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Medium Lift Replacement (MLR)
CSC 1993
                       EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
TITLE:   Medium Lift Replacement (MLR)
AUTHOR:  Major G. Kevin Wilcutt, United States Marine Corps
THESIS:  Unofficially, the MV-22 "Osprey" has been identified as
the MLR, but other aviation platforms are available that are not
only suitable replacements at reduced costs but enhance the
commanders' warfighting capability.
BACKGROUND:  The CH-46, because of its age, has numerous
maintenance difficulties, a limited combat range, various
aeronautical restrictions, critical supply shortages and lack of
armament which directly impacts on its combat effectiveness.  A
well-rounded attack version of a cargo/passenger helicopter is in
production today and would be a better choice than the MV-22.
That helicopter is the CH-53E.  It has proven advantages in
passenger capacity, external and internal lift capacity, and with
the addition of armament and armor, could provide the Marine
Corps with the ideal platform for assault helicopter support.
RECOMMENDATION:  The Marine Corps should procure the CH-53E as
the medium lift replacement.  Additionally, both armament and
armor should be placed on the helicopter to enhance the combat
capabilities it would provide the ground commander.
Thesis:   Unofficially, the MV-22 "Osprey" has been identified
as the medium lift replacement (MLR) aircraft, but other aviation
platforms are available that are not only suitable replacements
at reduced costs but enhance the commanders' warfighting
      I.  History of the CH-46E
          A.   Navy and Marine Corps use
          B.   Service life and maintenance problems
     II.  Combat inadequacies of the CH-46E
          A.   Combat range
          B.   Limited fuel problems
          C.   Cargo-carrying capability
    III.  MLR  available platforms
          A.   MLR requirements
          B.   Joint requirements
     IV.  MV-22 vs CH-53E
          A.   Shipboard operations
               1.   Marine Expeditionary Unit composition
               2.   Troop-carrying capability
               3.   Cargo-carrying capability
          B.   Survivability
          C.   Armament requirement and capability
          D.   Combat range
     V.   Conclusion
                                          Maj G. K. Wilcutt #8
                          The Medium Lift Replacement
     The CH-46 "Sea Knight" helicopter has been an integral
assault component of Marine and Naval aviation since 1964.
Unfortunately, the CH-46, because of its age, has several
problems.  It has numerous maintenance difficulties, a limited
combat range, various aeronautical restrictions and critical
supply shortages which directly impact on its combat
effectiveness.  It is past time for the CH-46 to be retired from
the Marine Corps and Naval inventory and replaced with a new
"medium lift aircraft (MLR)."  Lessons learned from "Operation
Restore Hope" in Somalia validated this requirement through the
following statement, ".. .HQMC [Headquarters Marine Corps] cite
experiences in Restore Hope as additional justification [sic] for
immediate procurement of the medium lift replacement." (3:5)
Unofficially, the MV-22 "Osprey" has been identified as the MLR.
but other aviation platforms are available that are not only
suitable replacements at reduced costs but enhance the
commanders' warfighting capability.  The Marine Corps needs to
seriously review what aviation platform will best support the
Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) and the Combatant Commander.
     The Navy has utilized the CH-46 extensively for combat
resupply and vertical replenishment (VERTREP).  It has been the
Marine Corps' medium lift assault aircraft for almost 30 years.
2According to the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures
Standardization (NATOPS) Manual:
     "The CH-46 helicopter's primary mission is the rapid
     dispersal of combat troops, support equipment, and supplies
     from amphibious assault landing ships and established
     airfields to advanced bases in underdeveloped areas having
     limited maintenance and logistical support under all weather
     conditions in day or night." (10:1-1-1)
Its missions additionally include search and rescue (SAR) and
medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).
     The CH-46 was originally designed with a service life of
10,000 flight hours.  Unfortunately, many of the CH-46
helicopters in the Navy and Marine Corps inventory are either
approaching or have exceeded this limit.  Within the past five
years, several accidents in the CH-46 community have been
attributed to dynamic component failures, such as transmissions,
rotor heads and rotor blades.  These accidents have burdened the
community with numerous maintenance inspections and aeronautical
limitations, including both airspeed and angle-of-bank
restrictions. (4:16)  All of these inspections and limitations
are focused on the dynamic component parts of the helicopter.
