Utility Helicopter Mission Is Still Essential
AREA - Aviation
Title: The Utility Helicopter Mission is Still
Author: Major Joseph G. Doyle, United States Marine
Thesis: The Marine Corps must replace or upgrade the
UH-1N and purchase enough
to meet operational tempo.
Background: The utility helicopter mission is essential
to support MAGTF operations.
UH-1N has been performing this mission for almost 20 years and because of limited
and inadequate numbers presently cannot conduct it satisfactorily. The
replacement, VMAO, is projected to enter the fleet in 2015. Considering the
of increased reliance on the Marine Corps to conduct operations ranging from
intensity conflict to humanitarian relief, the demand for a utility helicopter
increase. The UH-1N will not be able to support this
high operational tempo in the
Recommendations: The Marine Corps should purchase the H-60
Black Hawk and
a T/E of 12 utility helicopters in each HMLA squadron.
Thesis: Due to limited capabilities and insufficient
airframes, the UH-1N cannot
conduct the utility mission for the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF);
a new aircraft must be purchased or a mid-life upgrade conducted and
numbers of aircraft purchased.
I. Evolution of the UH-1N
II. Utility mission is essential to MAGTF
of the utility mission
assigned to UH-1N
Ill. Dwindling assets
IV. Continued high operational tempo
V. Aircraft structural deterioration
VI. Limited capabilities
VII. Utility platform options
a new aircraft, H-60
VIII. Insufficient aircraft to support
IX. The politics of procurement
Due to limited capabilities and
insufficient airframes, the UH-1N cannot effectively
the utility mission for the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF); therefore, a
aircraft must be purchased or a mid-life upgrade conducted and adequate numbers
aircraft purchased. The
"Huey" has had a distinguished history. A workhorse in
it proved versatile and enduring in a variety of assigned missions. As a mix of
was added to the Marine Corps inventory, the UH-1 continued to prove
at "filling the gaps." The
Huey performed the crucial mission tasks for which
other aircraft were neither configured nor suited.
In the early 1970's the Marine Corps
received the latest model, the UH-1N, which is
in service after almost 20 years. In
the 1980's the Huey performed well but in
years there has been a marked reduction in the quality of its performance. High
with no mid-life upgrade or service-life-extension program (SLEP) has resulted
airframe fatigue and limited capabilities.
Compare the Huey to the capabilities of new
helicopters in avionics, airspeed, and cargo load and a wide gap is
for the UH-1N, the Advanced/Attack/Observation/Utility/Platform (VMAO),
due to enter the fleet circa 2010-2020.
Considering future budget constraints and
project funding competition this date could
much further out. Several questions
must be answered. Is the utility
essential? Can the remaining three Marine helicopters,
CH-53, CH-46 and AH-1,
the utility mission? Can the Huey stay
in service until 2010 without an up-
grade? Would it be more cost effective to conduct a
mid-life upgrade or purchase a
type aircraft to perform the utility mission?
Is the utility mission still
essential? MAGTF aviation employs a
helicopter capability. Heavy logistics
is performed by the CH-53 while the bulk
the troop transport is assigned to the CH-46.
Anti-mechanized operations, helicopter
and close-in-fire-support (CIFS) are tasked to the AH-1 W. ln any operation there
numerous tasks which, although simple, are essential to the success of MAGTF
operations. These tasks are assigned to the utility
helicopter. The UH-1N's primary
mission is command and control for the helicopter assault element. The Huey
the helo assault wave to the objective with the assault support coordinator
(ASC(A)) and often the heloborne unit commander (HUC) onboard. During the
and consolidation phase, if tactically feasible, the UH-1N enables the ground
to observe his objective and, when ready, land at his command post. The
ensures the smooth flow of aircraft into the objective area.
The Huey is also assigned several
secondary missions that include troop transport,
evacuation, search and rescue (SAR), armed escort (ground and airborne), CIFS
airborne supporting arms coordinator. (3:1)
These missions can be performed by
other Marine helicopters, but the UH-1N provides flexibility and allows the
use of aviation assets. The airframe is
relatively cheap to fly and in the
periods of pre-assault, assault, post-assault the other aircraft can be used
their primary missions. It is not
economical to task a CH-46 to transport the ground
around the battlefield when that aircraft could be used to transport essential
Another example is armed escort of
transport aircraft to the landing zone (LZ).
could be assigned the mission but this would prevent it from being used in an
role. Considering there are only four
AH-1W in a typical deployed
where would they be best utilized?
Tasking UH-1Ns to escort sorties releases the
for other critical missions. Assigning
utility missions to other assault support
would result in task overload and a significant loss of flexibility. The Huey
no mission gaps occur within the helo assault support element; therefore, the
in the utility mission provides necessary versatility and flexibility that is
the MAGTF. Tasking this mission to the
UH-1N allows for efficient use of other
helicopters. However, the question is: Can the UH-1N continue to perform the
until it is replaced in 2010?
