Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP)
The primary Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) helicopter mission is to provide security forces with a continuous contingency response capability for the national ICBM complex. However, the Bell UH–1N is not capable of meeting current security requirements. It does not meet Key Performance Parameters for speed, endurance, range, or payload. UH–1Ns are not armed with offensive weapons, have no defensive capabilities or countermeasures, and cannot operate in a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) environment.
The average Air Force UH–1N airframe is 38 years old. The original design life for this aircraft was 2,500 flying hours, although some aircraft in the inventory have over 13,000 hours. The UH–1N fleet is showing its age with fatigue-related cracks in the tail boom and is currently undergoing its second tail boom replacement enabling it to meet flight safety standards. The Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) was an Air Force effort to replace the UH–1N. The CVLSP was originally envisioned as a variant of CSAR–X. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council directed that the efforts be separated and then directed AFSPC to conduct a separate CVLSP Analysis of Alternatives (AoA).
As part of the Common Vertical Lift approach, in 2006 it was planned that there would also to be a procurement of 66 Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP). The CVLSP was envisioned as a less complex variant than the PRV Block 0 aircraft that will provide a medium-lift vertical take-off and landing aircraft to support Air Mobility Command (AMC) and Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) requirements. The CVLSP would replace the current UH-1Ns. The first variant of up to 20 aircraft for AMC will provide a safe and reliable passenger airlift for the National Capitol Region.
The second variant of up to 46 aircraft would support AFSPC, AETC, AFMC, and PACAF. This mission includes protection of CONUS strategic nuclear and space launch assets through its primary missions of responding to critical incidents, securing of base movement of strategic assets, performing general security operations, and providing general mission support.
The primary Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) helicopter mission is to provide Security Forces with a continuous contingency response capability for the national ICBM complex. However, the Bell UH-1N is not capable of meeting current security requirements. It does not meet Key Performance Parameters for speed, endurance, range, or payload. UH-1Ns are not armed with offensive weapons, have no defensive capabilities or countermeasures, and cannot operate in a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) environment. The average Air Force UH-1N airframe is 38 years old. The original design life for this aircraft was 2,500 flying hours, although some aircraft in the inventory have over 13,000 hours. The UH-1N fleet is showing its age with fatigue-related cracks in the tail boom and is currently undergoing its second tail boom replacement enabling it to meet flight safety standards.
RDT&E funding is required for the development of five Test Vehicles (TV) and the design, integration, testing and certification of PRV mission components required by the Operational Requirements Document (ORD). Request for proposals (RFP) was to be released in FY05. Competitive source selection and contract award were to be completed in FY06. Test articles were to be delivered starting in FY09. Milestone C was planned for FY11.
PRV acquisition strategy was revised to pursue a two-phase spiral development approach. Phase 1 would develop and field two increments, a Block 0 and a Block 10 platform. The Block 0 PRV would begin production deliveries in FY11, and have an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in FY13. Block 10 PRVs would have an IOC of FY18. Phase 2 of the PRV acquisition program would develop an improved combat rescue vehicle with increased speed, range, and survivability with planned fielding starting in FY22.
As of mid-2004 the Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) program intended to replace 104 HH-60s with about 132 new aircraft. This decision was due in the 2005 timeframe. Based on studies indicating that one common vertical lift platform is most cost effective, the Air Force intended to address other future helicopter replacements for 60-odd UH-1Ns as part of this one program. This requirement would add about 100 more helicopters for Space Command and Support, air base support, and executive lift missions. The service predicted significant savings in support, and training costs with a common helicopter fleet.
The CVLSP was originally envisioned as a variant of CSAR-X. The Joint Requirements Oversight Council directed that the efforts be separated and then directed AFSPC to conduct a separate CVLSP Analysis of Alternatives (AoA). With the 50,000 lb Chinook chosen for the combat rescue requirement, the Air Force Systems Center reiterated that CVLSP is not part of the CSAR-X program.
