The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


The USMC Medium--Lift Replacement Dilema
CSC 1992
Title: The USMC Medium--Lift Dilema
Author:   Major H. C. Jackson, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:   Due to its age and its limited combat capability,
the CH-46E must be replaced by l997 in order to meet force
projection mission requirements.
Backround:  Over the past four years, the Marine Corps has
been attempting to replace the fleet of aging CH-46E; heli-
copters with the MV-22.  Congress and the Secretary of De-
fense (SecDef) have been embroiled in a bitter battle over
the MV-22.  Congress is behind purchasing the MV-22 as the
USMC medium--lift replacement (MLR).  The SecDef believes
that CH-60 and additional CH-53E helicopters or alternative
MLR helicopters are adequate.  With increasing weapons ranges
and lethality, many  MLR helicopters are marginally adequate
while other alternatives are not ship--board compatible.
Recommendation:  The MV-22 must be purchased as the MLR and
introduced to Fleet Marine Force units by 1997 since no
other MLR is truely suitable  to meet all mission require-
ments and since the CH-46E helicopters are reaching the
end of their life cycle.
Due to its age and its limited combat capability, the CH-46E
must be replaced by 1997 in order to meet force projection
missions requirements.
  I.  	Current Operational USMC Transport Helicopters
       	A.  	Types
           	l.  	UH-1N
           	2.  	CH-46E
           	3.  	CH-53D
           	4). 	CH-53E
       	B.  	Capabilities/Limitations
 II. 	USMC Furture Medium--Lift Requirements
       	A.  	Sortie Rate
       	B.  	Survivability
       	C.  	Maintainability
       	D.  	Mission Requirements
III.   	Type/Model/Series (T/M/S) Replacement Helicopters
       	A.  	USMC/ Congress Desires----MV-22
       	B.  	SecDef Desires----CH-60 and More CH-53E Helicopters
       	C. 	Other Available T/M/S Helicopters
         		l.   	CH-46X
          		2.   	Marinized CH-47
          		3.   	Boeing Vertol Model 360
         		4.   	Eurocopter EH-l0l
IV.    	Desired Solution----MV-22
       	A.  	Comparison of the MV-22 vs. Other T/M/S Helicopters
       	B.  	Reasons for Selecting the MV-22
       	C.  	Obstacles to be Overcome to Procure the MV-22
                            		By Major Clay Jackson, USMC
     	For the past four years, Congress and the Office of the
Secretary of Defense (OSD) have been embroiled in a bitter
fight concerning which type/model/series (T/M/S) aircraft
will be the USMC medium-lift replacement (MLR).  The aging
but venerable CH-46E was fielded in 1961, but its capabili-
ties are now suspect.  Due to increasing weapons range and
lethality, aircraft launch points must be placed at increas-
ingly longer distances from where the aircraft will actual-
ly discharge its-cargo.  Aircraft systems developed since
1961 have enhanced survivability and mission capability.
Although the CH-46E had been upgraded five times, it just
has not kept pace with other aircraft capabilities.  At the
same time, the demand for the CH-46E has increased.  Due to
its unique aerodynamic qualities, it is the choice for ship-
to-ship replenishment.  Consequently, due to its age and its
limited combat capability, the CH-46E must-be replaced by
1997 in-order to meet force projection mission requirements.
     	The current mix of USMC assault support helicopters in-
sures a balanced mix of light, medium and heavy  lift assets
which allows for-rapid force buildup and sustainment of
engaged forces.  Assault support helicopters include the
UH-lN, CH-46e, CH-53D and CH-53E helicopters.  Although the
UH-lN is an older helicopter, it is still adequately fulfil-
ling a multitude of missions.  It is a highly capable command
and control, close-in-fire suppression, small-unit transport
helicopter.  Amittedly, the UH-1N is slower than other as-
sault support helicopters and has a limited range, but it
still fulfills requirements that it was designed to meet.
     	The CH-46E was designed to replace the H-34 piston-driv-
en helicopter.  During the l960s and early l970s, it met or
exceeded mission requirements.  Since the early l970s, weapon
standoff distances and lethality has dramatically increased.