The UH-1N is an
"out-of-production-model"; therefore, new UH-1Ns cannot be
purchased. Flight time continues to add up on the
existing airframes and with an
of so many aircraft per year due to accidents the use of the remaining aircraft
increases. As an example, MEU deployment requirements
on the east coast squadrons
167, 269) are demanding. Frequently
between chops, which is the assignment
personnel and aircraft to deploying HMM squadrons, the squadrons are left with
to four aircraft for a month or two until the MEU detachment being relieved
type of demand has started programs like Aircraft Service Period Adjustment
which in simple terms is an inspection to determine if the aircraft must be
rework at its normal interval. However,
it is not the detailed inspection and rework
at depot level. If an aircraft passes
inspection, the minor discrepancies are
and the aircraft remains in the fleet for another year until its next ASPA
inspection. This is good for fleet and MEU demands but
it accelerates airframe fatigue.
aircraft have now passed ASPA inspections two and in some cases three times.
surprisingly, the aircraft have shown significant airframe fatigue such as
deterioration and liftbeam cracks. The
liftbeam is the main attachment point
the transmission and the airframe.
Airframe fatigue may also cause
which is possibly linked to two recent fatal
mishaps. This being the case, how is this airframe
expected to last another 20 years?
When it was introduced in the 1970's, the
"N" had increased capabilities over older
but with little change in maximum airspeed.
Entering the 1990's its
has fallen far behind modern helicopter technology and, in respect to
MAGTF helos, it is the least capable.
The UH-1N lacks airspeed compatibility
other assault platforms. Its maximum
rated speed is 130 knots (kts) but at
gross weight the velocity-never-to-exceed (VNE) becomes 110 kts at sea
and decreases rapidly at higher altitudes. (6,1-4-5) ln contrast, the CH-46 has a
airspeed of 130 kts, CH-53 150 kts, and the AH-1W 130 kts. To capitalize on
from over-the-horizon launch positions, 20 to 30 kts makes a significant
difference. The UH-1N's limitations force the helo
assault wave to fly at 90 kts vice a
of 130 kts. Speed is a tactical
advantage that must not be squandered.
The cabin capacity is rated for 13
passengers, 8 combat troops or 6 litters, a useful
capability. This is based on the standard fuel load that
equates to approximately 1.5
hrs. To complete a typical command and control
mission, the Huey requires a flight
time of roughly 3 hours. To compensate
for the fuel shortfall, an auxiliary
bag (aux bag) was developed and is now standard for most missions. The bag is
in the interior aft cabin. The fully
loaded weight is 1000 lbs. and takes up two
seats. Although this solves the flight
endurance problem, it significantly reduces
cargo-carrying capacity. The maximum
gross weight for the aircraft is 10,500 lbs.
basic weight is approximately 6800 lbs.
With full fuel for three hours (2400 lbs would
internal, 1000 lbs. in the aux bag), and crew of three (600 lbs), a quick
9800 lbs., leaving only 700 lbs for cargo and passengers. (Table I)
and control radio package weighing 100
lbs, there is room for only three
here to view image
a maximum air speed of 110 kts this doesn't provide much capability. Then, too,
for an ordnance load also impose restrictions.
Without a comprehensive upgrade, the
UH-1N will become insupportable long before
2015 planned retirement date. A utility
platform, by nature of its multi-mission
the Huey provides increased efficiency and productivity. These mission tasks
essential to the success of the MAGTF.
Therefore, the Marine Corps has two
options: (1) either conduct a mid-life upgrade of the
UH-1N or (2) purchase a new
helicopter. A mid-life upgrade must significantly
increase the Huey's capabilities to be
with the existing Marine helicopters.
As for a new aircraft, there are several
"off-the-shelf" helicopters that could satisfy the combat utility
role, e.g., the
Black Hawk, the Bell 412, or the Sikorsky S-76.
The objective of Bell Helicopter's UH-1N
Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) program is to
the service-life of the UH-1N until VMAO introduction, expand mission
reduce vulnerability, lower life-cycle costs, be affordable, and increase
(5) The MLU would increase power to the main
rotor by 25%. This would be
by installing GFE T400-402 engines (1970 SHP from 1800 SHP);
the transmission (1593 SHP from 1290 SHP); installing a composite four-
manual-folding, main rotor; and installing a new KAFLEX main driveshaft. The
gross wt. would then be increased from 10,500 lbs. to 11 ,900 lbs. with a
in the empty wt. by 150 lbs. The useful
cargo load would thus be 2100 lbs.
the MLU vice 700 lbs. for the UH-1N.
This is calculated for a three-hour mission
is a significant improvement in capability.
The installation of the four-blade rotor
increase maneuverability and safety, reduce vibrations by 40% and lower