Boeing on Thursday 2 March unveiled its MH-139 helicopter, which the company will enter in the competition to replace the US Air Force’s UH-1N Huey fleet. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary Sikorsky are pitching their new HH-60U Ghost Hawk.
The US Air Force is looking to replace its UH-1N Hueys, which currently protect intercontinental ballistic missiles and transport government and security forces. The plan is to replace the current Huey fleet — which entered service in the 1970s — with up to 84 new helicopters.
Boeing’s revealed the MH-139 at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium. The offering is based on the Leonardo Helicopters AW139. “This northeast Philadelphia-built aircraft is sized to meet US Air Force requirements and offers more than 1 billion USD in acquisition and lifecycle expense savings over 30 years when compared to competitor aircraft,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift.
The HH-60U Ghost Hawk shares many commonalities with HH-60W combat search and rescue helos currently in production. A decision on which helicopter will eventually replace the Huey in the US Air Force, is still some time away.
Airbus Helicopters has received a order from Germany for the retrofit of 26 CH-53 heavy transport helicopters. This contract cover replacement of components that are no longer available on the market. In stead, Airbus Helicopters will begin replacing them with up-to-date parts.
The retrofit will guarantee the helicopters’ operation until at least 2030. The process will start in 2017 and should be completed by 2022. Work will be carried out in Donauwörth at Airbus Helicopters’ Military Support Center Germany.
Airheadsfly.com visited the same facility last year, and witnessed how one CH-53 was completely dismantled and inspected for signs of fatigue. The current German fleet consist of forty CH-53GA (Germany Advanced) and 26 older CH-53G models, adding up to 66 in total.
“This order enables both the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) and also our Donauwörth plant to plan ahead with certainty,” said Wolfgang Schoder, CEO of Airbus Helicopters Deutschland. “
Airbus Helicopters has been the German specialist for maintaining, repairing and modernising heavy transport helicopters for decades. We have the necessary infrastructure, highly trained professionals and can guarantee supply for all Bundeswehr models.”
Turkey and United States have confirmed earlier agreements to let Turkish Aerospace Industry (TAI) build 109 TAI/Sikorsky T70 Black Hawk helicopters, the Turkish version of the S70i.
Both the US helicopter manufacturer and TAI have now activated the contractual agreements. The machines of the so-called Turkish Utility Helicopter Program (TUHP) will be produced over the next decade in Turkey. The Turks will even manufacture a 109 additional baseline S70i choppers to Sikorsky over the next 30 years, aimed for export markets in Southwest Asia, Central Asia and Africa.
Black Hawks to the forces
Of the 109 new Black Hawks to be rolling out of the factory in Turkish Ankara the coming decade the Gendarmerie (Jandarma Genel Komutanlığı, JGK) will get the most, with 30 helicopters. Each 20 T-70s will go to the Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri, TKK), the General Directorate of Security (Emniyet Genel Müdürlüğü, EGM) to be flown by the National Police, and the Ministry of Forest and Water Management (Orman ve Su İşleri Bakanlığı, OSİB). The latter will be equipped for fire-fighting duties. The Special Forces Command (Özel Kuvvetler Komutanlığı, ÖKK) will get eleven, the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri, THK) six. Finally, a pair of T-70s will go the Gölbaşi command unit of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MİT).
Co-develop the T70
Production at the new TAI assembly line will commence in 2018 with five kit aircraft shipped from the US. From assembly TAI will move forward to become a full production plant, including the local manufacturing of entire airframe structures and rotor blades. Alp Aviation, a Sikorsky joint venture, will precision-machine the dynamic components and flight controls and assemble landing gear and transmissions. Aselsan and Sikorsky will co-develop an enhanced digital cockpit known as the Integrated Modular Avionics System (IMAS); and Turkish Engine Industries (TEI) will build engines under license from General Electric (GE).
To facilitate the development and integration of the IMAS, Sikorsky will transfer to Aselsan a new S-70i helicopter to be utilized as the Prototype Turkish Utility Helicopter for the qualification of the new avionics system in 2019.
