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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: Program Updates

Attack — Boeing plans to fly its Block 3 AH-64D Apache Longbow on July 9, under an accelerated schedule sought by the U.S. Army. The new Apache, developed with money rolled over from the cancelled RAH-66 Comanche program, includes new software upgrades and modernized weapon systems, such as a new fire-control radar and extended-range missiles. Also, Boeing engineers are showing off Apache’s new networking abilities as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2008.

Heavy Lift — The U.S. Navy and Sikorsky Aircraft are adjusting the center of gravity for the CH-53K, the U.S. Marine Corps’ next-generation heavy-lift helicopter. A January review found the c.g. shifted aft with fuel burn in some mission profiles.

Utility — Boeing’s Philadelphia plant resumed production of H-47 May 15. The Chinook line had been shut down May 13 after the discovery of damage to two CH-47Fs that appeared to have been deliberate. The U.S. Defense Contract Management Agency, the U.S. Army and Boeing continue to investigate the damage. No other aircraft were found to be damaged.

Utility — The U.S. Navy halted the operational evaluation of the AQS-20 sonar because of reliability problems with the cable winch system aboard the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky Aircraft MH-60S Seahawk. The OpEval, which began March 18, was halted Apr. 18.

VIP — Press reports in India indicated AgustaWestland’s AW101 was in line for selection by the Indian Air Force as its new VIP transport. The service intends to acquire 12 aircraft. The AW101 is vying with Sikorsky Aircraft’s S-92.

VIP — In April, the U.S. Navy’s VH-71 presidential helicopter program conducted initial flight testing with Lockheed Martin displays on one if its test aircraft. "Results of the testing were positive, with no significant issues noted," the company said, adding that the test aircraft is on track for delivery to the Navy.

VIP — The U.S. Navy expects to issue request for proposals this month for Increment 2 of the VH-71 U.S. presidential helicopter. The contractor team led by Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, N.Y. has been under a stop-work order on Increment 2 while the aircraft, a variant of team member AgustaWestland’s AW101, was redesigned and the program schedule reorganized. The goal is to award a new Increment 2 contract in February 2009. — By Rebecca Christie

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