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CH-46E Replacement: America's Best Alternative
AUTHOR Major Daniel W. Kidd, USMC
CSC 1993
Thesis:   "From the Sea" compels both increased importance and
urgency be afforded DON's efforts to replace the CH-46E. The MV-
22A Osprey is America's best alternative in terms of military
effectiveness, life-cycle costs, and the global exploitation of
American originated tilt-rotor technology.
     I.   The Marine Corps and Assault (A/S)
          A.   Roles, missions, and functions
          B.   Evolution of A/S
    II.   CH-46E and A/S
          A.   Genesis and historical H-46 performance
          B.   Present-day status and capability
          C.   The dilemma
   III.   Alternatives
          A.   Medium Lift Replacement (MLR) variants
          B.   MV-22A Osprey
    IV.   The "cost" of not selecting the Osprey
          A.   The state of international aerospace
          B.   The Europeans as competitors
          C.   The Japanese as competitors
          D.   Exploiting tilt-rotor technology
           by Major Daniel W. Kidd, United States Marine Corps
     In the post-cold war U. S. military, the amphibious
assault has taken on added strategic importance.  New national
strategies and service doctrine will ensure the amphibious
assault is not relegated to the list of obsolete military
tactics.  Accordingly, navy and Marine Corps practitioners of
war "from the sea" must redouble their efforts in the
acquisition of a capable, survivable, and sustainable airframe
to perform the "lion's share" of the critical ship-to-shore
movement of men and material.
     The venerable CH-46E (affectionately known as the
"Frog"), while performing this mission magnificently for
nearly 30 years, is ill-prepared to support a major amphibious
assault against even a moderately trained and equipped
defender.  "From the Sea" compels both increased  importance
and urgency be afforded DON's efforts to replace the CH-46E.
The MV-22A is America's best alternatives in terms of military
effectiveness, life-cycle costs, and the global explitation
of American originated tilt-rotor technology.
     The Marine Corps has an enduring operational requirement,
established by Title 10, U. S. Code, and Department of Defense
(DOD) Directive 5100.1, to provide the capability to conduct
assault support operations in support of the national military
strategy.  Classified as one of the six missions of Marine
aviation, assault support is defined as "the air transport of
personnel, supplies, and equipment into or within the battle
area."  Additionally, the Marine Corps' medium lift, assault
support platform must be capable of performing secondary
missions, such as, non-combatant evacuations and maritime
special operations, combat aeromedical evacuation, search and
rescue, and, finally, the multi-mission flexibility required
to adapt to diverse taskings as Marine aviation "necks down"
to fewer Type/Model/Series (T/M/S) aircraft.  Finally, this
wide spectrum of required capability is further complicated by
the need to initiate the mission while standing off "over-the-
horizon" (OTH). (7:44)  Serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for
Aviation (DCS AIR), Lt General Duane Wills may have said it
best in his 1991 annual address to Congress:
          Our medium assault helicopters are the very
     heart of Marine air-ground task forces.  In maneuver
     warfare, they provide the vast majority of our
     Marines with the tactical mobility they require on
     the modern battlefield, while also functioning as
     the primary movers of equipment and logistics
     support.  This is Marine aviation's most important
Similarly, in the wake of Operation Desert Storm, the Marine
Corps Lessons Learned System (MCCLLS) underscores the critical
nature of assault support by reporting a need for "...a
faster, more survivable, more flexible, more reliable, and
increased range/endurance assault aircraft in order to be
capable of exploiting the warfighting doctrine of maneuver
warfare, and the associated concept of OTH."
     The Marine Corps' assault support mission has belonged
primarily to the CH-46 since 1964.  Boeing Helicopter's "Sea
Knight" was originally designed to meet the following
requirements:  (1) shipboard compatible, (2) self-starting,
and, (3) cargo-ramp equipped. While the task no doubt proved
daunting at the time, the modern battlefield requires assault
aircraft to possess features unimagined in 1964.
