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Replacement Assault Transport Helicopter (HXM)

The concept or idea of how to conduct combat across the spectrum of warfare is broken into four areas of speciality in the Marine Corps MAGTF. It consists of the Ground Combat Element, the Aviation Combat Element and the Combat Service Support Element. The three combat elements are Controlled and Commanded by the Command Element. The Aviation Combat Element is further designed around six functions of capability, one of which is Assault Support. The concept of Over The Horizon (OTH) Vertical Assault Support started in 1946. Assault Support is conducted primarily by helicopters which are able to deliver infantry Marines and their weapons systems into unprepared landing sights. This capability gives the ground force great freedom of maneuverability by not being forced to land at a prepared landing sight. It is the driving capability behind the concept of the combat helicopter and its value to success in combat. As capabilities are added to the basic helicopter (e.g., the ability to fly at night, in all weather, over long distances without refueling, at highspeed, capable of self defense; the warfighting capability of the infantry is proportionally enhanced.

These capabilities are the constant focus of on-going requirements studies and analysis which are conducted by the Aviation Department and are based on Doctrine which has evolved over time from the 1960's. These capabilities consist of not only the aircraft itself but the Marines who fly, maintain and support their operation. Therefore, a review of any program is a comprehensive review of the whole equation of Doctrine, Organization, Training, Equipment ,and Support (DOTES). The Aviation Department maintains the capability to completely review the DOTES requirement equation because of its organization design which includes the sections of Plans, Policy, and Budgets (APP), Weapons Programs (APW), Manpower and Training (ASM), Logistics and Stations (ASL), and Command and Control (APC).

The program experts in the APW branch, as a part of their daily management of individual weapons systems, realized that the then relatively new aircraft, the CH-46, would need to be replaced at the end of its useful life. The end of the "useful life" for a helicopter may be a physical end defined by metal fatigue, a capabilities obsolescence, or a combination of both. The requirement is given permanence and focus of effort by placing it in the AVPLAN, the Aviation Department's (APP) long range planning document that gives the number and location of squadrons and supporting organizations (laydown).

The Department of Aviation -- after thorough review or "internal staffing" of the DOTES alternatives to maintain the medium lift capability beyond the life of the CH-46 -- submitted a formal Operational Requirement Document (ORD) in 1969 requesting procurement of a new replacement aircraft. This basic document is the instrument that is staffed up through the Headquarters staff to the Commandant and other Service Chiefs for Joint ORDs; if approved, the document is used to justify DoN "Blue Dollar"funding for aviation procurement through the Navy and DoN PPBS system. Funding of the program initiates the acquisition system which was tracked through Milestone (MS) accomplishment, starting with Concept Studies to MS-0; Prototype, MS-I; Demonstration and Evaluation, MS-II; Engineering and Manufacturing Demonstration, MS-II+ Low Rate of production, and MS-III; Full Scale Production. Well defined exit criteria must be met and reviewed before funding is approved to begin and continue development through all phases of the acquisition process.

As early as 1968 the United States Marine Corps recognized the need to replace its fleet of medium lift CH-46 and CH-53 A/D helicopters in the early 1990's. But other Navy-Marine Corps aircraft were given priority in the 1970's over the replacement assault transport helicopter (HXM) program. Despite a thoroughly documented, tightly specified statement of operational requirements, the HXM seemed to be just another helicopter program lacking appeal and forceful backing.

The lack of a coherent program, solidly supported by its Navy sponsor, resulted in the deletion, by Congress, of the HXM program from the FY82 Appropriations Bill in November 1981. Congress specifically pointed out that it had grave misgivings about the development of an expensive new helicopter by a single service, without strong sponsor support.

In 1981 the Marine Corps' request to fund development for the MLR replacement (now "V/HXM"), unfunded by Navy budgeteers for 12 years, was appealed to SecNav (John Lehman). SecNav and OSD officials had earlier that year observed the Army/NASA/Bell XV-15 tiltrotor demonstration at the Paris Air Show. SecNav informed the Marine Corps he would not support a helicopter for the MLR(HXM) replacement solution but will support an advanced technology solution.



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