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Navy Pondering Helicopter Future After MH-60 Seahawk

An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, assigned to the Island Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 on Guam in 2015. US Navy Photo

A MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter, assigned to the Island Knights of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 on Guam in 2015. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO – The Pentagon’s Joint Multirole (JMR) investigation into a new generation of helicopters is highlighting the differences between what the Army and Navy need in terms of vertical lift aircraft, Navy and industry said last week. Now, all eyes are on the looming competition between Bell Helicopters and Lockheed Martin’s tilt-rotor V-280 Valor and Sikorsky and Boeing’s coaxial SB-1 Defiant concept to form the basis for replacing the Army’s Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter starting in the 2030s.

The JMR technology demonstration phase 1 – in which the Valor and Defiant are tasked with creating a flying prototype capable of speeds of 230 knots (265 mph) – will form the basis of the Future Vertical Lift program and replace up to 4,000 Blackhawks and Apaches. Test flights could happen as early as 2017.

Both the Defiant and Valor concepts are designed for Army requirements – moving forces quickly to deliver troops and material as well providing close air support for forces with an attack variant.

While the Navy and the Army are determined to build in as much commonality as they can in their future helo programs, the services use their current fleet of helicopters very differently, Chuck Deitchman, director of Navy requirements for Sikorsky (recently acquired by Lockheed Martin), told USNI News last week during West 2016.

Artist's concepts of the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant (above) and the Bell-Lockheed Martin V280 Valor.

Artists’ concepts of the Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant (above) and the Bell-Lockheed Martin V280 Valor (below).

(Since the acquisition of Sikorsky by Lockheed, both companies said they would continue their teaming work on the JMR demonstrator with internal firewalls in place to prevent tainting the competition).

“The Navy has very unique requirements that are different than the Army’s,” Deitchman said.
“If you look where they’re going with JMR, the weight and the size of those airframes – either one – maybe too large for the Navy.”

The Navy’s current fleet of Sikorsky MH-60 Seahawks – MH-60 Romeo and MH-60 Sierra – operate from ships the size of the 3,000-ton Littoral Combat Ship to the 100,000-ton Nimitz-class carriers. In particular, the 60s are a key part of the weapons and sensor suite of the Navy’s surface combatants.

Unlike their Army Blackhawk cousins, Navy helicopters spend more time scouting and hovering around their surface ships and don’t necessarily need the high-speed the tilt-rotor Valor and the coaxial Defiant around which they are designed.

“If the Navy went with a next generation helicopter… I think you’ll see [an emphasis on] advanced power systems, advanced rotor systems and self-defense,” Deitchman said.

Still, the work of the JMR and the FVL programs will do much the Navy’s next helo.

“Navy is actively participating. The requirements are known, they’re part of the future vertical lift team and certainly — at a minimum — the architecture, some of the systems that are common with the Army, the Navy would like to harvest those,” Deitchman said.
“Certainly one of the things the Navy has made fairly clear is they want a common aircraft between [what will replace] the Romeo and Sierra… Different mission areas, but one common airframe.”

What platform the Navy ultimately decides on to replace the MH-60s hinges on the findings of the soon-to-be completed helicopter master plan and a pending service life assessment program (SLAP), said Capt. Craig Grubb with the Naval Air Systems Command’s H-60 Multi-Mission Helicopters Program Office (PMA-299) last week.

“The follow on aircraft to the current aircraft is going to be out there in the 2030 – 2040 timeframe – that’s contingent on how the service life assessment goes,” he said.
“We need to know how long the current aircraft is going to be sustainable so we can figure out the plan for what is next.”

Once NAVAIR knows what the life expectancy on its current aircraft they’ll start on their own acquisition path with an eye toward the Army’s final decision.

“It’s not a program, at least as of today, but it’s an interest on where we can do things where we have commonality and leverage systems, software airframe engines, drive train components going forward,” Grubb said.
“Not all of those requirements for vertical lift are going to look the same, there’s an interest and analysis going forward on what we can do affordably.”

 

  • RunningBear

    The Navy is winding down the older H-60 and has settled into the Romeo and Sierra. The Marine Corp on the other hand is locked in the MV-22B, MH-53K, U/AH-1Y/Z. Watching aviation progress into common flight displays, common engine drive components, common mission systems, etc; the new Navy platform may be a unique nano-carbon fuselage but with drive and system components common to the other services a/c.

  • The Cynic

    The Navy rather just be a partner on the program. Should just join the Future Vertical Lift fulltime, otherwise they’ll be behind the army on their replacement helicopters.

  • Secundius

    Is there a Operational V-280 Valor in the Military Arsenal, NO. “If It An’t Broke, Don’t Fix-It”…

    • redgriffin

      So because we have a present airframe in use we as a service should not look at a new one seems rather short sighted to me.

      • Secundius

        @ redgriffin.

        So, you’re going to STOP production of an Existing System, WAIT 10 to 20-years on a PROBABLE System. What happen when something BREAKS. Wishful Thinking, I Presume…

        • redgriffin

          Did I say that? No I said we should look at new systems and do it honestly to see if these systems can be used.