     Moreover, there is increasing evidence supporting the
notion that dynamic components of the H-46 rotor drive system
are demonstrating unsafe levels of metal fatigue.  These
relatively recent problems threaten the operational viability
of the aircraft.  The problem centers around dynamic component
(rotor head, vertical shaft, synchronization shaft,
transmissions, etc.) service life restrictions.
     Specifically, Dynamic Component Bulletins (DCB), issued
against both forward and aft rotor head assemblies, are
creating a maintenance nightmare, eroding operator confidence,
and highlighting the need to replace "tired iron."  Simply
stated, there is credible evidence that there have been
instances of rotor head "cracking".  Even more troublesome is
the fact that the cracks have not been limited to one specific
area of the rotor head, but have been discovered from the
blade attach fitting, along hinge pin housings of the pitch-
varying arms, up to, and including the rotor hub itself.
    To help correct this condition, there is the recently
initiated Dynamic Component Upgrade (DCU) program ongoing
which is designed to replace worn components.  However, a
fleet retrofit of any consequence is years away, and while it
would go a long way to keep the Frog flying safely for many
years to come, it would nothing in the way of improving the
aircraft's capability or survivability on the modern
     Additional planned improvements, such as larger stubwings
for extended range, upgraded avionics suites, night vision
compatible cockpits, and emergency flotation capability have
been funded.  Fleet operators and maintainers welcome these
improvements, but they are also keenly aware that they fall
far short of transforming the Frog into a 21st century assault
support platform.
     The CH-46 has served America superbly for nearly 30
years, and will undoubtedly continue to serve into the next
century.  Nevertheless, 30-year-old helicopters which are
demonstrating technical obsolescence, escalating cost of
ownership, and increasing performance deficiencies, are not
the platforms to transport young Americans to the increasingly
lethal battlefield in.  America needs a replacement--now!
     The early 1980's saw Marine Corps leadership recognize
the need for replacing the ageing CH-46.  Consequently, a
Joint- Service Operational Requirement (JSOR) was approved in
1982 by then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.  The JSOR
directed all services to purchase a single, medium-lift
aircraft based on the recently validated tilt-rotor technology
of the MV-22A developed by the industry "team" of Bell
Helicopter Textron Incorporated (BHTI) and Boeing Helicopters.
The program progressed well.  Money was available, and lessons
learned during the acquisition of other aircraft, such as the
AV-8B and CH-53E, were applied to avoid repeating mistakes.
The V-22 program had a reputation for doing things right.
     However, a total program cost of 30 billion dollars (55
million per copy) received a good deal of scrutiny when the
budget pendulum swung inevitably back to more restrained
defense outlays.  In April of 1989, the Defense Resource Board
(DRB) recommended cancellation of the V-22 program.  Then
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney moved quickly to cancel the
program, and offered his perspective during congressional
testimony when he stated, "I think it's probably a good
aircraft, but I could not justify spending the amount of money
that was proposed on a very narrow mission that I think can be
performed in another fashion, specifically, by using
helicopters."  Mr. Cheney was wrong.  The concept of "From the
Sea" is not "narrow" in scope or execution.
     A significant amount of political "posturing" ensued
between the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and
Congress.  Widespread Congressional support for the V-22 is
easy to understand considering the contracting team of
Bell/Boeing spread their sub-vendors across all 48 continental
United States.  Nevertheless, the official Congressional
response was to direct a Cost and Operational Effectiveness
Analysis (COEA) be accomplished to evaluate industry proposals
submitted in responbe to five separate Request for Proposals
(RFP) to explore any approach that might assist in meeting the
medium lift requirement at a lower cost.
     The primary purpose for the ongoing COEA is to examine
industry alternatives to the Osprey.  Several aircraft are
being examined as the process continues.  To date, the
"players" have included the CH-46E (with all approved
Engineering Change Proposals installed), CH-47 (both basic and
"marinized" version), CH-53E (basic "Echo" with -416 engines
and 650-gallon external tanks), EH-1O1 (U. K./Italian
collaboration of their utility model to include a folding tail
pylon), S-92 (Sikorsky Seahawk in a new aluminum fuselage),
and the HH-60H (basic H-60 with capability to carry two 120-
gallon external tanks).
