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UH-1Y Venom (Huey)

The mission of the UH-1Y utility helicopter is to provide command and control and combat assault support under day/night and adverse weather conditions and special operations support, supporting arms coordination and aeromedical evacuation. Major modifications to the previous UH-1N include: a new 4-bladed, composite rotor system with semi-automatic bladefold, new performance matched transmissions, T700 Engine Digital Electronic Control Units (DECUs), new 4-bladed tail rotors and drive systems, more effective stabilizers, upgraded landing gear, tail pylon structural modifications, and common, fully integrated cockpits and avionics systems.

The fully integrated cockpits was intended to reduce operator workload and improve situational awareness, thus increasing safety and reducing the rate of aircraft attrition. These systems were expected to provide considerable growth potential for future weapon systems and avionics, which would significantly increase mission effectiveness and survivability. The cockpits would also include integration of on-board mission planning, communications, digital fire control, self-navigation, night targeting, and weapon systems management in nearly identical crew stations reducing training requirements. The H-1 upgrade program (which includes both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z) maximizes commonality between the two aircraft and provides needed improvements in crew and passenger survivability, payload, power available, endurance, range, airspeed, maneuverability and supportability.

The H-1 Upgrade program replaces the current two-bladed rotor system on the UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft with a new fourbladed, all-composite rotor system coupled with a sophisticated fully integrated, state-of-the-art cockpit. In addition to the new rotor system and cockpit, the H-1 Upgrade was designed to incorporate a new performance matched transmission, a four-bladed tail rotor and drive system, and upgraded landing gear for both aircraft.

The UH-1Y (previously referred to as the four-blade UH-1N or 4BN) incorporates the identical rotor system and dynamic components, which results in maximum commonality and supportability between the two aircraft. The UH-1Y returns the required aircraft power margin and provides adequate mission payload and warfighting capability growth potential.

The UH-1Y utility helicopter demonstrated a significant increase in payload, range, speed, and situational awareness over the legacy UH-1N utility aircraft. Assuming internal fuel cell problems were corrected, the UH-1Y could potentially achieve the required mission radius of 110 nautical miles. The design of the aircraft increased the possibility of tail strikes (mitigated by the redesign of the tail boom stinger), infrared signature, and hover limitations. Excessive noise levels in the UH-1Y cabin degraded mission performance and elevated cabin temperatures might change mission effectiveness in hot weather. Collectively, these problems, if uncorrected, would limit the effectiveness of the UH-1Y across the full range of utility helicopter missions.

Marking the "beginning of the end" of developmental flight testing for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y, a UH-1Y "Huey" made the first flight of a fully configured and functional H-1 Upgrade aircraft on 9 October 2003. Coming out of the last major scheduled modification period that incorporated a moveable elevator and the Thales "Top Owl" helmet-mounted sight and display (HMSD), the aircraft would soon begin the final phases of developmental testing before operational evaluation, the last milestone before a full-rate production decision, began in the fall of 2004.

The UH-1Y Huey light utility helicopter, part of the Marine Corps' H-1 Upgrades program, was approved 15 April 2005 by the Defense Department acquisition chief to be built as new helicopters rather than be remanufactured from UH-1N's then in use.

The Honorable Michael Wynne, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, signed the Acquisition Decision Memorandum that would provide new-built UH-1Ys to the Marine Corps, planned at the time to start in 2008 as part of the third lot of low-rate initial production aircraft.

Program officials estimated production costs for building the helicopters new to add approximately $100,000 per aircraft, and non-recurring engineering costs to add approximately $8.1 million, to the program for a total increase of $17.4 million for the 90 UH-1Ys. Per the President's 2005 budget, the H-1 Upgrades total program cost was estimated to be approximately $5.5 billion.

