UH-1 Iroquois (Huey)
H-1 Upgrades Program
As the United States Marine Corps (USMC) prepared to enter the 21st century, one of its top priorities was the H-1 Upgrade Program. This program encompassed the remanufacture of all light/attack helicopters in order to extend their service-life to the year 2020. The H-1 Upgrade (UH-1Y/AH-1Z) program would, among other improvements, replace the current two-bladed rotor system on the UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft with a new four-bladed, all-composite rotor system, and add a sophisticated, fully integrated, state-of the-art cockpit.
The goal of the USMC H-1 Upgrades Program was to achieve a platform that met the growing needs of the Marine Corps. What were initially referred to as the 4BW and 4BN, were upgraded versions of the current AH-1W and UH-1N Helicopters. The 4BW and 4BN, now AH-1Z and UH-1Y, share a common engine, Auxiliary Power Unit, four-bladed main and tail rotor system, transmission, drive train, and tail boom. The purpose of these modifications was to achieve commonality in both aircraft, thereby reducing logistical support, maintenance workload, and training requirements. The replacement of the two bladed rotor system with a common four bladed rotor system would achieve improved performance, reliability, and maintainability. The addition of an infrared suppresser to the aircraft would improve survivability. The 4BW would also include a newly developed cockpit, which would result in nearly identical front and rear cockpits that simplify operator and maintainer training and maintenance.
The replacement of the two bladed rotor system with a common four bladed rotor system would achieve improved performance, reliability, and maintainability. Existing advanced technology would provide the H-1 fleet with increased battlefield survivability and greater mission success with fewer combat losses.
The 4BW will also include a newly developed cockpit, which will result in nearly identical front and rear cockpits that simplify operator and maintainer training and maintenance. Litton Guidance and Controls is on the H-1 Team as the supplier of the Integrated Avionics System (IAS). Litton will integrate and provide equipment such as the color multi-function displays, mission and weapons computers, advanced communication and navigation equipment, and all of the software that makes these units function with each other automatically. This integrated system will take a lot of the workload off the crew and let them concentrate on safely flying the aircraft and fighting the enemy.
On 28 August 1995, the Secretary of the Navy approved the Marine Corps program to upgrade both utility and attack helicopters. The Marine Corps decided to modernize its Bell models, and give them new designations, UH-1Y and AH-1Z, in October 1996. A contract was signed with Bell, the upgrade program's prime contractor, the following month. After comparing the H-1 Program with the purchasing of H-60 Blackhawk helicopters to replace the fleet, Department of Defense officials decided that this program would ultimately save more money in maintenance, training, ground handling, logistic support, and common parts.
In 1996 Bell Helicopter estimated the cost to refit 280 helicopters at $479 million. The estimate grew to $568 million in 2000 and $717 million in 2001. As of early 2002 the program cost were estimated at $897 million. Bell Helicopter estimated that the upgrade program would eventually save the Marine Corps about $3.9 billion in maintenance costs.
The program entered flight testing in December 2000. By early 2002 full production had been delayed one year, from February 2004 to August 2005.
The program, known as the H-1 Upgrade, recapitalizes the entire 280 aircraft fleet (100 UH-1N and 180 AH-1W). The program was initially to remanufacture the 100 UH-1N transport helicopters and 180 AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters to an advanced configuration featuring common engines and flight dynamic components. The H-1 Upgrade Program would result in 280 new aircraft for the US Marine Corps to operate beyond 2020. These would have "zero-time" airframes remanufactured with the latest technology. The speed, range, maneuverability and lift capability of both aircraft would be dramatically improved. The savings in maintenance staffing and training, ground handling, support equipment, and spare parts inventories add up to billions of dollars over the life of the program.
This was accomplished through the remanufacture of existing UH and AH airframes with the installation of a four-bladed rotor system, a newly developed drive train, and more powerful T700 engines. Improved cockpit integration and modern avionics systems would also enhance joint interoperability as both aircraft would be able to transmit and receive information from aircraft or ground units of the other services. In sum, this program incorporated all previously funded or planned modifications into one program, avoiding the cost of a "new start" replacement aircraft until a Joint Replacement Aircraft was fielded.
The addition of an infrared suppresser to the aircraft would improve survivability. In addition the crashworthiness of both the UH-1Y and the AH-1Z is significantly enhanced.
The H-1 upgrade program would dramatically increase the range, speed, payload, and lethality of the fleet while decreasing the logistic footprint. The utility variant would operate at nearly twice the current range with over double the payload. The attack variant would realize similar performance increases. However, it would also carry twice the current load of precision guided munitions with the addition of two ordnance stations. Both aircraft would achieve speeds of over 150 knots at most mission weights. Moreover, these improvements would make the Marine Corps attack and utility helicopter capabilities more compatible with the performance demands of OMFTS concepts.
The H-1 upgrade program was an economical and comprehensive upgrade of both UH-1N and AH-1W helicopters that would resolve existing operational safety issues while significantly enhancing the capability and operational effectiveness of the attack and utility helicopter fleet. A key modernization effort, the H-1 upgrade would provide a bridge until the introduction of the Joint Replacement Aircraft in the 2020 time frame.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|