     Each aircraft brings attractive qualities to the
examination, but only two serious contenders stand out: the
Boeing BV-360 Demonstrator and the Bell/Boeing MV-22A.
     The Marine Corps' single requirement to replace its CH-46
fleet gave birth to both of these aircraft.  However, after
the V-22 initially "won" the contract, Boeing elected to
continue with the BV-360 as a focus for developments in
helicopter dynamics and structures.  Dubbed "son of Frog" by
the industry, the aircraft was privately funded to verify
advance technologies useful in Boeing's other rotorcraft
programs.  The finished product combines twin 4,200 shp
engines, low-drag composite fuselage, high-speed airfoils, and
integrated cockpit electronics into one of the most advanced
rotary wing aircraft ever built.  The BV-360 is very
impressive.  All of the primary and secondary structural
elements of the fuselage, and most of the dynamic components,
such as rotor blades, hubs, swash plates, shafting, and rotor
controls, are made from composite materials.  (2)
     Initial flight tests offer quantum performance
improvements, such as a 20% increase in payload, a 30%
increase in speed, and a 60% increase in productivity over
present rotary wing technology.  Unpublished reports from the
COEA indicate that the only aircraft consistently approaching
the V-22's performance parameters is the BV-360.
Additionally, both aircraft are self-deployable beyond 2,000
miles (Osprey has in-flight refueling capability while the 360
must use internal, auxiliary tanks).
     However, the 360 does not compare as favorably in other
categories such as survivability, OTH capability, and
potential armament.  No conventional helicopter is capable of
matching the tilt-rotor technology of the Osprey.  The Osprey
possesses superior range, speed, endurance, survivability, and
communication/navigation.  Accordingly, the Osprey offers an
unparalleled ability for avoiding surfaces, exploiting gaps,
and maximizing the effect of maneuver and surprise at the
tactical and operational level.
     As is the norm in times of decreasing defense budgets,
the problem with the Osprey is the price tag.  If the Marine
Corps were to buy all 500-plus aircraft originally programmed
at 55 million dollars per copy, total outlays exceed 30
billion dollars.  The Osprey is a major program even by
today's standards.
     It would seem Boeing Helicopter could advertise the BV-
360 as a cheap, viable alternative to the Osprey.  However,
the 360 was not originally designed as an alternative to
anything specific.  Only one aircraft was built with private
funds to explore the state-of-the-art and support Boeing's
other rotorcraft programs.  Utilizing the 360 as a replacement
for the Frog would require an entire new program proposal, and
given the associated time and expense involved with such
proposals, could render the 360 too expensive when considering
performance trade-offs.
     Furthermore, studies by the Institute for Defense
Analysis (IDA), the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,
NASA, and the BDM corporation have compared the mission
effectiveness, and life-cycle costs of the Osprey to those of
several of the helicopter alternatives to include the BV-360,
and the "mixes" of various helicopters.  The results of these
studies were published in the November 1992 edition of Air
Power and concluded that "...the V-22 is the most capable and
most cost-effective of all the potential medium lift aircraft
alternatives that have been considered.
     Evidence supporting the MV-22's selection as the Marine
Corps' best alternative for assault support into the 21st
century is compelling.  However, Department of Defense (DOD)
or service parochialism aside, the larger issue is which is
the best alternative for America?  Given the current and
projected defense industry outlook, ferocious global
competition, and emerging national military strategy, the
importance of exploiting the Osprey's tilt-rotor technology is
significant and serves to illustrate an industry-wide dilemma,
i. e., acquiring the capital to develop and market
technologies, in both military and civilian application,
faster than international competitors.  America needs to
demonstrate the viability of tilt-rotor technology in real-
world application before the opportunity is lost.
     The combination of the tough economic environment,
brought about by a world-wide recession, and the collapse of
the communist threat, which underpinned the western defense
industry, has caused a shakedown of the aerospace industry
which few could have predicted as recently as three years ago.
Major corporations have consolidated and downsized, and famous
names have disappeared in a period of unprecedented change.