The CVLSP AoA was complete and by 2007 was in coordination at the Air Staff. The AFSPC team was considering four CVLSP options:
1. CSAR-X platform
2. Rebuild Air Combat Command service life extension program-modified HH-60G aircraft
3. Develop a new aircraft
4. Continue using the UH-1N aircraft
CVLSP was sixth on the Air Force's Unfunded Priority List.
The CVLSP program was a `new start' for fiscal year 2009 and would provide vertical lift for the Air Force Space Command's nuclear weapon security, and for mass passenger transport in the National Capital Region. The CVLSP would replace 62 UH-1N helicopters which were used to perform these missions.
In April 2011 the Air Force secretary and chief of staff directed that the Service proceed with full and open competition for both the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform (CVLSP) program. The CVLSP program fills identified capability gaps while replacing the current Air Force UH-1N Huey fieet, in which Service officials noted deficiencies in carrying capacity, speed, range, endurance, and survivability.
The fleet will consist of 93 aircraft spread among Air Force Global Strike Command, the Air Force District of Washington, and other major commands. For CVLSP, as of 2011 a summer 2011 draft request for proposal release was anticipated and the final RFP [Request for Proposal] early fall, proceeding toward an initial operating capability for Common Vertical Lift Support Platform program in 2015.
Funding to replace the Hueys became a problem in the 2013 defense budget. The Common Vertical Lift Support Platform program was terminated in 2013. With the deferment of the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform program, the Air Force would continue to fly the UH-1N. The Air Force operates 62 UH-1N helicopters at six major commands. The majority of the Air Force UH-1N fleet is focused on critical national security missions: nuclear asset security for Air Force Global Strike Command, and National Capital Region missions conducted by the Air Force District of Washington.
Anticipating that the Air Force would fly the UH-1N for the foreseeable future, the Department must selectively modernize the UH-1N to minimize existing capability gaps and avoid increased sustainment costs brought on by obsolescence. The Air Force Global Strike Command was considering flying the Huey 30 more years. The command sought input from defense companies on how to increase the 50-year-old helicopter’s endurance, range, speed, survivability, navigation and communications capabilities.
The fiscal year 2014 budget request included no funds for replacement of the previously terminated Common Vertical Lift Support Platform [CVLSP], leaving the Senate Appropriations Committee concerned that the Air Force's number one priority to sustain an effective nuclear deterrent was not being sufficiently supported. As outlined by the Defense Science Board [DSB] Standing Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Surety, failures continue in fundamental areas, impacting the field forces and the replacement or upgrade of old equipment. The lack of urgency in replacing equipment following the fiscal year 2013 CVLSP termination at the request of the Air Force resulted in the reliance on outdated, inadequate, and obsolete 40-year-old UH-1N helicopters that cannot meet full mission requirements, and operate under waivers to support crews and logistics at the ballistic missile bases.
Replacement of these aged platforms does not require a significant new technological development program, instead the UH-1N shortfalls in speed, range and endurance could be remedied through the procurement of in-service, in-production aircraft at lower cost and less acquisition risk to the Government. This alternative acquisition approach could compare favorably to the continued cost of sustaining the UH-1N, while providing significantly enhanced performance and mission capability. Therefore, the Senate Appropriations Committee believed the Department of Defense through the Air Force should leverage existing production capacity and submit a program for the replacement of UH-1N fleet in the fiscal year 2015 budget submission.
In 2014 the Air Force Requirements Oversight Council recommended replacing the UH-1N with upgraded Army UH-60 Black Hawks. The upgrade would “reset” A-model Black Hawks and upgrade them to the L model at a estimated cost of $10 million per aircraft. In 2015 the Air Force was exploring options to replace the UH-1N Huey, rather than automatically going with the recommended plan to use restored Army UH-60 Black Hawks. Interested vendors included Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky, AgustaWestland, Airbus and Bell Helicopter-Textron. Two known proposals included Airbus’s UH-72 Lakota and AgustaWestland’s AW139M.
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