          • Secundius

            @ Redgriffin.

            Sorry, My Bad. AgustaWestland AW609, utilizes Osprey Technology. Sikorsky, Licenses out to BOTH Agusta of Italy and Westland of the UK. Just Reverse the Process…

          • redgriffin

            Yes and the new Marine one is to be built using the S-92 Airframe which use H-60 parts but I would still like to see the new technology so I can see if I can use it.

          • Secundius

            @ reddriffin.

            The only Differences Between Marine One and the S-92A, is that Marine One. Has a Triple Redundancy Flight Control System and Encrypted/Satellite Communications, as well as Kevlar-29 Conformal Armor of ~64mm Thick. Everything else is Virtually the same as the S-92A Model…

          • redgriffin

            Isn’t that what I said?

          • Secundius

            @ redgriffin.

            Unless you’re referring to Nut, Bolts, Rivets, Wiring and some Avionics. There’s very Little the S-92A has in common with the S-70 design…

          • redgriffin

            I think you may want to check with the manufacturer.

          • Secundius

            @ redgriffin.

            Parts and Electronic are a Commonality Point Issue, Manufacture the SAME. You what a Break-Down by Itemization Manifest?

          • JK

            @ redgriffin @Secundius Both of you guys are looking past a brand new product. We are still rolling these off the line. We are just now selling them to allies. The airframe is the same, but that is all. The avionics, engine advancements, reliability improvements are incredible. There is no immediate need to look at replacements, and whatever the replacement will my be only needs to be thought about right now, as it will likely be nothing like nor should it be anything that currently flies. S-92 will be a dinosaur by the time we need to replace the Romeo or Seirra, so will whatever the AW609 is. And tiltrotor won’t be the answer, they need to fit on small boys. H-60 size or smaller.

          • Secundius

            The Maximum Speed of the AW.609 is 270-kts. Almost Twice that of the MH-60R…

          • JK

            My maximum speed is 180 KTS now, I mostly fly at 80 or 120. We don’t need speed. We stay close to our ships.

          • Secundius

            Try 146-kts! Currently the Fastest Helicopter in the World is the Westland Wildcat/Lynx at 216.37-kts…

          • JK

            My Vne is 180, I’ve hit it twice, all be it going downhill both times. S/L I’ve hit 160. It doesn’t though, speed is a non factor. Endurance and mission systems are the only factors. And we are also talking about having grandchildren when our first born was just pumped out last month. These airframes are brand new and going to be here at least 20 more years, if not longer. The highest total hours on any aircraft I have seen so far is around 5,000. They still have the new car smell.

          • Secundius

            Unless they Mast Mount a “Long-Bow” Radar, to a MH-60R. There going to have Limited Uses…

          • JK

            not for a second. we are ASUW and ASW, and our radar is second to none in the rotary world. Look up what you can on the APS-153, and then think about what isn’t discussed over the internet.

          • JK

            I don’t think you understand the difference in mission sets between navy rotary and army rotary. TR has limited uses over the water, and the navy isn’t interested, nor does it need an attack helicopter. we already carry an incredible amount of firepower with our strike groups. The MH-60R is there for carrier defense, both from small surface ships and submarines. The dipping sonar alone discounts any future use of a TR system to replace the H-60. The radar, ESM, acoustics suite, and comm suite make the MH-60R the most advanced helicopter in maritime production. We don’t want a change, and would probably be happy in 20 year with the MH-60Z airframe. New airframes are all that are needed, I think you said earlier if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Add in new mission systems, make the airframe more reliable, but why change what works? We did it once with the swap from SH-60B to MH-60R. I have flown both over the last 17 years, there are incredible advances in both systems and reliability. Keep a good thing going. If they can find a way for us to go faster, fit 2 on a small boy, and maintain the dipping sonar in a TR or something with a push prop, go for it, but its wasting money if we can just go to the MH60Z. The Marines have been doing it with the Huey/Cobras since the 60’s. I would be happy to see that continue and wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

          • Secundius

            Apache’s and Romeo’s have Virtually the Same Flight Characteristics and Capabilities. Seahawk’s were just entering Service when I Left the US Army in 1981. And Apache’s didn’t enter service until 1984…

          • JK

            I just saw where you got 146 from. Wikipedia is never a good source. That page has about 20 errors just in the characteristics sections. Here are some better facts for you. USNI wont let me attach a link right now. google “navair MH-60R” and click the first link. there are better facts there.

          • Secundius

            Actually, NO! I got it from IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly’s website. I’m a Member of their Readership too…

          • JK

            well, I don’t know where they get their info. I’m an MH-60R flight instructor. Our NATOPS clearly states Vne is 180 KIAS.

          • Secundius

            No Sikorsky Helicopter to Date has EVER Achieved 180-kts. i Level Flight. The Closets ANY Sikorsky EVER got to that speed, was the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche in 2003, Red-Lined at 172-kts…

          • JK

            well, this is my last comment with you, because you have no idea what you are talking about. I have hit 180 KIAS twice, and I know several guys who have gotten in trouble for going over it. Vne for the MH-60R is 180 KIAS, google “navair and MH-60R”, click on the first link, and read. That’s the facts. Many Sikorsky aircraft and helicopters have crossed 180. We have a system in the aircraft now that tells on us whenever we break a limit. Vne pops up at least once a year in commands, which is 180 KIAS. You continue reading whatever you want, I will continue to fly the real thing.