Additionally, transport requirements have increased which,
in turn, require an ability to lift more actual weight per
sortie.  Due to its limited combat radius, 60 nautical miles
(NM), the CH-46E has little or no ability to launch from a
standoff base and transport Marines deep into enemy terri-
tory.  Also, the helicopter lacks adequate navigation equip-
ment to transport personnel of equipment over featureless
terrain.  Of greatest concern is the CH-46E's age.  Usually,
an aircraft is planned to be functional for 30 years from
its initial operational capability (IOC) date until its re-
tirement.   We are presently exceeding this planning figure
concerning the CH-46E.  This problem's impact is starting
to manifest itself in increasing airframe failure rates.
Currently, some of the same problems that exist with the
CH-46E exist with the CH-53D.  The CH-53D was the heavy-
lift helicopter for the USMC until the introduction of the
CH-53E.  Although it has sufficient range to transport per-
sonnel and equipment over a 300 NM radius, it too lacks ade-
quate navigation equipment and it is approaching 30 years of
service life with no service life upgrades.  In fact, the
aircraft is less capable today than when it was first pro-
duced because of reworked vice new powerplants.  Over time,
power availability has decreased while power required to
lift new weapons has increased.
     	The current heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-53E, is a
highly capable aircraft that should see service past the
year 2010.  It has sufficient range, lift and navigation
capabilities to meet or exceed current and projected mission
requirements.  With planned systems upgrades, such as a for-
ward looking infrared radar (FLIR), aircraft armor and a
night vision goggle (NVG) heads-up display (HUD), the CH-53E
will be as capable as any planned MLR.
     	A future MLR will be required to support a rapid build-
up of forces over a long distance and then sustain the en-
gaged forces while maintaining a high degree of survivabili-
ty against increasingly lethal and sophisiticated weapons.
In the past, tactical aircraft pilots have made the comment,
"Speed is life."  If an assault is launched from the sea to
a point  10 NM inland, total round trip distance flown will
be approximately 130 NM, assuming that amphibious helicopter
transport ships are maintaining a helicopter launch area cut-
side of the maximum effective range of threat weapons.  Cur-
rent MLR helicopters will require a one-hour sortie time per
lift for combat buildup ashore.  Now, the Marine on the
ground may say, "Speed is life!"  The MLR must be capable of
cutting this sortie time in half if we face a formidable
enemy.  If it can not decrease sortie time, we will violate
the principle of mass and risk an unnecessary defeat.
      	Although sortie rates are of the utmost importance to
the supported unit, survivability and maintainability are
of the unmost importance to the supporting unit.  Surviva-
bility and maintainability are the "two-edged sword" that
allows for sortie rates to be maintained while assuring air-
crew that their aircraft performs safely in a low to medium
threat environment.  All helicopter assets currently employed
by the USMC lack adequate survivability subsystems when em-
ployed against modern threat weapons.  These subsystems,
the AN/ALE-39 countermeasures dispensing set and AN/APR-39
radar warning receiver are marginally effective against
threat anti-air weapons, since these weapons-have technologi-
cally evolved in order to counter defensive and detection
systems.  Additionally, detection systems for infrared guided
missiles are just now in the process of being fielded.  Due
to system weight and space required for installation, it is
impractible to install this system in UH-lN and CH-46E heli-
     	Helicopter maintainability has always required an in-
tense effort since helicopters rely on the interaction of
a multitude of dynamic components in order to operate.  This
intense effort is exacerbated by poor access to dynamic compon-
ents.  Since the early 1960s, a key component to any system
design has been to reduce maintenance man hours required to
support an hour of system use.  Current maintenance man hours
for fielded USMC helicopters are about 30 man hours per
flight hour.  Although smaller and flying with fewer subsys-
tems and dynamic components, the CH-46E requires as much
maintenance support as does the larger and more complex CH-53E.
     	Another side to maintainability is battle damage repair.
If a CH-46E sustains battle damage, half of the total repair
time would be consumed by removing components or semi-fixed
structures in order to reach the portion of the airframe to
be repaired.  By design, newer aircraft have accessability
"built in" to the airframe.  Many components are integrated;
therefore, if a subsystem is rendered useless due to enemy
fire, it can quickly be changed.  During times of reduced
manning and with fewer aircraft available, maintainability
will be a key ingredient for maintaining combat sortie rates.
