The folks at Boeing concerned with rotorcraft have established a pre-AUSA media lunch in Washington, D.C. The aviation and specialist press are invited to hear summaries on the OEM’s rotorcraft performance in 2011 and an outlook for 2012 from U.S. Army program managers that participate.
David Koopersmith, vice president of attack helicopter programs, began by saying that 50 aircraft had been delivered in 2011, which includes the first four Apache Block III helicopters to the U.S. Army. He said that manned/unmanned (MUM) teaming had reached Level 4 control from an Apache and that it was now possible to change the sensor direction and waypoints within an unmanned aerial system (UAS) from the Apache. He likened the MUM relationship to a ‘hunter-hound’ approach.
Col. Shane Oppenshaw, Apache program manager, said that the ongoing aim was to keep the Apache “sustained, ready and relevant.” He added that there were now only 18 A model AH-64s remaining in units and that the last one would be withdrawn in May 2012. Oppensham added that the full rate production decision was expected in July/August this year but that he “could not be more pleased with the way it is going.”
Leanne Caret, vice president of H-47 programs, reported that at the end of 2011 eight new-build MH-47Gs had been requested for the U.S. Army’s special forces. She said that, following the major refurbishment of the factory at Ridley Park in Philadelphia, aircraft production was at five aircraft per month now but ramping up toward six.
At the meeting Caret announced 14 new orders for CH-47F aircraft worth $370 million, seven for the Australian Defence Force (ADF), six for United Arab Emirates Air Force under a previous Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement and one additional for the U.S. Army. Boeing now has an order book for more than 200 new Chinooks worldwide. In 2011 the UK ordered a further 14 Chinooks (12 additional and two replacements) in an order worth $1.6 billion, which included development and the first five years of servicing. Caret summarized by saying that she expected 65 new CH-47 aircraft to be delivered in 2012.
Col. Bob Marion, cargo helicopter program manager, said that he had visited every deployed unit during 2011. He added that the two most requested improvements, when asked, were for a cargo onload/offload system (which is being developed) and a more streamlined maintenance process which gave greater insight into vibration monitoring. He said that a proposal had been submitted to the Department of Defense (DoD) for Multi-year II funding from 2013 for five years, which would help the U.S. Army further reduce the cost of acquisition of Chinook F models at it transforms to an all CH-47F/G fleet.
“High readiness rates were being reported from Chinook users worldwide,” stated Ray Haddad, global service and support director for worldwide support. “We are now talking about affordable readiness—the same readiness at lower cost.” He said that the New Equipment Training Teams (NETTs) had been a tremendous success and were popular with operators, as they had taken training on the new CH-47Fs to the unit’s home base, allowing crews to spend more time close to home. He said that the 7th and 8th units had been equipped in this way during 2011 and that the 9th and 10th would follow in 2012. He added that the new aircraft modifications facility at Melville worked on 43 aircraft the previous year.
Haddad said the focus moving forward would be on supply chain improvements and also performance-based logistics (PBL) improvements, especially concerning blades. He forecast a 10 percent reduction in costs through increased supply availability. He said that the United Kingdom’s Through Life Customer Support (TLCS) had resulted in a 40 percent increase in flying and intended to deliver the same performance capability to the Canadian Air Force fleet of six old CH-47D and then 15 new CH-147F Chinooks.
Mike Burke, attack helicopters business development, stated—as always and with gusto—that much interest was being generated by his ‘little Apache’ AH-6is. He said that an end of year sales tour around the Middle East had meant 59 flights in five days (Dubai Airshow) and that 2012 could see the launch of the aircraft with two customers. He said that Boeing was planning a technology demonstration in the spring.
Finally, one interloper into the usual line-up was Paul Meyers, an advanced rotorcraft and concepts guy housed at Boeing’s Phantom Works. He talked in general terms but gave a brief insight into the fact that Boeing was now focused on its research into Joint Multi Role developments in line with its recent government grants (it got two—one solely for Boeing; and a joint Bell/Boeing grant—the others went to Sikorsky and AVX Aircraft). “Phantom Works was working across the whole rotorcraft spectrum,” he said. That’s something you can bet your last dollar on!