     Currently inspections are required every 10 flight hours,
every 25 flight hours, and every 100 flight hours.  The 100 hour
inspection is a phase maintenance overhaul, which is a detailed
inspection that checks almost every dynamic component of the
helicopter.  To put this in perspective, the helicopter presently
goes through, 12 maintenance inspections prior to its phase
maintenance overhaul.  These inspections are not just "quick-
looks," they involve a detailed non-destructive inspection (NDI)
analysis, which is both time consuming and cumbersome.  If these
rules were followed in combat, it would severely limit the rapid
dispersal of both combat troops and equipment ashore, obviously
diminishing a commander's combat effectiveness.
     Regardless of what aircraft replaces the CH-46, a Service
Life Extension Program (SLEP) will be needed to extend the life
of the helicopter beyond 10,000 flight hours until a replacement
can be found.  Today's acquisition process takes a minimum of
five years to get the new aircraft in the "fleet."  Past and
present Commandants of the Marine Corps have stated in their
annual address to Congress that the "medium lift replacement" is
the highest priority of the "Corps." (7:10)  This priority has
been restated every year by their Deputies, Chief of Staff,
Aviation. (12:37)  Unfortunately because of budget cuts and
strategic considerations, the V-22, which was the proposed MLR
for the CH-46, was not considered a priority by either the
Department of Defense or Congress.  Because of the expectations
of the V-22, the maintenance repairs needed for the CH-46 were
not considered urgent and ultimately delayed the SLEP program.
     In addition to maintenance problems, the CH-46 also has
limited combat capabilities.  With an effective combat range of
only 50-60 nautical miles, its ability to rapidly disperse combat
troops is questionable.  Effective combat range is the ability to
disperse troops and remain in the designated drop-area for an
emergency evacuation followed by a safe return to the ship or
land base for reloading and refueling.  The recently published
Navy and Marine Corps concept of the Naval Expeditionary Force
(NEF), refers to amphibious assaults taking place 20-35 nautical
miles from the shore.  This range diminishes the effectiveness of
the CH-46E in any future amphibious warfare scenario.  A
statement in lessons learned from "Operation Restore Hope" should
be noted, "This shortfall in radius [combat range] resulted in
split maintenance, weakened aviation command and control, and
increased logistics requirements (refueling, etc.)." (3:6)  This
combat range of 50-60 nautical miles additionally places the
Marines and forward operating bases, whether at sea or on land,
in danger when one considers the effective range of modern
     Lieutenant General Stackpole, Joint Task Force Commander
during Operation Sea Angel, made reference to the combat
capabilities of the CH-46 helicopter:
     "The CH-46 is tired, it doesn't have the range we really
     need; and I can tell you that having just returned six
     months ago from commanding all the Marines in the Western
     Pacific, that with improved medium lift, we could have saved
     thousands of more lives, and responded much more quickly in
     bringing relief aid to Bangladesh...." (1:5)
Although modifications have been made to increase fuel capacity
and thereby increase range, it is negated by the limited cargo
weight the CH-46 can carry because of the additional fuel.
Therefore, even with fully loaded fuel tanks giving it the extra
range, in most scenarios, the CH-46E would not be able to carry
the 18 passengers advertised to the ground combat element.
     The most recent operation the CH-46E was involved in,
"Operation Restore Hope," clearly indicated the significant
problems this helicopter has in doing not only a humanitarian
mission but a combat mission also.  In lessons learned, the
following is quoted:
     "During Restore Hope, Marine Forces conducted operations at
     significantlly greater distances than were easily
     supportable by our current medium lift helicopter, the
     CH-46E.  The closest of these sites to another one was 52
     miles and the most distant was 220 .... Not surprisingly
     then...the 19H-46E was a significant operational
     limitation. (3:6)
     Another problem with the CH-46 is the availability of spare
parts for maintenance. (11:7)  As mentioned earlier, an aircraft
is normally purchased with a predetermined service-life.  This
computation is the predominant factor in determining how many
spare parts the particular type-model aircraft will need.  The
CH-46, by outliving its service-life, has severely diminished the
availability of spare parts for its dynamic components.  Because
the MLR was already programmed to be in service, additional spare
part acquisition was stopped and cannot be started again quickly.
