The TH-73A Thrasher is the military variant of the commercially available Leonardo TH-119. It will be used for undergraduate rotary and tilt-rotor pilot training for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) will be the primary training system for all U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and participating allied student rotary-wing and tilt-rotor combat pilots in support of worldwide operations at higher rates than have been seen over the last two decades.
The TH-73A Thrasher is named for the brown thrasher, a bird common to the skies over the Southeastern United States including Northwest Florida. The inconspicuous, yet territorial, bird is a fearless defender known for its low-level flying prowess.
The TH-73A is the aircraft component of the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS). AHTS will improve pilot training and skills by using current cockpit technologies and a modernized training curriculum that reflect tri-service maritime fleet capabilities. The TH-73A is expected to be in service for approximately 30 years. The TH-73As are fully Federal Aviation Administration certified prior to delivery, thus bringing a ready-made solution that will transition the TH-57 platforms out of service by 2025.
It is the replacement for 35-year-old TH-57B/C Sea Ranger, which is scheduled to sundown in fiscal years 2022 through 2025. As TH-57 helicopters have been used to train pilots since the early 1970s, the technology used in their design is 50 years old, which by today’s training standards, is considered obsolete. As a result, the TH-57 does not meet the future training requirements of the Navy and Marine Corps. Moreover, the aging TH57s are rapidly reaching the end of their useful service life. In order to keep the TH-57 operational, costly repairs and maintenance are frequently required to extend its service life.
The TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) improves pilot training and skills by using current cockpit technologies and modernized training curriculum that reflect the capabilities in the current Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard inventory. Using a skills-based approach to training, with just-in-time methodology, incorporating modern technology, AHTS will ensure Rotary Wing Aviators are produced at a higher quality, more efficiently, ready to meet the challenges faced in the fleet.
Designed to mitigate the capability and capacity gaps of the TH-57 training system, the AHTS is an integrated training system composed of a new commercial helicopter and associated Ground Based Training System. The Ground Based Training System includes simulators, classroom instruction, and a revised curriculum. To complement inaircraft flight training, all Navy pilots use state-of-the-art simulators extensively. Simulator training is extremely realistic and includes all facets of flight operations and comprehensive emergency procedures, which allows students to practice in a risk-free environment. However, simulators cannot replace the experience provided by helicopter flight training. The AHTS curriculum provides the appropriate mix of simulated and in-aircraft flight training to maximize the student pilot training experience. Simulator training is a complement rather than a replacement to actual flight training.
TW-5 is comprises three primary fixed-wing and three advanced helicopter squadrons and trains aviators from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force, and allied nations. Headquartered at NAS Corpus Christi, CNATRA comprises five training air wings in Florida, Mississippi and Texas, which are home to 17 training squadrons. In addition, CNATRA oversees the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and the training curriculum for all fleet replacement squadrons.
Flight training operations with the TH-73A would be conducted at airfields, and within airspace, already utilized by Training Air Wing Five. However, there would be an increase in the number of annual flight operations, to include training operations involving night vision device training, flying in formation at night, and search and rescue. Flight training operations would be conducted primarily at Whiting Field South and NOLFs Spencer, Pace, Site X, Harold, Santa Rosa, and Choctaw; TH-XX would continue to fly in and out of local municipal airports as necessary, including Pensacola International Airport and Peter Prince/Milton Airport among others, in executing flight training curriculum to gain required operational experience in Federal Aviation Administration-controlled airspace. All training operations would continue to observe all Federal Aviation Administration flight rules. Use of municipal airports by military aircraft is consistent with Federal Aviation Administration regulations and airport Master Plans.
Under the Action Alternative, no significant impacts from noise would occur. The Action Alternative would not result in any off-base noise impacts above 65 decibel (dB) day-night average sound level (DNL) at Whiting Field South. NOLF Choctaw is used by military jets for pattern training and the proposed TH-73A operations at NOLF Choctaw would not contribute a significant difference to the noise environment. For noise exposure in off-base locations in the immediate vicinity of the remaining five NOLFs, noise levels above 65 dB DNL would affect an additional 200 acres and 215 more people when compared to noise levels under the No Action Alternative. Noise levels for 196 of the 200 acres would be from 65 to <70 dB DNL [day-night average sound level] at five NOLFs: 73 acres at NOLF Spencer, 37 acres at NOLF Pace, 18 acres at NOLF Site X, 1 acre at NOLF Harold, and 67 acres at NOLF Santa Rosa. Noise levels for the remaining 4 acres would be from 70 to <75 dB DNL at NOLF Santa Rosa. Noise levels for all 215 people would be from 65 to <70 dB DNL at two NOLFs: 148 people at NOLF Spencer and 67 people at NOLF Santa Rosa. None of the 215 people affected would experience noise above 70 dB DNL.
