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Joint Heavy Lift (JHL)

Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) seemed like a good idea at the time, but eventually the ground combat vehicles that were to be transported became too heavy for plausible vertical lift aircraft. The Joint Vertical Aircraft Task Force developed requirements to meet Army and Navy needs for a heavy lift transport rotorcraft that was expected to include, at a minimum, a 20-ton payload lift capability. The Army hadn't settled on what kind of aircraft it envisioned: it could be a quad tiltrotor, conventional helicopter, or a hybrid. Boeing's Advanced Army Systems continued to work with the Defense Department's Joint Vertical Aircraft Task Force to define requirements for this new platform. There was also a NATO task force investigating European heavy lift requirements, which offers a unique opportunity for a common solution to meet similar requirements.

Efforts to develop a new heavy lift helicopter program were to support the ground vehicles that were to be an integral part of Future Combat Systems (FCS). Since it started in 2003, FCS had been at the center of the Armys efforts to modernize into a lighter, more agile, and more capable combat force. FCS was cancelled in 2009 after spending $18 billion. At that time the FCS Infantry Carrier Vehicle had a weight of 27-29 tons, rather more than the M2 Bradley [25 tons] and Stryker [19 tons]. Designs for the replacement Ground Combat Vehicle had a weight of 64 to 84 tons, before it was cancelled in 2014.

Mounted vertical maneuver (MVM) was the Armys concept of a future capability to move mounted, protected forces by air across extended distances, from positions either outside or inside the boundaries of the joint operations area (JOA), to strike directly against critical enemy objectives throughout the depth and breadth of the battlespace. If realized, MVM was to provide extraordinarily versatile new options that will extend the reach and power of future joint force commanders (JFCs). It would enable JFCs to respond more effectively to opportunity or uncertainty, to conduct forcible entry, to isolate portions of the battlefield, to exploit success, and to expose the enemys entire force to direct attack by mobile ground forces at any point. Furthermore, MVM could be one of the key means future JFCs use to accelerate the defeat of the enemy by combining the defeat mechanisms of dislocation and disintegration, as described in both joint and Army futures concepts. The operational benefits that this kind of capability affords were so great that the Army thought MVM should be pursued as a national program.

The Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) was an advanced Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) capable aerial system that was intended to overcome enemy anti-access strategies, execute operational maneuver, leverage sea basing in order to expand Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare capabil ities, conduct mounted and dismounted vertical envelopment; and perform aerial delivery and sustainment operations. The ability to achieve military objectives in future combat environments requires the rapid delivery of Joint-Interagency-Multinational forces and distributed tailored support packages.

A joint force capable of full spectrum dominance must possess unmatched speed and agility in positioning and repositioning tailored forces from widely dispersed locations to achieve operational objectives qui ckly and decisively. With the ongoing transformation of joint forces to be lighter, more lethal, and capable of deploying from multiple dispersed locations worldwide, the need for a JHL solution has been recognized by the services and documented in the form of a draft JHL initial capabilities document (ICD).

The Army and the Marine Corps both need a future transport helicopter to replace existing heavy lift rotorcraft. The costs for Defense Department weapons systems, including rotorcraft, continue to escalate making it imperative that the Department take advantage of any and all means including reducing the number of system development programs where it make sense to contain costs. Additionally, the Department must take advantage of economies of scale in production.

Present world-wide operations demonstrated that the future for ground forces was joint operations with the Army and the Marine Corps. A key ingredient in these operations was systems interoperability. One way to not only contain costs but also facilitate interoperability was to, where possible; develop joint systems for the Army and the Marine Corps. While in the past there may have been a desire on the part of both services to differentiate by using different equipment, this was no longer a valid fundamental consideration.

Joint Heavy Lift Rotorcraft (JHL) Not Joint

The Joint Heavy Lift Rotorcraft (JHL) program was `joint' in name only and was only intended to be the Department of the Army's next-generation heavy lift rotorcraft to replace the Army's CH-47 Chinook. The Marine Corps has its own program, the Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR), intended to replace the CH-53E Super Stallion.

Although the Marine Corps called its program the "Heavy-Lift Replacement" it was a medium-heavy-lift capability by Army standards. The Marine CH-53K Super Stallion HLR - Heavy Lift Replacement has a threshold requirement to carry 27,000 lb over 110 nm unrefueled. The Army HLVTOL - Heavy Lift VTOL was an aircraft with the ability to deliver one 40,000 lb FCS within a radius of 1,000 miles [1,600 km].

As of 2005 the timelines for heavy lift rotorcraft replacement were not the same for the Army and the Marine Corps. But some claimed it was possible to establish a competitive program based on a single joint requirement that phased rotorcraft delivery in a manner to meet both service schedules.

In the past issues such as corrosion control requirements, range, lift capability and ship basing have been used to justify separate programs. However, it was clear that in the future both the Army and the Marine Corps will operate from and be transported by ship and therefore, require the same level of corrosion control, be subject to other considerations mandated by ship based operations, and need be capable of similar long ranges.