	Since World War II, aircraft have been designed to
meet specific mission requirements.  Also, since the early
1980s, aircraft have been designed to meet the requirements
of several related missions.  The CH-46E was designed as a
short-range medium-lift helicopter.  More specifically, it
was during the Vietnam conflict and still is today, the
primary USMC helicopter for loving personnel.  By virtue of
requirements in Vietnam, its effective radius is about 60
NM.  However, since the end of our involvement in Vietnam,
indirect fire weapons have increased in range and lethality.
In many cases, the CH-46E will not be able to complete its
mission unless an intermedeate fuel point is setup.  Further-
more, large concentrations of helicopters based well forward
are a lucrative target, thus helicopter basing should be out
of enemy indirect fire range.
     	Another important part of any mission requirement is a
high sortie rate while maintaining a high degree of surviva-
bility and maintainability.  During any type of assault,
force buildup and sustainment is key to the basic fundamen-
tal principle of mass.  Sortie rates support the principle of
mass.  In order to maintain a high sortie rate, the aircraft
must be relatively fast with an ability to arrive at the
prescribed point requires accurate navigation equipment.
The CH-46E does not possess accurate navigation equipment
which would enable it to navigate over large expanses of
water or featureless terrain.  During Desert Storm, this
navigation problem was a significant problem for CH-46E
helicopters flying assault support missions.  Mission accom-
plishment for CH-46E helicopters in Southwest Asia was due
to other more cabable aircraft flying as "pathfinder" air-
craft in support of CH-46E missions.
     	The other ingredient for meeting mission requirements
is survivability.  Survivability equates to both aircrew
and aircraft.  By virtue of slower speeds and limited maneu-
verability, helicopters are ver vulnerable to anti-aircraft
artillery, anti-helicopter mines and some surface-to-air
missiles.  Most systems employed against helicopters are
quite mobile; therefore, these weapons are difficult to
target.  The MLR must be faster then the CH-46E and be able
to absorb damage and keep flying.
     	Ten years ago, the JVX, a joint National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) and U. S. Army venture,
flew from its Bell Helicopter plant in Arlington Texas. (l: 23-
24)  The JVX design led to the MV-22, a joint production
effort between Bell Helicopter and Boeing Vertol.  The USMC
selected this aircraft as the MLR.  By virtue of design, it
possesses the characteristics of a helicopter while flying
at speeds up to 275 knots.  Because of its airplane-like
characteristics in forward flight, it is highly maneuverable.
To date, it has met all required milestones including ship-
board compatibility tests.  Considering the age and lack of
capability of CH-46E helicopters, the uninformed may ask
why we have not bought the MV-22 yet.  The answer is that
the Honorable Mr. Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense (SecDef),
has stalled the MV-22 program.  Although Congress has appro-
priated funding for this program over the last three fiscal
years, the SecDef has impounded production funding ever time.
The SecDef's position is difficult to understand, given the
impressive credentials of the aircraft.
     	The MV-22 airframe is of a revolutionary design in it-
self.  It is built solely of composite materials except for
removable fixtures, longerons, stiffeners and ribs.  This
type of construction decreases airframe weight and is much
stronger than conventional aircraft aluminum.  Also, compos-
ite materials are resistant to corrosion and are quickly
repaired if damaged.  Corrosion, for current USMC helicopters,
is a monumental problem when helicopters deploy aboard U. S.
Navy ships.  Corrosion control is a man-hour intensive re-
quirement and, at times, major components have to be replaced
due to this problem.  Airframe repair, due to battle damage
or ground mishaps, on the MV-22 is quick and requires mini-
mal skills.  In fact, tests have proven than repaired por-
tions of the airframe are actually stronger than the original
airframe.  Airframe repairs on current helicopters require
significant skill and man hours to complete.(l:25)
As a result of intense testing, the MV-22 dynamic com-
ponents have been proven to meet or exceed all design speci-
fications.  Since l958, when the CH-46E helicopter was de-
signed, much knowledge has been gained concerning the effect
that torque and vibration has on the dynamic components of
a helicopter.  This knowledge was programmed into the MV-22
so that vibration loads have been decreased while system
strength and reliability has been increased. (2: 10)
     	Although the MV-22 is a revolutionary aircraft, it pos-
sesses mission subsystems that improves survivability, the
ability of the aircrew to accomplish the assigned mission,
and increases sortie rate over longer distances.  Aircrew
survivability was proven when MV-22 number five crashed.