The need for increased training is due to the increased Fleet demand for helicopter pilots and additional tilt-rotor (e.g., Osprey MV-22) pilots that requires additional student training. Rotary-wing pilots currently make up more than 50 percent of all Naval pilots. The expected pilot training requirement is forecasted to be more than 600 rotary-wing pilots annually, which is estimated to continue to increase.
Advanced Helicopter Training consists of undergraduate helicopter training for U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and participating allied student pilots who will go to helicopter follow-on pipelines. This phase of training will be flown in the TH-73A aircraft. This syllabus is divided into stages, including Ground, Contact, Instrument, Navigation, Formation, Tactical, Shipboard/SAR, and night vision devices. Each stage is subdivided into training blocks. The training blocks consist of a specified number of flights. At the completion of the Advanced Helicopter Training syllabus, students earn their “Wings of Gold” and are sent to Fleet Replacement Squadrons for follow-on instruction in Fleet aircraft.
Intermediate Tilt-rotor Helicopter Training consists of undergraduate helicopter training for U.S. Marine Corps and Navy students who will go to multi-engine and MV-22 pipeline training. This phase of training will be flown in the TH-73A aircraft. This syllabus is divided into stages, including Ground, Contact, Instrument, Formation, Tactical, and night vision devices. Each stage is subdivided into training blocks. The training blocks consist of a specified number of flights. At the completion of the Intermediate Tiltrotor Helicopter Training yllabus, students graduate to the Advanced Multi-Engine Training syllabus which is provided at Training Air Wing Four, NAS Corpus Christi.
The TH-73A incorporates a modern avionics suite with a fully integrated flight management system, automatic flight control system, and independent, digital cockpit displays to both pilot stations. It boasts increased performance in power, speed, payload, and endurance over the Sea Ranger, making it comparable to fleet aircraft. These upgrades will help bridge capability and capacity gaps to better prepare newly winged naval aviators as they transition to fleet replacement squadrons for postgraduate training.
In addition to new helicopters, the full Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) includes aircrew training services that provide availability on new simulators, a modernized curriculum, and a new contractor logistics support contract for Thrasher maintenance and flight line support. “Using current cockpit technologies and a new training curriculum, AHTS will improve pilot training and skills and ensure rotary wing and tilt-rotor aviators are produced more efficiently at a higher quality and are ready to meet the fleet’s challenges,” CNATRA Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff said. “AHTS will meet our advanced rotary wing and intermediate tilt-rotor training requirements through 2050.”
PMA-273 at Naval Air Systems in Patuxent River, Maryland, oversees the AHTS and TH-73A, and will determine the final disposition of the 35-year-old TH-57 Sea Ranger, which is scheduled to sundown in fiscal years 2022 through 2025.
“The simple cockpit design and layout, pushbutton and toggle switch interface, advanced navigation and communication capabilities, and rapid control response make it the ideal training aircraft and the perfect stepping stone to any service rotary wing platform,” said Cmdr. Dustin Robbins, TW-5 AHTS Fleet Integration Team (FIT) officer in charge. “With its all-digital cockpit and fully integrated Flight Management System coupled with superior power and speed margins, the TH-73A is a lot of fun to fly.”
|Contractor||AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp. (Leonardo)|
|Delivery Date||Calendar Years 2021 through 2024|
|Propulsion||Pratt & Whitney PT6B-37A turbo shaft engine|
|Length (rotors turning)||42 feet, 5 inches (12.92 meters)|
|Height||10 feet, 9 inches (3.29 meters)|
|Rotor Diameter||35 feet, 6 inches (10.83 meters)|
|Weight (baseline empty weight)||3,325 pounds (1,508 kilograms)|
|Range||357 nautical miles|
|Crew||Pilot, Co-pilot, 3 passengers|
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