goals and develop mature engine designs for an engineering and manufacturing development phase that is to start in early 2019.

JMR Updates

A precursor to FVL is the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMR-TD) initiative, and contenders on that project updated their efforts at Quad A.

The Sikorsky-Boeing team said it had selected additional supplier partners working to develop, build and field the SB>1 Defiant.

East/West will provide troop seating. Honeywell will contribute an initial current health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) and a next-generation version after 2016 for flight test. LORD Corporation will develop the Defiant’s active vibration control systems and tension-torsion rotor head components. The Robertson Fuel Systems/Liquid Measurement Systems joint venture will provide the Defiant’s crashworthy fuel system. Swift Engineering will design and manufacture a major portion of the rotorcraft’s airframe.

Bell Helicopter displayed a full-size mock-up of its JMR contender, the V-280 Valor next generation tilt-rotor, at Quad A. Photo courtesy of Bell Helicopter.

Also selected were:

•Avionics: AiTech, Amrel, Esterline, Garmin, L-3, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and SCI.

•Blades: Galaxy, Hexcel, Janicki, Models & Tools, RCT, Smart Tooling, Technology Marketing and Visioneering.

•Rotors: FAG Aerospace, RTI International, SKF, Taylor Devices, Weber Metals and Wyman Gordon.

• Drive: Triumph.

•Propulsion: Arrowhead, Ducommun, Enviro Systems, Honeywell, Mass Systems, Pratt & Whitney and Triumph.

•VMS: Anaheim Precision, Arwkwin, Avionic Instruments, BAE Systems, Eaton, Esterine-Mason, Esterline-BVR, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, LORD, Meggitt-Oeco, Northrop Grumman, Parker, Safran, Triumph, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, Whelen Eng and Woodward.

Bell Helicopter displayed a full-size mock-up of its JMR contender, the V-280 Valor next generation tilt-rotor. The V-280 mock-up was shown in both attack and utility configurations. The first flight of the next generation tiltrotor is scheduled for the second half of 2017.

Bell says the V-280 tiltrotor will provide unmatched speed, range and payload, along with unmatched agility at the objective.

Quad A Honors

The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) took top honors at Quad A. CWO4 Michael Siler of the regiment’s 1st Battalion became the sixth Nightstalker to receive the Michael J. Novosel Army Aviator of the Year Award.

Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wright of the 160th’s Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion receives Quad A’s James H. McClellan Aviation Safety Award.

Sgt. 1st Class Eric Wright of Company B in the Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion received the James H. McClellan Aviation Safety Award for his outstanding individual contribution to Army aviation safety in the previous calendar year.

Wright, serving as both the company’s safety NCO and officer, executed 10 site surveys for the unit’s offsite training areas, the safe execution of 10,000 flying hour program, and the training of all civilians, contractors, and active duty personnel within the organization. He is the fourth Nightstalker to win this award. Trainer Bid

At Navy League, Finmeccanica-AgustaWestland’s North American government business unit, along with Bristow Group, Doss Aviation and Rockwell Collins announced that they are in discussions to form a consortium to develop a turn-key solution to address the rotary-wing pilot training needs of U.S. military and government customers.

The solution would provide for total life-cycle support and cost management around the Philadelphia-built AW119Kx, the best-in-class single engine aircraft well-suited as a versatile platform for pilot training.

The services-based support solution would include provision of training helicopters, simulators, ground instruction, fleet management and maintenance of the aircraft.

“This solution will lift the financial burden of buying -- and ease the burden of supporting -- commercial aircraft for government and military customers with pilot training needs,” said AgustaWestland North America CEO Robert LaBelle. “It will allow them to focus their vital resources on core military missions instead of investing unnecessarily to recapitalize a total end-to-end pilot training system.”

Navy Retirements

The Navy’s SH-60 helicopters are making a historic cruise onboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

The deployment that began March 11 marks the last on which a helicopter antisubmarine squadron flies the SH-60F and H Seahawk models. Upon return, the HS-11 Dragon Slayers will transition to a helicopter sea combat squadron and start flying the MH-60S.

The departure of the Rescue Hawks marks the end of an era. A funding dispute between the Navy and the joint Special Operations Command has led to the shutdown of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadrons 84 and 85. They are the Navy’s only dedicated special operations squadrons.

The dispute arose because the Navy did not want to fund dedicated special operations squadrons. The Special Operations Command, however, did not pay for the Navy squadrons.

The dispute has prompted the Navy to assess the utility of the MH-60S in supporting Navy SEALs and other special operations forces.

A fixed-wing Navy retirement may add opportunities for the V-22. The service is phasing out the C-2A Greyhound as its primary “carrier onboard delivery,” or COD, logistics aircraft.

The Navy currently plans for the Bell-Boeing Osprey tilt-rotor to take over the COD mission. Early this year, the service said it will procure an initial set of four V-22’s starting in fiscal year 2018. The 35 Greyhounds will not leave the Navy fleet until the mid-2020s.

Hot Wash

Any discussion of the V-22 at sea prompts questions about the effects of its jet blast when the nacelles are near vertical. The Marines’ short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B provokes similar questions. Now the Navy says it is making progress on defining the modifications needed to mitigate those effects on its large amphibious ships.

The Navy’s program manager for amphibious warfare (PMS 377), Capt. Chris Mercer, told the Navy League gathering April 13 that engineering and developmental testing on board the USS America (LHA-6) has clarified how the Navy can make its large-deck amphibs better able to handle the hot downwash.

“We now understand what we need to do to the ship in terms of environmental effects mods,” Mercer said. “Many of those mods are being done post-delivery for LHA 6.”

F-35B Tests

This month, the F-35B is scheduled to begin its first shipboard operational testing.

Set for May 18-30 onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1), the testing will involve six of the jump-jet version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Navy said the Wasp required 21 modifications to handle the STOVL testing and regular operations of the F-35B. Those modifications will be made on all L-class ships during planned availabilities and on new ships as they are being built.

Bigger Fire Scout

The larger version of the MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopter has completed 297 test sorties and is slated to begin initial operational testing and evaluation in 2016, Navy League attendees learned.

The Fire Scout program manager, Capt. Jeff Dodge, told a briefing at the that the larger, faster UAS is “a great fit” for the Navy.

In addition to its size and speed, the MQ-8C has greater range and endurance that the original MQ-8, which was based on the Schweizer (now Sikorsky) 333 manned helicopter.

The MQ-8C instead is based on the Bell 407 and can carry more fuel and cargo than the -8B.

Changes incorporated on the -8C include the use of a four-bladed main rotor compared to the 333’s three blades. It also uses a hardier engine, the Rolls-Royce M250.

The MQ-8C can fly at up to 135 knots, compared to the MQ-8B’s top speed of 85 knots. The bigger helicopter can also carry up to 2,650 pounds in a sling load or an internal payload of 500 pounds.

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