Major structural deformation occurred to this aircraft during
the mishap, but no structural deformation occurred within the
cockpit or cabin area.  Additionally, fuel breakaway valves
worked as designed which resulted in no fuel-fed fire that
is common in most aircraft crashes.(2: 11)  Other surviva-
bility aspects to be added on production models will include
an organic weapon for self-protection, very effective en-
gine infrared heat suppressors, and a new and improved gen-
eration of the AN/APR-39 and AN/ALE-39.
     	The MV-22 will also be produced with subsystems that
increase the probability of mission success while increasing
sortie rates.  These same subsystems also give the USMC a
capability to self-deploy this aircraft anywhere in the
world.   Production MV-22 aircraft will be equipped with aeri-
al refueling probes, on-board oil and hydraulic fluids ser-
vicing, a forward looking infrared radar (FLIR) and a truely
compatible night vision goggle (NVG) cockpit.  The FLIR/NVG
systems output will be utilized by the aircrew  with the hel-
met mounted sight/display system (HMS/DS).  Aerial refueling
and on-board fluids servicing allow for virtually uninterupt-
ed aircraft utilization.
     	The only flight limitation will be planned maintenance
inspections.  The FLIR/NVG system will contain an imbedded
heads-up display (HUD) and the pilot/copilot will be able to
utilize whichever system that gives the optimum view for at-
mospheric conditions.  This equates to having an additional
visual means outside the aircraft to rely upon when other
visual means are degraded by atmospheric conditions.  Other
subsystems contributing to the ability of the aircrew to
accomplish the mission includes the global positioning system
(GPS) and all other navigation systems found on current heli-
copters. (3: 13-16)
     	Currently, the SecDef prefers a mexture of CH-60 and
CH-53E helicopters.  To date, no requirement for proposal
(RFP) has been issued for a mission-tailored helicopter from
the growing H-60 family.  The H-60 has been configured numer-
ous ways in order to meet a wide range of missions.  The
U. S. Army utilizes the UH-60 as a personnel transport heli-
copter while the U. S. Navy utilizes the same basic airframe
for anti-submarine missions.  Three problems currently exist
in utilizing a UH-60 for the MLR.  First, this airframe has
reached its growth potential with the MH-60K variant.  This
aircraft is as expensive as the MV-22; therefore, the Depart-
ment of Defense (DOD) would not save critical procurement
dollars during times of austerity.  The second problem in-
volves lift requirements.  A CH-60 can not lift squad-sized
elements and is incapable of transporting internal palletized
cargo.  Lifting squad-sized elements is the cornerstone for
most USMC assaults in order to maintain unit integrity.
The last problem is due to lack of available funds for MV-22
test and evaluation (T&E) and another MLR research and de-
velopment (R&D) concurrently. (4: 39)
     	The second aircraft in the DOD equation, the CH-53E, is
a reliable assault support helicopter.  It is limited for
shipboard use due to a lack of space on amphibious ships.
It also is quite expensive at $23 million  a copy.  All total-
led, independent studies have shown that a mix of CH-60 and
CH-53E helicopters would cost more over time than would a
mix of MV-22 tiltrotors and the current number of CH-53E
helicopters projected to be purchased.
     	Other possible MLR helicopters currently exist.  Three
of these helicopters, the CH-46X, the "marinized" CH-47 and
the model 360 advanced technology demonstrator, are built
by Boeing Vertol and the other candidate, the EH-l0l, is
built by the Eurocopter consortium.
     	Although updated with new, more powerful engines and
stronger dynamic components, the CH-46X would still be the
same CH-46E the USMC is now flying with regards to surviva-
bility and maintainability.  Additionally, there is no promise
of increased availability or reduced man-hours per flight
hour, since maintenance personnel would be working on an air-
craft with l958 technology.  Currently, there is a shortage
of CH-46 series helicopters; thus, to meet mission needs, more
CH-46 series helicopters would be required.  This equates to
one of two choices:  (l) either Boeing Vertol would have to
retool and produce required additional CH-46X helicopters,
at a considerable cost, or (2) the additional helicopters
would have to be purchased from Kawasaki Heavy Industries of
Japan, with whom the U. S. already has an unfavorable balance
of trade.(4: 38-39)
     	A "marinized" CH-47 would not be a very good choice,
either.  Considerable cost would accrue in treating all sur-
faces for salt-water corrosion and shielding all electrical
components and wires from high frequency electromagnetic
radiation found aboard all ships.  This process is called
"marinizing" an aircraft.  Additionally, considerable cost
would be required to redesign the rotorhead for a blade-fold
system which is required of all helicopters with more than
two rotor blades when deployed aboard U  S. Navy ships.