It takes time to find businesses qualified and willing to
manufacture these military peculiar parts.
     Fortunately, there are many aircraft platforms available on
the market today to replace the CH-46, but one has to first look
at what that replacement aircraft will be required to do.  Joint
military operations in the future will require the MLR to support
both the Marine Corps and the Joint Task Force Commander.  The
days of unique service operations are gone forever.  Furthermore,
this joint effort will go beyond conventional and unconventional
warfare.  Today's military must be prepared to respond to a
variety of missions such as, humanitarian relief, peacemaking,
and peacekeeping. (9:14)  So the MLR must be capable of being a
viable weapon system in any of these scenarios.
     Additionally, the Navy and Marine Corps have advertised
themselves as an "enabling force from the sea" in recently
published doctrine. (8:27)  This expeditionary force will project
combat power ashore from the littoral areas of the world.  In
other words, this projection of expeditionary combat power is
both "over-the-horizon (OTH)" amphibious operations and
amphibious operations closer to the shore or in Naval terms,
"brown-water operations."  In operations closer to the shore, the
rapid dispersal of combat power becomes even more important
because the element of operational surprise is lost when compared
with OTH operations.
     The Operational Requirement document for the MLR listed the
below criteria as the minimum acceptable for the replacement of
the CH-46E. (13)
             Radius of Action                  200NM
             Passengers                           24
             External Load Capability      10,000lbs
             Cruise Speed                     180kts
             Endurance                          3hrs
             Aerial Refueling Capable            Yes
             External Tanks                      Yes
             Number Required                     507
The three best aviation platforms available today to replace the
CH-46 are the MV-22, the CH-60, and the CH-53E because of their
availability to be immediately manufactured.  All three have
advantages and disadvantages associated with each and need to be
examined.  When looking at the MLR, one has to look at what will
best support the combatant commander with shipboard capability,
weapons capability, lift ability, and the projection of combat
power ashore.  The criteria above eliminates the CH-60 because of
its limited lift ability, limited passenger ability, and limited
cargo space.  Therefore, the following paragraphs will examine
the advantages and disadvantages of the MV-22 and CH-53E.
     These comparisons should first address "shipboard
operations," the trademark of Naval and Marine Corps aviation.
As Secretary Cheney said, "The unique value of Marine forces lies
in their ability to project substantial combat power ashore from
the sea." (2:76)  When looking at this area, many different
subjects need to be examined in detail.  Some of the most
important are the numbers of aircraft capable of operating on an
amphibious ship, the ability to project combat power ashore, and
the lift capacity of the aircraft, both internal and external.
The other area which needs to be addressed when considering
amphibious operations is the limited aviation assets the
Commander of the Amphibious Task Force (CATF) has to accomplish
his mission because of the natural friction between the CATF and
the Commander of the Carrier Battle Group.
     Presently with the CH-46E, there are normally two aviation
combinations of Marine Expeditionary Units aboard amphibious
ships.  The first mix is constructed of helicopters and the
second incorporates a detachment of AV-8B "Harriers."  The
helicopter mix is normally comprised of 12 CH-46Es, 4 CH-53Es, 4
UH-1Ns, and 4 AH-1Ws for fire support and helicopter escort.  The
second mix is normally comprised of the same helicopter assets
but with an additional 6 AV-8Bs added which gives the CATF a
small element of fixed-wing support to protect his amphibious
shipping and the landing force ashore.  The footprint of the CH-
53E and the MV-22 are similar.  Therefore, there would not be a
significant difference in the numbers of either onboard the
ships.  What would change is the amount of combat power the CATF
would be able to put ashore with each type aircraft.
     The MV-22 is advertised to carry 24 combat loaded troops
whereas the CH-53E is capable of carrying 55 combat loaded troops
with center-line seats installed.  If a commander has 12 CH-53Es
to plan his operation, he can carry 660 Marines to the battle on
the first wave of the amphibious assault.  With 12 MV-22s, he can
only carry 264 Marines to the fight.  In other words, the first
wave of CH-53Es would transport almost two companies of Marines
to the fight providing a considerable amount of combat power.