     Like the automotive and steel industries of 20 years ago,
America's aerospace industry is being challenged on the world
market from abroad.  The pressure originated in western
Europe, but the more dangerous threat to America's last "crown
jewel" may well reside in Japan.  The Clinton administration's
plans to reduce the defense budget exacerbate the situation to
a degree which may require DOD to skip an entire generation of
new weapon systems and rely on upgraded versions of existing
systems.  (8:44)
     The American defense industry will be affected in varying
degrees.  It is, however, safe to assume that "big ticket"
items such as aircraft, missiles, and electronics resident in
the aerospace segment will take a major portion of the cuts.
The President's professed support notwithstanding, the V-22
has not begun Full Scale Production (FSD), and remains
     Industry's problems are many and complicated, but two
issues are critical.  The first is the nature of the
industry's international competitors.  The strongest are
supported by governments that have made aerospace a national
priority.  This national support is certainly not
unreasonable, given aerospace's strategic importance as a
driver of technology and innovation.  Conversely, the second
is the U. S. government's puzzling attitude toward aerospace
exports which stimulate employment, and make the largest
contribution to the U. S. balance of payments.  Unlike
aerospace companies in other countries, U. S. industry leaders
must grapple with government policies that impede rather than
enhance export sales.  (1:9)
     In defense of U. S. policy makers, there seems to be a
new willingness to confront the current crisis in both the
national and export markets.  International market forces are
requiring fast and efficient reaction to a rapidly changing
political and economic climate.  The present administration
seems to support its predecessor's efforts to implement a
whole series of policy adjustments aimed at making U. S.
aerospace more competitive on the export markets.
     Competing with the European Community (EC) and Japan for
a share of the global market (defense and non-defense) is
becoming more and more critical to the U. S. aerospace
industry.  In the face of shrinking Defense budgets, American
companies can no longer rely solely on their government as a
customer if they are to survive.  Whereas the U. S. defense
industry was never really serious about the export market,
this has now changed.  The U. S. market is about to be too
small to allow for the survival of meaningful R&D and
production capabilities.  Again, tilt-rotor technology is a
perfect example of one way to gain entry to the global market.
     It is appropriate to briefly examine the major
competitors.  While the EC certainly possesses the existing
aerospace infrastructure to develop and market tilt-rotor
technology, it is unlikely that they will anytime soon.  The
new European geopolitical and military factors that will
influence all funding and operational decisions are extremely
complex.  When coupled with faltering economies across Europe
and falling defense budgets, the chances of EC collaboration
on tilt-rotor technology seems remote.
     Plus, much of the urgency initially felt by American
industry at the prospect of unified European competitor has
subsided in the wake of a collapsed Soviet Union and the end
of the cold war.  The concomitant effect of a smaller market
with too many suppliers has left the European competitive
threat weakened.  (9:40)
     The inevitable fallout of the EC's current problems is an
increase in European protectionism which will make it
difficult to export tilt-rotor, or any other technology in the
near future.  However, improvement in the world-wide economy
could quickly ameliorate the present forecast.  In summary,
the European threat of capitalizing on tilt-rotor technology
seems remote while European markets are potentially ripe for
tilt-rotor exploitation, particularly in civilian application.
     Japan offers a more serious challenge.  Until recently,
the Japanese were not significant aerospace competitors.
There is increasing evidence that this situation is changing.
     It can be argued the real winner of the cold war was
Japan.  Unrestrained by prohibitive military expenditures,
their focus of effort was centered on manufacturing consumer
goods to satisfy world demand.  Accordingly, they establish an
engineering and manufacturing prowess of considerable renown.
Their previous successes on the world market demand a healthy
respect be accorded their aerospace potential.