Although the H-1 Upgrades program originally planned to remanufacture 180 AH-1W Super Cobras and 100 UH-1N Hueys into the 84 percent identical AH-1Z/UH-1Y configuration, the UH-1N fleet subsequently experienced a surge in operational tempo that was not expected to abate in the near term. Coupled with the average age and attrition rate of the aircraft, as well as the marginal cost difference between a remanufactured UH-1Y and a new-build UH-1Y, the program concluded, and DoD acquisition leadership agreed, that building UH-1Ys new better supported the needs of the Marine Corps.

With the existing size and availability of the UH-1N fleet, having a number of them out of the fleet for two years to accommodate a remanufacture process would have severely and adversely impacted the Marine Corps' speed, persistence, precision and reach in conducting expeditionary maneuver warfare in support of the Global War on Terrorism and other operations around the globe.

As of mid-2005 10 UH-1Y and six AH-1Z aircraft were in production at Bell Helicopter's production facilities in Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas. By 2014, the Marine Corps expected to have procured 100 UH-1Y Hueys and 180 AH-1Z Super Cobras. The H-1 Upgrades program had achieved approximately 2,800 flight test hours between 7 December 2000 and 2005. The program was scheduled to begin its final operational evaluation in late 2005 year for both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft.

As Marine Corps aircraft, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y must be marinized to support the Corps' mission of assault from the sea. "Marinization" refers to the unique capability of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft to withstand the daily punishment of temperature extremes, salt water, high structural loads and harsh conditions associated with shipboard/austere location operations in the expeditionary environment. Specific aspects of marinization can include blade and tail folding, ruggedized avionics and airframe structure, improved corrosion resistance for both the aircraft and support equipment, ability to withstand salt water ingestion by the engines, and close quarters deck-handling ability.

In May 2006, the Navy initiated the program's fourth major restructuring effort, resulting in an approximate 18-month delay in the full-rate production decision (expected for July 2008 as of March of that year), a reduction in production quantities from 47 to 38 aircraft (UH-1Y and AH-1Z) in FY06 to FY08, and the extension of low-rate production. At the same time, the contractor had failed to meet the commitments of an increased production rate. Program officials stated that the prime contractor's delivery schedule was a key risk that could affect the UH-1Y initial operational capability. The prime contractor had experienced challenges with supply chain management, manufacturing standards, and built-in quality, affecting program schedule and resulting in aggressive training timelines with little margin. If the planned September 2008 initial operational capability was not met, the program could face an acquisition program baseline breach and risk undergoing a fifth restructuring. Additionally, the contractor's earned value management system was decertified. The program expected recertification during spring 2008.

The H-1 Upgrades program office reported to the Government Accountability Office for an assessment published in March 2008 that it currently had all 3,169 UH-1Y drawings, a measure of design stability. The program did not track data for critical process control in manufacturing, but utilized post-production quality metrics. The H-1 upgrades program was approved for Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 4 in July 2007 and as of the GAO report had 34 aircraft on contract. The program reported that five UH-1Y had been delivered to date. The program was undergoing its fourth major restructuring at the time of the report, which had delayed the expected full-rate production decision by 18 months, then expected for July 2008.

An operational test report identified performance issues with key technologies that would need to be resolved prior to initial operational capability. For example, flight restrictions were in effect for both the AH-1Z and UH-1Y during the operational test and evaluation due to the poor performance of the helmet-mounted sight displays (HMSD), a key weapon system upgrade. The visual sharpness of the HMSD did not support shipboard landings at night, depth perception cues were misleading, and HMSD components were not reliable. The program reported designed improvements were being tested to address these challenges. Upon implementation of these improvements, the aircraft would go through a second phase of operational evaluation. However, if deficiencies in the HMSD were not corrected, or if the upgrade was not delivered on time, initial operational capability could not be supported for the UH-1Y.

The program was approved for Low-Rate Initial Production Lot 4 in July 2007. As of the 2008 GAO report, the program had 26 UH-1Y on contract. Program officials reported that the fifth UH-1Y was delivered in November 2007.




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