Marine Corps acquisition officials weighed the option of participating with the Army's Joint Heavy Lift program. The Army's proposed heavy lift requirement to transport the Future Combat System greatly exceeds Marine requirement. The actual aircraft hasn't been designed as of 2006, but initial analysis suggested the joint heavy lifter will be too large to operate from current and programmed amphibious shipping. The Marines may have a use for it, but in more of a logistical role as a possible KC-130J replacement, so the Marines still need the CH-53K for tactical heavy lift.

Joint Heavy Lifters may not be available any sooner than 2025, more than 10 years after the Marine Corps will start parking its current fleet. The Marines can't wait for the Joint Heavy Lifter, and even if they could, they still couldn't use it because as initially envisioned, it's too big to operate from amphibious ships. It will be an incredible platform, but it won't be a sea-based vertical lifter.

Joint Heavy Lift Rotorcraft (JHL) Developments

In FY05 the Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) program initiated Joint Concept of Operations Refinement and Aerial System Concept Design Analysis. This formulated Joint Integrated Product Teams for programmatic, technology, and requirements support. In FY06, the plan was to develop initial concept designs and assess performance characteristics relative to evolving joint requirements, and initiate a Joint Analysis of Alternatives (AoA). In FY07 the program will complete Concept Design Analysis and Configuration Assessments, and will complete the Joint AoA and develop a draft Capabilities Development Document.

Provisions in the FY2006 House Defense Authorization bill required the Army and the Marine Corps to work together on a joint heavy-lift helicopter. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.)the chairman of committee's Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee, said on the floor "We have services each wanting their own individual platforms while accomplishing the same objective. We put language in this that says they cannot do that. We cannot afford to have the exact same helicopter for the Army that meets the exact same need of the Marine Corps. Why do we not come together with one platform for both?" Accordingly, the Heavy Lift Rotorcraft replacement program was restructured and combined with the Joint Heavy Lift rotorcraft program.

The FY2006 budget request included $272.0 million in PE 65212N for systems development and demonstration for this program. The foundation on which the JHL must proceed to development and production was a single, joint requirement, validated and approved by the Secretary of Defense. While it may not be possible for each service to include precisely the capability it desires, it must be possible to agree on the essential capabilities to be included in JHL and at the same time draft a requirement that does not in and of itself force a particular technology solution.

In May 2005 The House Armed Services Commmittee required the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Army to develop a single, common JHL requirement for approval by the Joint Requirement Oversight Council and the Secretary of Defense. The Comittee directed the Secretary of Defense not authorize the JHL program to begin until a validated and approved joint requirement existed, with a common set of requirements to preclude unnecessary delays in upgrading the military services heavy lift capability.

The FY2006 House defense authorization bill contained a provision (sec. 219) that would prohibit a new program start for a heavy lift helicopter until the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy develop a single, common Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) requirement approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) and the Secretary of Defense. The Senate amendment contained no similar provision.

In the 18 December 2005 conference report on the FY2006 Defense Authorization Act, the Senate receded with an amendment that would exclude the CH-53X Heavy Lift Replacement (HLR) program from the requirement for a single set of requirements for a heavy lift helicopter. The conferees agreed that the Army and Marine Corps should jointly develop any next generation heavy lift helicopter and that the foundation of any such program must focus on a single, joint requirement validated by the JROC and approved by the Secretary of Defense. However, the conferees also understood that the Army's JHL concept was centered on a rotorcraft capable of lifting a Future Combat System platform, while the Marine Corps' HLR program was intended as a CH-53E follow-on.

The five designs analyzed by the Joint Heavy Lift concept design and analysis team had a design payload of 40,000 pounds. The two pure helicopters (the Technology Crane and the Advanced Tandem Rotor Helicopter) had design cruise speeds comparable to current helicopters, whereas the three hybrid, or compound lifters, had design speeds of around 250 knots or higher.

  1. The Sikorskys Technology Crane is a coaxial configuration and does not need a tail rotor. All heavy loads would be external and the only internal payload would be in a 14-seat cabin with sliding doors.
  2. The Advanced Tandem Rotor Helicopter is based on proven Boeing concepts in the CH-46 and CH-47 designs for the Navy and the Army, respectively. The tandem rotor configuration obviates the need for a tail rotor. In incorporates an internal carriage with a split ramp door.
  3. The Sikorsky High Speed Lifter design is a coaxial rotor configuration with hingeless rotors and auxiliary propulsion for forward flight. No wing is required. The aircraft is capable of straight in loading for internal carriage.
  4. The Bell-Boeing Quad Tilt Rotor is a four-rotor configuration that would leverage Bell-Boeings experience with the V-22, a dual engine tilt-rotor. Both front and rear wings provide lift in forward flight. There is uncertainty about the aerodynamic interaction of the four rotors.
  5. Karem Aircrafts Optimum Speed Tilt Rotor would tune rotor speed for efficient aerodynamics and low fuel consumption. It also would carry loads internally. The design has an "aggressive" empty weight fraction.

Although not addressed in the JHL deliberations, an engine development program would be needed for any of these designs. The maximum shift horsepower of current helicopter engines is insufficient, and an emphasis would be needed on greatly improved SFC to achieve the ranges being discussed for these heavy vertical lifters.



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