By Staff Writer | March 27, 2017
This article was originally published in the June 1991 issue of R&WI, and has been edited to comply with current grammar and style guidelines. Look for our special 50th Anniversary edition of the magazine in June 2017, where we'll celebrate the past 50 years — and look ahead to the next 50 years —of rotorcraft innovations.
An informal review of Army aviation programs indicates that requests for proposals (RFP) for two new aircraft systems could be forthcoming within the next year or so. In addition, acquisition of an advanced cargo aircraft (ACA) to replace the service’s Boeing CH-47 Chinooks is being considered. Such additions to the Army’s fleet would be over and above the planned buy of 1,290-plus RUAH-66 Comanches (formerly known as LH).
One of the most sought-after programs involves acquisition of a new training helicopter (NTH). Col. Ted Sendak, the Army’s director of Combat Developments, and Col. Jim Beauchamp, director of Training and Doctrine, say the program has been “re-engergized” as a result of a new lease-to-purchase plan worked out with Army comptrollers and blessed by Congress.
Numbers are still changing, but the Army’s share of the program has settled at 180 aircraft. There is a chance that the U.S. Navy will procure as many as 100 of the new training helicopters, while the German army is said to be considering a buy of perhaps 60 such aircraft.
Beauchamp says the Army’s requirements for the NTG are simple: crashworthy seats, crashworthy fuel cells and three-across seating in the cockpit. Manufactures Enstrom Helicopter Corps., Schweizer Aircraft Corps. and Aerospatiale Helicopter Corps. have produced designs for the competition.
A draft RFP for NTH was to have been released in May. “We want rubber on the ramp by Oct. 1, 1993, and we believe we can do it,” Beauchamp emphasizes.
Selection of a winner will follow a fly-off this fall at the Army Aviation Center, for Rucker, Alabama. NTHs will replace Bell Helicopter UH-1 Hueys in the initial entry rotary wing (IERW) courses at For Rucker. Acquisition of new trainers will also stimulate an order for ground-based, nonmotion cockpit procedure trainers.
Sendak’s analysis of the need for another new system, a new light helicopter (LUH), is not complete, but his goal is to get an RFP for such an aircraft on the street by early next year. The Army, which is keeping its options open, is said to be considering procurement of 1,100 LUHs. Like the NTG, it would most likely be an off-the-shelf (nondevelopmental) buy, but a service life extension program (SLEP) for the Huey has not been ruled out.
The LUH idea seems to have stimulated a lot of industry interest. One of the largest displays at this year’s Army Aviation Assn. of America convention in St. Louis, Missouri, for instance, was devoted to the Panther 800, a joint venture of Aerospatiale, LTV, IBM and LHTEC (whose T800 engine will power the aircraft).
Despite industry enthusiasm, there are plenty of doubts about LUH’s future. Funding, of course, remains a major stumbling block. But backers of the project are banking on a Desert Storm halo effect.
The war has boosted prospects for a Boeing CH-47D replacement. Tom House, AVSCOM’s technical director, as well as director of its Research, Development and Evaluation Center, tells R&WI that the ACA program has now “moved into the top one-third of Army requirements.” That’s primarily a result of Desert Strom logistics requirements.
There is as yet no timetable for ACA bit Sendak believes a firm program will emerge from the planning process within the next two years or so.
Beyond its aircraft plans, the Army is replete with various R&D programs. An underlying AVSCOM idea is to have some sort of demonstration later this decade of a combination of new engine, pilot’s associate (artificial intelligence-based system), and rotorcraft technology (whether it should be fan-in-fin, tiltrotor). Such maturing technologies may eventually turn up in the Army’s planning of a Future Advanced Air Vehicle (FAAV).