The second wave would get the entire battalion of the Marine
Expeditionary Unit ashore.  Future waves could be utilized to get
the combat service support equipment and essential command and
control equipment ashore.  These capabilities of the CH-53E
provide the' commander with a tremendous advantage over his
adversaries and does exactly what the CATF wants to do--get
combat power ashore as rapidly as possible.
     After the initial helicopter assault waves of transporting
troops ashore, the CH-53E has a huge cargo-carrying advantage
over the MV-22, both internally and externally.  The CH-53E can
carry 32,000 pounds of external cargo and approximately 25,000
pounds of internal cargo.  Its internal cargo capacity is
approximate because it is determined from the maximum gross
weight of the helicopter which is 69,750 pounds.  If it carries
less fuel, it can carry more internal cargo.  The MV-22 has
significantly less internal and external lift capabilities than
the CH-53E.  Additionally, the MV-22's internal cargo capacity is
very similar to the CH-46E which is already too small for the
job.  It would provide no future lift benefits for the combatant
commander.  The lift disadvantages of the MV-22 would continue to
hamper the ability of the combat service support element (CSSE)
commander to get critical supplies ashore, the aviation element
commander (ACE) to get his command and control assets ashore, and
the ground combat commander (GCE) to get the required fire
support command and control assets ashore in order to transfer
command from the ship to the shore.
     Survivability tests have proven that the MV-22 is more
survivable on the battlefield than the CH-53E.  This means that
the CH-53E has more small-arm vulnerable areas on the helicopter
than the MV-22.  With additional armor on the CH-53E, the results
of this test could be significantly different.  The CH-53E
presently has no engine armor on the helicopter.  It has the
capability for armor to be added and can certainly withstand the
weight it would impose, but the best way to make an aircraft more
survivable on the battlefield is to add both armor and armament.
In a letter to the editor about the "Gulf War," the following was
said, "We were face with the potential of using CH-53Es to pick
up the load. .. their landing characteristics render them and the
troops they carry vulnerable while landing.  They will certainly
require additional armament and armor." (6:17)
     Neither the MV-22 nor the CH-53E have any armament
installation planned.  Initial studies were done years ago to
determine the feasibility of armament on helicopters and proved
satisfactory.  It is truly amazing that no one would dare put an
unarmed Marine on the battlefield, but the Marine Corps is
willing to launch unarmed helicopters loaded with Marines
everyday to the battlefield.  The recent use of unarmed
helicopters was highlighted in Somalia, "Another example of
degraded support occurred when the CH-46 could not escort food
convoys on their route. . . leaving the convoys with decreased
security." (3:6)
     With modern technology, today's battlefield has become much
larger.  This means the military needs to become much smarter in
weapons procurement.  Budgets are shrinking and money is scarce,
so it past time for a helicopter to become multi-roled.  It is
time to arm assault-support helicopters to be able to assist the
landing force commander in fire support.  Joseph C. Harsch of the
Christian Science Monitor recently emphasized in an editorial the
need for helicopter gunships for the foot-soldier. (5:75)  The
1986 Omnibus Agreement between the Marine Corps and the Air Force
deals strictly with fixed-wing aircraft.  With armament on the
CH-53E, the Marine Corps would not have to deal with the Joint
Forces Aviation Combatant Commander (JFACC) when it needed fire
support for the landing force.  This attack version of the
helicopter would still have basically the same cargo and
personnel lift capabilities as the original CH-53E because of the
tremendous lift capacity of the helicopter.  Therefore, with the
CH-53E armed, the commander would virtually have a gunship
capable of carrying 55 Marines to the objective area and remain
on-station for close-in-fire-support (CIFS).  This need for armed
helicopters for CIFS was stressed by LtGen. Wills in a recent
interview. (12:34)
     This armed helicopter could be used in many ways by the
commander of the force that is coming "from-the-sea."  It could
be used in preassault, supporting, subsidiary, and the assault
phases of the amphibious operation.  It could prepare the landing
zone or beach with fire prior to landing, defend itself against
fixed-wing or helicopter adversaries, and become more survivable
on the battlefield.  The capabilities and flexibility the CATF
would have on the battlefield with a multi-roled A/CH-53E
(attack/cargo helicopter) would be a considerable advantage.  As
stated earlier, helicopters are most vulnerable just prior to
landing.  In Vietnam, the North Vietnamese would wait for the
helicopters to land and discharge troops prior to opening fire.