The first T70s are planned to be operational in 2021, with the final of 109 machines scheduled for delivery by 2026. The total program is worth 3.5 billion US dollars.
The government and defence services of Turkey already fly many older S-70 derivatives, with 106 with the Land Forces and 28 with the Gendarmerie. The Turkish Naval Forces (Türk Deniz Kuvvetleri, TDK) ordering 17 new S-70B Seahawks back in 2006 to complement the seven it already had.
The German Air Force will be operating the Boeing “CH-47GE” Chinook from 2020 and onward, as a replacement of its current Sikorsky CH-53G heavy-lift helicopter. Although no official plans have been announced yet, it is a likely scenario looking at the options the military decision makers in Berlin will have to weigh.
While Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin are currently putting the new CH-53K King Stallion through its testing face, the chances of this newer 33 ton rotary wing winning the replacement order for Germany’s current G-versions are getting slimmer. Berlin might very well go for the “CH-47GE” (German Edition) of the Boeing Chinook for three very good reasons.
With NATO allies
First, with 40 to 50 million a piece, the most modern Chinook will costs about half of the CH-53K, which has a base price tag of 93 million. Second Boeing is working hard to increase both lift and range of its CH-47 model. Third the interoperability with important NATO allies will improve big time, making even joint maintenance and further cost reduction possible. For example, the US Army’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade in Germany flies the Chinook, as well as the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s support to 1 German Dutch Army Corps of 30,000 troops.
The new Chinook
Boeing plans to start testing its newest rotor blade later this year in Mesa, Arizona. Equipped with new honeycomb rotor blades, more powerful engines and other smart solutions like a new digital advanced flight-control system Boeing hopes to increase the maximum take-off weight of its most current CH-47F so the useful load will be almost 30,000 lb (13,600 kilograms). That’s 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) more than the projected Block 2 upgrade for the US Army. It puts the new Chinook on the map as air lifter for almost all smaller German Army equipment, all the way up to the Mowag Eagle IV and V wheeled vehicles of which the Bundeswehr has orderd 670.
Royal Canadian Air Force Extended Range
As for distance, the Royal Canadian Air Force already has good experiences with Extend Range fuel tanks on its 15 CH-147F Chinooks flying with 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron out of Petawawa, Ontario. The choppers are able to operate on distances up to 595 nautical miles (1,100 km) from home before refueling is needed. The CH-53K can fly up to 460 nautical miles (852 km) without reserves, but the Sikorsky’s combat range is 90 nautical miles (almost 170 km) less than that of the base-model CH-47F.
Whatever the outcome of the debate to replace the current heavy-lift chopper of the German Armed Forces, the Boeing “CH-47GE” currently has the best cards on the table. Until the new rotary wing will arrive, the Luftwaffe will soldier on with its 40 recently modernized CH-53GA and its remaining 26 CH-53s of the older G/GS standard making up a fleet of 66 impressive machines.
UPDATED | Finnish and German military rotary aircraft and their crews had a blast this week up in Scandinavia. Exercise Cold Blade 2016 put machines and men & women to the test from 7 to 18 March 2016.
Place of the winter wonderland was Ivalo far up in the most Northeastern country, with the training area being about 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border.
The Finnish Army (Maavoimat) played the leading role, with 6 of its 20 NHIndustries NH90s supported by 95 people. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) sent 2 of its 64 Sikorsky CH-53G Stallion and 70 personnel. Sweden sent some observers, while Italy dispatched a few trainees.
Operate in a challenging environment
Cold Blade, like its sister exercise Hot Blade in the Southern European countries, is aimed to train European helicopter crews and technicians to fly and operate in a challenging environment and to teach and learn techniques, tactics and procedures in those special conditions.
Finnish special forces
Simultaneously with Cold Blade the Finns ran Northern Griffin, an combat search and rescue exercise of Finnish special forces, enabling the NH90 and CH-53 crews to train with ground forces in infiltration and exfiltration. Airheadsfly.com guest photographer Johannes Heyn sent us some nice footage that we love to share with you.