Skip to comments.New Heavy Lift Helicopter Starts Development
Posted on 01/09/2006 4:48:45 PM PST by SandRat
NAVAIR PATUXENT RIVER, Md., Jan. 9, 2006 A new heavy lift helicopter is now officially in the pipeline for the Marine Corps following a Dec. 22, 2005 decision by the Honorable. Kenneth R. Krieg, under secretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to authorize the Heavy Lift Replacement program here to begin a $4.4 billion development program for the aircraft.
A "Cost Plus Award Fee" contract for the System Development and Demonstration phase, estimated to be approximately $2.9 billion, is expected to be signed with Sikorsky in March 2006.
An Initial System Development and Demonstration contract worth $8.8 million to Sikorsky was signed January 3. A follow-on ISDD contract is expected in several weeks. An exact figure for that contract is not yet known.
The ISDD contracts cover continuing risk reduction efforts and sub-system selection (including cockpit, engines, fuselage, etc), while the SDD contract covers most aspects of research, design, test and evaluation efforts performed by Sikorsky for the new helicopter.
Fleet Marines should start receiving the first of 156 new marinized heavy lifters, to be called the CH-53K, in 2015. Which is none too soon for the program manager, Col. Paul Croisetiere.
Or the Marine Corps, which has been relying heavily on the aging CH-53E Super Stallion in the increasingly relevant heavy lift mission.
Since the first Gulf War, Marine Corps vertical heavy lift has been getting further and further away from the original requirement it was developed to meet, a behind the lines logistics support aircraft, Croisetiere explained.
From the Scott OGrady rescue mission in the Balkans to delivering critically needed combat support in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, were wearing out the aircraft because it has been in incredibly high demand since the mid 90s. The CH-53E has proven to be extraordinarily relevant to the execution of our national security strategy, Navy and Marine Corps warfighting concepts and the associated need for capable heavy lift, he said.
Because the current aircraft has performed such yeoman service outside of the spotlight, it hasnt been given the attention squeakier wheels in the Defense Department arsenal have over the years.
We currently have an under-resourced fleet, Croisetiere said. In the 25 years it has been in service we have not had the investment necessary to effectively address obsolescence, reliability and maintainability issues. We also have a significant fatigue life issue looming. A Service Life Assessment Program conducted on the CH-53E determined that the service life is 6,120 flight hours based on the aircrafts transition bulkhead section (location of the tailbooms fold point). Based on our current and predicted usage rates, we anticipate the current fleet will start reaching this fatigue life limit in FY11 at a rate of up to 15 aircraft per year. Not only is this an expensive fix but it will require significantly increased management attention to ensure we have sufficient numbers of aircraft available to meet our operational commitments."
We have to start now if were going to have new CH-53Ks on the flight line ready for tasking when we start parking the Echoes, Croisetiere stated.
Marinized rotary wing heavy lift is a very necessary capability that demands a very capable platform to accomplish, explained Lt.Col. Stewart Gold, the heavy lift programs deputy for logistics support.
The ability to deliver very heavy loads in extreme/austere conditions in support of Marine infantry, including combat, anywhere in the world comes at a price. On average, it costs approximately $15,000 and requires 44.1 maintenance man-hours for each flight hour, Gold said.
Technologies under consideration in the CH-53K, which is being developed as a new-build derivative of the CH-53E, will include a Joint Interoperable glass cockpit; high-efficiency rotor blades with anhedral tips; low-maintenance elastomeric rotorhead; upgraded engine system; cargo rail locking system; external cargo improvements; and survivability enhancements.
Marine Corps acquisition officials also weighed the option of participating with the Armys Joint Heavy Lift program.
The Armys proposed heavy lift requirement to transport the Future Combat System greatly exceeds our requirement, Croisetiere said. The actual aircraft hasnt been designed yet, but initial analysis suggests the joint heavy lifter will be too large to operate from current and programmed amphibious shipping. We may have a use for it, but in more of a logistical role as a possible KC-130J replacement we still need the CH-53K for tactical heavy lift.
Joint Heavy Lifters may not be available any sooner than 2025, according to Croisetiere more than 10 years after the Marine Corps will start parking its current fleet.
We cant wait for the Joint Heavy Lifter, he added. And even if we could, we still couldnt use it because as currently envisioned, its too big to operate from our amphibious ships. It will be an incredible platform, but it wont be a sea-based vertical lifter.
With more than twice the combat radius of the CH-53E, the CH-53K uses mature technology to deliver a fully shipboard compatible platform to meet current and future Marine Corps requirements, he explains. The CH-53E doesnt even meet the heavy lift requirements that are considered necessary to meet the anticipated threats in 2015. The CH-53K is being designed to carry a cargo load of 27000 pounds out to a distance of 110 nautical miles, to an altitude of 3000 feet at an ambient temperature of 91.5 degrees F. One of the more appealing capabilities of the CH-53K will be its performance in mountainous areas in hot day conditions. If we had it today it would be the perfect aircraft for combat operations in Afghanistan and relief operations in Pakistan.
Heavy lift program Marines expect to sign a Cost Plus Award Fee contract, worth an estimated $2.9 billion, with Sikorsky for the System Development and Demonstration Phase of the CH-53Ks development within the next few months, according to Croisetiere.
The first CH-53K, a flight test aircraft, is scheduled to make its first flight in FY11. Initial operating capability, or IOC, is scheduled in FY15 and is defined as a detachment of four aircraft, with combat ready crews, logistically prepared to deploy.
Yeah!!!! New Choppers to come down the line.
The Marine Corps' CH-53E has the highest operational support cost of any aircraft in the fleet.
Wouldn't you like to get $2.9 Billion worth of business guaranteed plus a sizable award fee on top of it. One would think the taxpayers (and our service men) would be better served by competitively procuring these helicopters based on performance and price.
The number of bidders, in general, is very limited, sometimes only one.
Compliance and oversight on a Government contract is, in a word, unbelievable ( even for members of this board).
I worked for a major tire manufacturer in the 80's that was involved in the production of tank tracks. Sounds funny , but in those days tank tracks had rubber inserts to minimize civilian road damage. I asuume that's still the case today.
We had approx. 15 government compliance inspectors on site, who litteraly would bring pillows to work so they could sleep during the work day.
This was fine by us, because when they were sleeping they weren't screwing us up.
Later on in my career, I was barred from negotiating government contracts for the company, simply due to the cost of compliance and, of course, the possibility of litigation.
The "System" sucked then, and I assume it still does.