     The Japanese approach has always been the same with
respect to economic strategies.  Once the decision is made to
enter a market, a product is selected, usually at the low-cost
end of the spectrum, and used to gain experience and initial
market share.  Once creditability is established, there is a
relentless move "up market."  In every case, American
industries did not recognize the power of Japanese competition
until it was, literally, too late.  (9:13)
     How many times do we intend to learn this lesson?  What
is particularly disturbing with respect to American tilt-rotor
technology is the Japanese proven ability to use designs
originating from sources outside Japan.  The strength of
Japanese manufacturing lies in their ability to exploit
existing technology by continually refining and improving the
"process."  It is these same powerful manufacturing skills
that have created a competitive Japanese aerospace industry
which has grown at 9 percent a year since 1984.  (9:15)
     There are additional characteristics of Japan's
competitive strategy.  In their quest to dominate certain
international markets, Japanese companies, aided by the
Ministry of International Trade (MITI), have tended to follow
a similar path.  First, they build a reputation as an
excellent subcontractor and supplier, then they move to become
partner with an increasing share of the risk.  The value of
partnerships is that they enable Japanese companies to rapidly
learn the specific technologies and skills they lack which,
when combined with their manufacturing expertise, create a
powerful competitive capability. (9:14)  Paul Kennedy, in The
Rise and Fall of the Great Powers reports succinctly an
example of this particular Japanese strategy:
          The Japanese Aircraft Development Corporation
     efforts to join with Boeing in order to produce new
     generation, fuel-efficient aircraft for the 1990's--
     denounced by one American expert as a "Faustian
     bargain" whereby Japan will provide cheap finance to
     acquire U. S. technology and expertise--may be even
     more significant in the future.
     In the case of tilt-rotor technology, or any other
technology waiting only to be marketed, the basic question is
whether the increasingly capable Japanese aerospace industry
will be a threat, or a partner to American aerospace.  Time
will tell, but based on previous lessons painfully learned, to
underestimate the Japanese competitiveness assumes incredible
     The Japanese penchant for leaving "pure" science to the
Americans, and tapping it only when the commercial relevance
becomes clear must stop.  (6:464)  America must not allow
foreign competitors to successfully market American
technology.  Japan is America's most difficult challenge for
the rest of the century.  It will prove a much harder and more
intense competition than the previous political-military
competition with the former Soviet Union.  (5:4-5)
     Times have changed.  American policies with respect to
international competition must also change.  The U. S. holds
no monopoly on advanced technology or marketing expertise.
Aggressive foreign competitors will battle for larger shares
of the global aerospace market.  A coherent policy, which
unifies government's strategic goals with industry's
requirement to successfully compete is crucial.  Government,
to include DOD, must continue to heed the call of industry, or
risk weakening a proud pillar of the American economy.
     The MV-22 Osprey is the best choice for replacing the
Frog.  While the tactical advantages made possible by tilt-
rotor and composite technology are readily apparent, they take
on critical importance in view of the Navy's fundamental shift
to the "From the Sea" doctrine.  Coupled with the aerospace
industry's requirement to develop and market technological
advantages, the Osprey is clearly America's best alternative.
Aerospace contractors have been downsizing, divesting,
teaming, and reorganizing with a fervor of late--just to
survive.  And in the fury of it all, it's hard to say whether
it's shrinking smart--or just shrinking.  (4:132)  Marketing
technology with the military and civilian potential of the
Osprey is "shrinking smart."
1.  Aviation Week and Space Technology, August 24, 1992 ed.
        "Heed the Alarm." (9)
2.  Boeing Transitions, Fall 1987 ed. Vol. 3, No. "World's
        Largest All-Composite Helicopter Enters Flight Tests."
3.  Bonsignore, Ezio  "Whining Doesn't Help."  Military
        Technology, (Vol.XVI, Issue 10, 1992): 5.
4.  Costello, Robert B.  Letter to the Editor.  "Shrinking
        Our Defenses." Harvard Business Review, (January-
        February 1993): 132-133.
5.  Halberstram, D.  "Can We Rise to the Japanese Challenge?"
        Parade, (October 9, 1983): 4-5.
6.  Kennedy, Paul The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.
        New York: Random House, 1987.
7.  Linn, Thomas C.  "Over-the-Horizon Assault: The Future of
        the Corps."  Marine Corps Gazette, 71 (December 1987):
8.  Morrocco, John D. "Pentagon to Rely on Weapons Upgrades."
        Aviation Week and Space Technology, (March 15, 1993):
9.  Ropelewski, Robert "Europe rates low priority in USA."
        Interavia Aerospace World, (Vol. 42 December 1992):

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