          • Secundius

            Just because it Say’s It, Doesn’t MEAN it Can Do It. My “CO’s” Tagged Line was 170-kts. He “Rarely” Exceeded 150-kts…

          • Secundius

            A “Used” Interactive Technical Maintenance Manual on the Sikorsky S-92 will “ONLY” set you back about $10-GRAND. A New One about $26.5-K USD…

          • redgriffin

            Just answer the original question Secondius if the tech is out there why shouldn’t the navy look at it?

          • Secundius

            @ redgriffin.

            Why Don’t You ASK the NAVY that Question. I’m NOT in CONGRESS and I Don’t Appropriate ANYTHING…

          • redgriffin

            Because your the one who seems to dislike the idea of looking at new airframes for Hhelicopters.

          • Secundius

            @ redgriffin.

            I have Nothing Against the S-92, but to Revise my Statement of Before. The S-92 IS BEING USED BY THE NAVY, of Sorts. The USMC’s “Marine One”. But unless you planning to “RAM” the S-92 “Down the Collective Throats” of the Armed Services. I don’t see what the Point Would Be, other than Adding another Widget to the Inventory, that’s Allready Stretched to the Limit to Fill in Manning. Manpower Force’s are Getting Smaller, NOT Larger…

          • redgriffin

            What about a replacement for the MH-60 which you mentioned specifically in your first comment?

          • Secundius

            @ redgriffin.

            As I recall, I said Something About the AgustaWestland AW.609. NOT the Sikorsky S-92 Superhawk. YOU Brought UP the S-92 as a Possible Replacement Airframe…

          • redgriffin

            You said “Is there a Operational V-280 Valor in the Military Arsenal, NO. “If It An’t Broke, Don’t Fix-It”…” To which I said “So because we have a present airframe in use we as a service should not look at a new one seems rather short sighted to me.”

  • Brian Kedersha

    So basically, in the end Lockheed gets a win no matter what

    • Secundius

      Actually, there’s a System in Place and In Plain Sight as a Stop Gap Interim Entry. The AqustaWestland AW609…

      • Brian Kedersha

        Not happening, especially, if a Republican is elected. The pressure to buy “American” will be too great.

        • Secundius

          Earliest predicted entry date for the V-280 Valor, is ~2025. The AW609 is HERE NOW, NOT 9-years “Down the Road”. We’ve (the USA) have been Burned TOO Many Times, Putting “ALL OUR EGG’s” Into ONE Basket…

          • JK

            We aren’t looking at the now. The Romeo and Sierra are still coming off the line. This is 15-20 years from now. The helo master plan has worked out brilliantly. We love our new helicopters. And we should only buy American with defense products.

          • Secundius

            All the Technology on the AW.609 came from the MV-22 Osprey. Engines are Pratt & Whitney PT-6, Turbo-Props…

          • JK

            It doesn’t matter in the end. Tilt-rotor wont work. These will never fit into a hanger on a destroyer or cruiser. Currently the Navy is only looking at TR to replace the C-2. They also need to be able to perform SAR, which is damn near impossible for the current TR models flying. It isn’t any different than asking a MH-53 to perform SAR. It will be a variant of an H-60 sized or smaller hanger that can perform this function as a secondary mission.

          • Secundius

            The RAF are interested in acquiring ALL Remaining C-2A Greyhound’s and Converting them into Gunships. After all we took ALL their “Harriers” away…

  • Curtis Conway

    The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant can fit on the smallest flight decks, and has sufficient volume for USN helo combat systems. I expect that will be their direction. The US Army could use it for a very decent attack helo. However, the Bell-Lockheed Martin V280 Valor looks like an awesome people hauler for long distances at greater speed. The US Army would enjoy a similar leap in employment, deployment, and envelopment as did the USMC when they embraced their MV-22 Ospreys. Makes sense to me, if we are to maintain that qualitative edge. Adopting these model methodologies also is best for industry.

  • Russ Neal

    The tilt-rotors produce a lot of downwash compared to the more conventional helos.

  • vegass04 .

    Hopefully the Army will manage to push this program from R&D to operational capability. Army’s score is abismal to say the least, Future combat system comes to mind..FVL will be a game changer for the Army and hopefully we’ll see some prototypes flying in 2020. I find this much more important for the ground service then a new tank or AFV. Helicopters and air defense, that is where Army should spend it money.

  • Secundius

    Agusta/Bell/Westland in Fort Worth, Texas. Is Testing a Possible Gunship Variant of the AW.609. A AW609 AC02, Crashed Killing It’s Crew, but NO Mention of what the “AC” Prefix Meaning can be found…

  • Secundius

    According to New England Boating Magazine, Coast Guard Sikorsky MH-60J/T Jayhawk’s, are going back to a WW2 Color Scheme of “Yellow”. Specifically No. 13538 / Yellow…