On more than one occasion, the North Vietnamese mistakingly
opened fire on AH-1 "Cobras."  To their surprise, the Cobras
fired back.  The North Vietnamese rarely fired on a Cobra in the
landing zone again throughout the conflict.  Armament on
helicopters is to our advantage and would eliminate the
disadvantage helicopters now have on short final to landing.  The
ideal platform for armament is the CH-53E because it can
withstand the extra weight the armament would add and still carry
out its other missions.
     Another consideration of the MLR is combat range.  The MV-22
is advertised to be able to go 2,100 nautical miles without
requiring an aerial refueling operation.   This capability
requires the aircraft to have internal fuel tanks which
completely negates any internal cargo capability.  Therefore, the
MV-22 would be able to get to the battlefield, but the Marine
Corps would still depend on "strategic lift" from the Air Force
to get the ground combat force in the theater.  The CH-53E cannot
get to the faraway battlefields without Air Force support either,
but the helicopter is C-5 compatible whereas the  MV-22 is not.
The MV-22 will not have an option; it will have to fly to the
fight no matter how far away it may be or how bad the weather may
be.  This takes away a capability to get to the fight the Marine
Corps can ill afford.
     The last comparison which needs to be made between the CH-
53E and the MV-22 is cost.  In this time of scarce defense
resources, all military services will have to spend defense
dollars only on needed items.  Presently, the MV-22 is programmed
to cost 29.4 million dollars each with a 600 plus buy.  Of course
this price will go up in future years because of inflation.  The
CH-53E has more than twice the lift and passenger carrying
capacity than the MV-22.  Therefore, the services would need to
buy far fewer aircraft to replace the CH-46E and could save
scarce dollars.  With armament on the CH-53E, the Marine Corps
could also replace the aging Cobra helicopter.  The logistic
money saved with only one type-model helicopter in the inventory
would be tremendous and could eventually bring the cost of the
CH-53E down even further.
     No one questions the need for the MLR.  The CH-46E is tired
and can no longer fulfill the missions needed on a modern
battlefield.  The comparison between the CH-53E and MV-22 clearly
indicates that an A/CH-53E is more advantageous to the Marine
Corps and the combatant commander.  Whatever choice is made,
without armament; the MLR will not be complete.  It will just be
another unarmed, airborne taxi hauling cargo and personnel to the
battlefield.  The CH-53E is the ideal platform for armament and
logistics.  It should be the choice for MLR!
1.   "America's Flexible Force Option."  Interview.  Amphibious
     Warfare Review Winter/Spring 92:  5.
2.   Cheney, Dick.  Annual Report To the President and Congress
     January 1993:  76.
3.   Curry, Major Dave.  "Operation Restore Hope.   Marine Corps
     Lessons Learned System (MCCLS):  5-8.
4.   Fitzpatrick, Lt. Mike.  "Combat Support Platform for the
     21st Century."  Rotor Review November 92:  16.
5.   Gibson, Maj. Mark J.  "The AH-1W SuperCobra:  Semper Volens,
     Semper Potens."  Marine Corps Gazette December92:  75.
6.   Lehenbauer, Capt. Dale L.   "Improving Our CH-53Es."  Marine
     Corps Gazette November 91:   17.
7.   "Mandate for the 90's."  Interview.  Amphibious Warfare
     Review Summer 91:  10.
8.   Concepts and Issues.    Manual published by Headquarters, U.
     S.  Marine Corps 1992:   27.
9.   Mundy, Gen. Carl E.  "Naval Expeditionary Forces:  Stepping
     Lightly."  Marine Corps Gazette February 93:  14.
10.  Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization
     Manual.  CH-46E SR&M Manual August 89:  1-1-1.
11.  O'Bannon, Capt. Kenneth L.  "HC--The Future?"  Rotor Review
     November 92:  5.
12.  O'Brien, F. Michael.  "An interview with LtGen. Duane A.
     Wills."  Marine Corps Gazette December 92:  34-37.
13.  Swisher, Maj. Robert.  Briefing slides from the Warfighting
     Center, Quantico, Va.

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