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HH-47 Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X)

In September 2005 the Boeing Company announced its entry in the U.S. Air Force Combat Search and Rescue Aircraft Replacement Vehicle (CSAR-X) program, the advanced HH-47 CSAR-X tandem rotor aircraft. The HH-47 Boeing was offered to the US Air Force as a combat proven and technologically proven solution. This option was in line with Boeing's vision of being the preferred supplier, integrator and teammate of the Air Force customer.

Built on a new airframe, the Boeing HH-47 CSAR-X rescue aircraft was equipped with advanced countermeasures and survivability enhancements similar to those utilized in US Special Operations MH-47G heavy assault rotorcraft. With its proven long-range performance, the special operations helicopter was multi-mission capable with significant combat experience, at high altitudes, in austere environments and with limited visibility. Militaries worldwide including the Netherlands Air Force, United Kingdom's Royal Air Force, Egyptian Air Force, Singapore, Japan, Australia and many more have used the H-47 pattern.

This aircraft has a history of performing search, rescue and humanitarian missions around the world,. The configuration that met the US Air Force's requirements could therefore be said to be already in active production and, as such, was a low risk choice.

The HH-47 was fully equipped with a net-ready cockpit, forward-looking infrared radar, terrain-following-terrain avoidance radar, and is capable of in-flight refueling. The aircraft also had a special corrosion protection for the fuselage and rescue hoist. In addition to improved power, avionics, vibration reduction and transportability enhancements, the HH-47 CSAR-X model featured an environmentally controlled patient treatment area, a 48-inch starboard door, rotor blade de-icing and wire strike protection. The aircraft was compliant with key performance parameters, and incorporates the advanced functionality to perform demanding CSAR missions.

It was said that utilizing the most up to date technology at the time expanded the range of improvements in the aircraft. The Common Avionics Architecture System cockpit made the aircraft fully compliant with digital battlefield requirements. This was in addition to the improved joint capability, Link 16, furthered the dynamic flexibility of the aircraft.

The HH-47 had a fully coupled autopilot, integrated multimode radar for nap-of-the-earth and low-level flight operations in the clouds, or in extremely poor visibility conditions. Improved digital maps, greater situational awareness, mission planning and management capability would enable flight crews to conduct missions with pinpoint accuracy.

The HH-47 search and rescue aircraft featured more powerful and efficient T-55-GA-714A engines with full authority digital electronic control. The engines each produce 4,868 maximum shaft horsepower, which enabled the aircraft to reach speeds in excess of 175 mph and provided the capability to transport a payload of up to 21,016 lbs. With its internal auxiliary fuel tanks, the HH-47 CSAR-X was said to be capable of self-deployment over 1,160 nautical miles without refueling. The new aircraft would be equipped with an improved air transportability kit, fully compliant with time requirements, to simplify aft pylon removal and cut build-up time, making strategic deployment a greater option.

The H-47 series of aircraft already had a reputation for reliability and versatility spanning 40 years of service as a combat, multi-force aircraft. Beyond combat assault, in high altitudes and severe weather conditions, the platform had been deployed wherever humanitarian needs arose. The aircraft was widely used in the multi-national tsunami efforts for rescue, recovery, and medical evacuation in 2004 and transport operations recovery efforts following hurricane Katrina in 2005 along the United States Gulf Coast region.

On 09 November 2006 the Boeing Company's HH-47 helicopter was selected by the U.S. Air Force as the winner of the CSAR-X program competition. The CSAR-X program called for initial operational capability of the selected aircraft by September 2012. Under the proposed contract, which is valued at up to $10 billion, Boeing was to build 141 production aircraft and four test aircraft at its Rotorcraft Systems manufacturing facility in Ridley Park, Pa., also home to the MH-47G Special Operations and CH-47F Chinook programs.

The CSAR contract award was labeled as "a vote of confidence by the Air Force in the ability of Boeing to provide them the rotorcraft they need for this very important mission," said Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems. "Backed by our decades of experience in rotorcraft design, production and systems integration, the HH-47 will rapidly deploy versatile rescue capability to even the most challenging combat rescue situations."

According to a 2007 Government Accountability Office report the HH-47 CSAR-X aircraft was fully mature and ready for the intended goal for the start of development of October 2006. A protest was filed by the other competitors in the program following the award to Boeing, which brought an immediate halt to further development of the aircraft. The protest was sustained in February 2007 by the GAO, which recommended to the US Air Force amend the solicitation and request revised proposals. If the subsequent competition shows Boeing's offer to no longer represent the best value, the GAO recommended that the US Air Force terminate their contract.

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