The last disadvantage of a "marinized' CH-47 is that its rotor
diameter is too large for it to be operated operationally
from LPH and LHA class ships.
     	Currently, Boeing Vertol is in the demonstration/evalu-
ation (demeval) stage with its model 360 advanced technology
demonstrator.  This aircraft incorporates a composite air-
frame, like the MV-22, and is about the same size of the
CH-46 series helicopter.  It has a very advanced rotor sys-
tem and has demonstrated speeds almost twice that of a CH-46E.
It would require a considerable amount of funding for rede-
sign to meet all specifications and mission requirements.
One redesign requirement would be to remove all honeycombed
aluminum from the airframe, since this type of structure
promotes corrosion in a salt-water environment, and replace
it with suitable material. (4: 39)
     	The last MLR to be considered is the Eurocopter EH-101.
This helicopter is solely built in Europe.  If purchased, it
could contribute to our already unfavorable balance of trade
with Europe.  The EH-l0l is a very capable aircraft.  It can
transport 30 combat-equipped troops, vehicles or internal
cargo.  This helicopter is very agile and was designed to
absorb combat damage without mission degradation.  Crash
survivability is built into this helicopter and it is fully
"marinized".  The problem is that it is too large and too
complex when comparing it with USMC MLR requirements.  For
instance, its elastomeric rotorhead is too complex for or-
ganizational or intermediate maintenance personnel to per-
form maintenance on.  This same type of rotorhead was fitted
to USMC CH-53D helicopters.  Although it is designed to re-
duce maintenance at all field activities, it can not be
worked on at these same activities.  Therefore, the EH-101
is not a good choice either. (4: 39)
     	As discussed, the MV-22 is a highly capable, surviv-
able and maintainable aircraft.  This aircraft offers speed
and agility not offered by any current or developmental heli-
copter in existence.  One MLR helicopter is not shipboard
compatible, such-as a "marinized" CH-47, while the EH-l0l
is marginally compatible due to its size and complexity.
None of the MLR helicopters offer the transport capacity
over the ranges as does the MV-22.  If ship-based or shore-
based, the launch point for any aircraft must be out of in-
direct fire range.  This fact increases sortie distance;
therefore, sortie rate will decrease unless the aircraft is
faster that conventional helicopters and unless it can carry
adequate fuel--or refuel without stopping. Long sortie times
decrease force buildup and sustainment.  Potentially, two of
the MLR helicopters would contribute to an unfavorable balance
of trade.  Lastly, one helicopter, the CH-60, is totally
unsuitable as the USMC MLR.  This helicopter lacks the haul-
ing capacity that Marines need.  Thus, the reasonable choice
for the USNC MLR is the MV-22.
     	Now, we return to an earlier question.  Why have we not
bought the MV-22?  Or, why is this aircraft still waiting
to enter full scale production?  An interesting sideline to
this situation is that this aircraft has unique civil appli-
cations.  Airports are already overcrowded but this aircraft
would ease overcrowding.  A European consortium and a Japan
ese company are both developing their own version of the
tiltrotor in order to reduce airport overcrowding in their
respective areas.  If we do not develop this aircraft, they
will, which will only add to the already growing trade defi-
cit the U. S. has with other countries.
     	The reason that production funds have been impounded
is due to decision made by the SecDef.  It is unknown why
he has elected to try to "kill" the MV-22 program.  A MLR is
needed now to replace an aging aircraft that is marginally
survivable on the modern battlefield.  None of the MLR heli-
copters offer the same capabilities as the MV-22.  The MV-22
is also the cost-effective choice over a lone period of
time, although its initial cost is greater-than some of its
alternatives.  Two studies to date have indicated that over
a ten-year period, the MV-22 would be cheaper to purchase
than its cheapest competitor, the CH-60.
