The U.S. Marine Corps is beginning to develop its own requirements for a next-generation rotorcraft and hopes to find common ground with the U.S. Army as it leads the Future Vertical Lift program.
“The requirements for the Marine Corps for an attack/utility replacement are structured around our operations, our … philosophy reaching an objective from the sea, reaching out at range similar to what the V-22 has,” Col. David Walsh, program director for Marine Corps light/attack aircraft at Naval Air Systems Command, said Aug. 15.
That’s “different from what the Army is looking at in some cases,” Walsh explained at a lunch hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland.
Whatever the Marine Corps buys must fit on an LPD-class amphibious ship, keep up with and range with the V-22 while covering all the missions of the legacy Huey and Cobra. The Marine Corps is specifically looking at Capability Set 3 for an attack/utility aircraft that it plans to field in the mid-2030s. That timeline would have the new rotorcraft serving alongside the H-1 fleet for about 10 years before the transition is complete in the mid-2040s, Walsh said.
Army documents lay out the requirements for Capability Set 3 as cruising at between 230 and 310 kt with a combat radius between 229 and 450 nm, an internal payload of between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds and external carrying capacity of 6,000 to 8,000 pounds.
Marine Corps requirements track with those, but add shipboard compatibility and a combat radius of at least 450 nm with a 30-min loiter time on station, which would match the V-22. It also wants one platform with a reconfigurable cabin that can meet the mission objectives of both an attack and a utility platform.
“We’re all about expeditionary operations from the sea,” he said. “Our needs are to have that sprint-at-long-range capability. … I think that’s the focus of this analysis of alternatives, to balance the Army and Marine Corps requirements, to see if there is a common solution in Cap Set 3 between us and the Army.”
An ongoing analysis of alternatives, led by the U.S. Defense Department, should determine how common the services’ requirements are and then how common a solution is available to satisfy most or an acceptable portion of those common requirements, Walsh said.
Fiscal year 2018 is the first year the Marine Corps has funding to start formulating requirements for whatever will replace the H-1 fleet.
“It’s kinda weird to think we’re still going to be building H-1s for a couple years and we’re already talking about a replacement, but that’s where we are,” Walsh said.