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Heavy Lift Helicopter [HLH] Shipboard Operations

The need for a Navy HLH was initially formalized in an October 1967 Specific Operational Requirement. The Navy rationale requirement to increase tactical mobility and improve for logistic support. During operations ashore, this required to lift heavy mission essential equipment up and recover damaged equipment and aircraft. The Navy HLH would have been shipboard compatible with a payload lift capability rated at 18 tons at sea level, 90F temperature. included the materiel handling HLH would'have been to an 18 ton limit.

Subsequent to the publication of the Specific Operational Requirement the Navy and industry studied various methods to satisfy the Navy's needs for a helicopter with increased lift capability. One of these studies concluded that a lift capability of 17 to 18 tons was the minimum acceptable for the support of Navy operations. The primary recommendations from two other studies were: 1. An 18 ton HLH should be developed and procured as expeditiously as possible. 2. Strong consideration should be given to the development of a heavier lift vehicle in the 25 ton range to meet the outstanding requirement for large volume transport of fully laden containers and for movement of other military hardware in this payload class.

The Army in 1969 proposed to begin development of an HLH capable of lifting 23 tons under environmental conditions of 4,000 feet above sea level and 95F temperature. Army requirements documents dating from 1969 showed a need for a helicopter designed to lift, as its primary load, equipment weighing up to 23 tons at 4,000 feet above sea level.

In August 1969, the Navy recommended to DOD that engineering development of the HLH be initiated and that immediate authorization be granted to the Navy to prepare and issue Requests for Proposals to contending contractors.

At that time, congressional interest was expressed in an HLH that would satisfy the requirements of both the Army and the Navy. A DOD task force studied the matter and concluded that a single helicopter could not be designed that would meet the Army's minimum heavy lift requirements and still be shipboard compatible. The primary obstacle was that an HLH of a size and weight needed to achieve this lift capability would be too large to be based on Navy amphibious assault ships.

In early 1970, a joint Army and Navy Working Committee was formed to study the development of a joint service HLH. A Navy HLH ationale paper used by the Committee stated that the Navy and Marine Corps missions supported a requirement for an HLH with a capability to lift 18 tons under the ambient conditions of sea level, 90F temperature. The Comittee found that acceptance of a compromise multi-service HLH with a 22.5 ton payload would deny its use on service force, amphibious assault and landing platform dock ships because of its projected size and weight.

After the Congress expressed an interest in an HLH that would satisfy Army, Navy and Marine Corps requirements, DOD approved a program on September 17, 1970, which specified joint Army and Navy development of a compromise HLH design aimed at meeting multi-service requirements, starting with the development of critical components. The Army was designated as lead service for the phased development program.

After the Congress directed that the new helicopter be designed so that it could be usable by both the Army and the Navy, the Army accepted DOD's proposal that it reduce its requirement to a helicopter that would lift 22.5 tons at sea level, 95F, in an effort to make the helicopter shipboard compatible. With the design thus reduced, the HLH would still be too large to meet the Navy's shipboard basing requirement, namely, hangar deck basing on the amphibious assault ships (LHA an8 LPH classes). It could be used for Navy land baaed heavy lift operatfoms. The 16-ton CH-53E, which the Navy was developing at that time, would be small enough to be operated, maintained and based on Navy amphibious ships, specifically, the LHA and LPH.

In October 1970, the Navy requested reconsideration of the September 17th decision. The Navy stressed the requirement for shipboard compatibility, the urgent need to support amphibious assault operations, and the lack of desire to expend any Navy funds toward the approved HLH which it felt it could not use. In considering their request DOD stated that the joint Army and Navy HLH would be sized and configured to meet minimum essential needs and that other alternatives could be considered later at the program review.

The DOD approved a program on September 17, 1970, which specified joint Army and Navy development of a heavy lift helicopter rated at 22.5 tons at sea level, 95F temperature, starting with the development of critical components. Shortly thereafter, the Secretary of the Army was appointed the Source Selection'Authority and requests for quotations were released to industry in November 1970. In its Request for Proposals, the Army specified that the helicopters were to be designed within certain size snd weight limitations so that they would be shipboard compatible with the LHA.

In February 1971 the Army received proposals from five contractors for the requirements phase of the development program. Each contractor submitted its own HLH design concept. The Source Selection Evaluation Board determined that two of the designs proposed were in accordance with the limited dimensional and weight details contained in the request for quotation. However, the Source Selection Advisory Council concluded that none of the proposed designs were fully compatible with the LHA (amphibious assault ship) from an operational point of view. It further concluded, however, that the Boeing/Vertol design had a higher degree of LHA compatibility than the other designs and showed a much higher degree of appreciation of the operational requirement.

On May 7, 1971, DOD approved the award of the HLH contract for critical components to Boeing/Vertol and authorized the Navy to submit a Development Concept Paper (DCP) for a smaller helicopter, the CH-53E, that would meet its shipboard basing requirements. In May 1971, DOD notified four congressional committees (House and Senate Committee on Appropriations and House and Senate Committee on Armed Services) that the 22.5 ton HLH design will meet the shore based requirements of all services but will be too large to be routinely stationed on the LBA amphibious assault ship.

On October 14, 1971, a Defense Systems Acquisition Review Council (DSARC) meeting was held to discuss the draft DCP for an improved CH-53 helicopter program. There appeared to be considerable disagreement between the Navy and the DSARC concerning the need for the CH-53E. In commenting on the draft DCP, DSARC member(s) stated: "A review of analysis conducted to support an increased lift capability for satisfying Marine and Navy requirements reveals that current DOD inventory helicopters are capable of lifting all critical combat or combat support loads in a Marine amphibious assault. Further, these inventory helicopters in conjunction with the proposed DOD HLH performing the essentially shore-based missions could satisfy the Navy requirements."

On November 1, 1971, DOD authorized the Navy to proceed with the development effort for an improved version of the CH-53 helicopter, the CH-53E - limited to two prototype CH-53E's. The Conference Report on the 1972 Defense Appropriatioms Bill, dated 14 December 1971, directed the DOD to revise the Army heavy lift helicopter design so that it would be suitable for shipboard use by the Navy. By early 1973 the DOD, however, had not moved in the direction indicated by the Conference Report. In fact, DOD had eliminated from its advauced technology component program certain items which applied to shipboard compatibility requirements.

It had been the DOD position that it was not practicable or desirable to constrain the operational capabiltty of the Heavy Lift Hellcopter so that it could be based on Navy ships. The quadricycle landing gear was eliminated from the advanced technology component program. By doing this, the Army eliminated the temporary basing/operation capability of the helicopter with the LPH and LPD class ships. Neither the Army's CH-47 nor the HLH had folding rotor blades and therefore were not deployable without physical restrictions.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:32:48 ZULU