     	We also must not be lulled into a false sense of secur-
ity that Desert Storm may have given us.  Our next battle
may be with an adversary somewhat more tenacious.  If that
is the case, we need a survivable, maintainable aircraft
that will give us the combat power buildup that we will need
to win.  Assume, for a second, that we need complete some
other mission, short of combat, quickly.  Take the Mogidishu,
Somalia, noncombatent evacuation operation (NEO), for exam-
ple.  When the situation became tense at the American Em-
bassy, two CH-53E helicopters were launched to transport
Marine security forces in and NEO evacuees out over a 300
NM distance.  The situation remained tense until all evacuees
were out of Mogidishu.  If the MV-22 would have been avail-
able, the evacuation would have been completed in one-quar-
ter the time.
     	The last issue to consider is how our country pursues
its strategic objectives.  In the past, strategic objectives
have been achieved through forward deployed units and through
forward presence of U. S. armed forces,  Due to budget cut-
backs, however, many forward deployed units are returning
to the continental U. S. (CONUS) to be deactivated.  There-
fore our strategic objectives will have to be achieved by the
forward presence of carrier battle groups (CVBG) and amphib-
ious task forces (ATF).  It would stand to reason that the
units deployed for this purpose would have adequate assets
at their disposal in order to meet assigned mission require-
      	It is obvious that the CH-46E is at the end of its life
cycle and is only marginally capable of fulfilling mission
requirements.  This argument is accepted by all parties in-
volved in the MLR procurement process.  It is also obvious
that the MV-22 is the best-suited, most-capable, most-sur-
vivable and cost-effective USMC MLR for the next 25 years.
Also, if, as it appears, a greater portion of the burden of
achieving strategic policy objectives is to fall upon USMC
units deployed with the ATF, then these forward-presence
units require the "tools" to properly execute assigned mis-
     	Currently, MLR procurement is at a crossroads.  The
SecDef prefers purchasing the CH-60 and additional CH-53E
helicopters.  The USMC and Congress prefers purchasing the
MV-22.  The Marines have always "made do" with what they
get.  The "meat" of the problem is that, as a greater re-
liance is placed on Marines to execute their assigned mis-
sion over a greater distance against more lethal weapons,
the need for a MLR that will allow assigned forces the capa-
bility to successfully complete their missi6n is not a luxury.
The CH-60 is inadequate for current and projectad missions
and is not even a good "make do" helicopter.
     	The obstacle to overcome is the SecDef's decision not
to purchase the MV-22.  Congress has mandated that funds
appropriated are to be spent and not impounded, as was done
in the past.  Additionally, as late as on 27 March 1992,
the Speaker of the House of Represenatives, Congressman
Tom Foley, is questioning why, in deference to the law, the
OSD has not spent money appropriated for the fiscal year
1992 MV-22 appropriation. (5: A7)  This is only a short-term
solution to a long-term problem.  This impasse must be bro-
ken in order to procure a much-needed MLR now!  Without a
doubt, the answer  to the MLR is the MV-22.
1.	 Frank  Colucci, "Graphite Wonder," Defence Helicopter, Dec 89-Jan 90.
2.	 Frank Colucci, "Tailoring the Tilt-Rotor," Defence Helicopter, 
Mar-Apr 92.
3.	 Frank Colucci, "Osprey Eyes," Defence Helicopter, Mar-Apr 92.
4.	 Frank Colucci, "In Need of a Lift," Defence Helicopter, Jun-Jul 91.
5.	 Associated Press, "Foley:  Pursue Osprey Plan," The Free Lance-Star,
Vol. 108, No. 74, March 27, 1992.
l. 	Colucci, Frank. "Graphite Wonder." Defence Helicopter December 89-
January 90.
2.	 Frank Colucci, "Tailoring the Tilt-Rotor," Defence Helicopter,
March-April 92.
3.	 Frank Colucci, "Osprey Eyes," Defence Helicopter, March-April 92.
4.	 Frank Colucci, "In Need of a Lift," Defence Helicopter, June-July 91.
5.	 Associated Press, "Foley:  Pursue Osprey Plan," The Free Lance-Star,
Volume 108, Number. 74, March 27, 1992.

Join the mailing list