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Heavy Transport Helicopter (HTH) / Future Transport Helicopter (FTH)

Recent European military operations involving NATO or the EU (EUFOR Tchad/RCA) showed that Europe suffers from major qualitative and quantitative shortfalls of essential helicopter assets. Missions of the Bundeswehr in Africa, Asia or Europe would not be possible without the use of CH-53 and their capabilities. France hasn't any such large transport helicopters at its disposal. The largest and heaviest helicopter available to France is the "Super Puma/Cougar". The French White Paper points out: "French armed forces are suffering [in the tactical and strategic mobility field] from a structural weakness: tactical air mobility, based on tact ical helicopters and transport aircraft. Ef for ts being made in terms of equipment acquisition should fill this gap, which now undermines the effectiveness and autonomy of the French forces." From a French perspective, it is operationally imperative to have in the future a helicopter with such capabilities in addition to the NH90.

In Germany, the Directorate General of Armaments, the Federal Office of Defence Technology and Procurement, and the Army Office began a working group in 2000 to develop "Future Transport Helicopter" (FTH) concepts for the successor of the CH-53. On 19 December 2000, German armament experts met for the first time with their French counterparts, the "Délegation générale pour l'armement - DGA", on this subject with the purpose of founding a working group. At that time, the DGA had already prepared a market study for a Heavy Transport Helicopter (HTH). The first informational talks took place with Boeing, Sikorsky and Mil/Rosoboronexport in 2001.

The manufacturers of large transport helicopters in the USA know of the requirements from mission experiences of the US armed forces and have been able for years already to gear their production of heavy transport helicopters to the missions of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Special Forces as well as the US Army.

In 2004 the German army aviation command had, together with the French DGA, defined the basic requirements for a new heavy transport helicopter. These were also cross-checked with the NATO Landgroup 10 specifications. Thus, Eurocopter started preliminary studies for a successor to the German army CH-53G helicopters in about 2003. In the spring of 2004 it was said that there are no German funds available for the program for now. The European Defence Agency (EDA) identified a requirement for a new transport helicopter capable of lifting 13t of equipment and supplies. A new HTH could be available around 2015 - 2020. Germany and France signed a declaration of interest on the occasion of the air show in Le Bourget on 19 June 2007 which provides for the joint analysis phase for a Future Transport Helicopter.

The HTH is planned to arrive around 2020. The EDA, in cooperation with NATO, has the difficult job of harmonising the desired characteristics. This will be a 40-tonne helicopter capable of transporting 13-15 tonnes of payload over 200-300 km. It will have three engines and an essentially interior payload capacity. According to the specifications for the future HTH set out by the French and German military staffs, the HTH must be capable of flying at a maximum speed of 300 km/h at an altitude of 7,000 metres. Its payload capacity should be 66 fully equipped soldiers, as well as light vehicles and light armored vehicles (one or two vehicles, depending on their size), the heaviest being the VAB (13 tonnes) and Fennec (11 tonnes). The HTH will also be capable of carrying artillery systems (155 mm...). The range should be 300 km with 13 tonnes at an altitude of 300 metres - 1,260 km with 6 tonnes (with high-low-high altitude flight profile).

At the 2008 Farnborough Airshow, MTU CEO Egon Behle inked a contract that ushers in a new era for Germany's leading engine manufacturer. With that contract, the company takes an 18 percent stake in the GE38 helicopter engine. For the first time, MTU acts as a development participant in a U.S. military engine program. While the German engine manufacturer has been a production partner of General Electric in the U.S. military programs F404 and F414, it will now bring its development savvy to the table as well, designing and building the three-stage power turbine for the GE38 turboshaft engine to power heavy-lift helicopters. Additionally, the German engine builder has obtained licenses for maintaining, final assembling and testing GE38 models on the proposed European heavy transport helicopter.

By June 2010 Eurocopter's proposed future Heavy Transport Helicopter (HTH) design had changed dramatically, thanks to the company's fresh co-operation with Boeing. Eurocopter's relationship with Boeing marked a departure from the initial American reluctance to work with European industry when the HTH was first proposed in 2004. The intention is for Boeing and Eurocopter to each perform 50% of a future project. On show in model form at Eurocopter's stand in the Heli Centre in June 2010, the HTH now shows more than a passing resemblance to Boeing's iconic CH-47 Chinook, but with a massive 33t maximum take-off weight. The aircraft's tandem four-bladed main rotors have a span of 19.5 meters (64 feet) and the helicopter would be capable of carrying up to 56 troops in addition to its three-person crew.

Claire Curtis-Thomas, a member of the Defence and Technological and Aerospace Committees of the European Security and Defence Assembly, concluded that "As the United States is also in the process of considering options for future heavy lift helicopters, Europe and the U.S. could find common ground to fill their needs. Notwithstanding the technology gap that exists in general terms between Europe and the United States in the field of defence equipment, when it comes to helicopters the two are more or less at the same level. Given the interest expressed by U.S. firms such as Sikorsky and Boeing in a transatlantic partnership, Europe therefore has a choice of options. The HTH is a flagship project which offers major potential in terms of developing the projection and in-theatre operational capabilities of European forces, helping establish a better balance in transatlantic cooperation on defence equipment and preserving and developing European capacities, jobs and exports for the benefit of the European defence industrial technological base. The development of the HTH would give European armed forces a projection and operational capability in the field of heliborne operations comparable to that of the United States."

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:59 ZULU