-T / T / +T | Comment(s)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Program Insider: H-1 Update

The U.S. Marine Corps’ new UH-1Y Huey has now entered full rate production, with the Corps scheduled to have 21 aircraft by the end of the year, according to Marine Col. Harry Hewson, H-1 program manager.

The AH-1Z being developed in conjunction with the UH-1Y as part of the Marine Corps’ H-1 upgrade program is still in low rate initial production (LRIP) and not expected to be declared IOC (initial operational capability) until sometime in 2011. Decision on full rate production is expected in first quarter FY2011, Hewson says.

The requirement numbers for both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z have been increased, with the AH-1Z going from a planned acquisition of 180 aircraft to 226, while the UH-1Y has gone from a planned 100 to 123. The Marine Corps has also switched the production priority ratio for the two aircraft. It was initially planned that production rate would be two Cobras to one Huey. "We’ve now switched that ratio to roughly two -1Ys to one -1Z in order to get the old UH-1N out of the fleet as quickly as possible," Hewson says.

"They are becoming more and more challenged in the heat and high density altitude. We’ve put so many missions systems on them that they have very little left to give for the wide variety of utility missions that we use them for. So [the plan] is to push the Yankees ahead of the Zulus to get them out there."

The drive to replace the AH-1W is somewhat less, with the -1W being "a much younger aircraft than the UH-1N," he says. The AH-1Ws are at about the 6,800-hour mark, "with some life left in them. They are a relatively overpowered aircraft with a fairly light weight for the two (1,680 shp) T700 engines, and do very well in high pressure altitudes. We’re doing some upgrades to the -1W just to see it through to that 2020 time frame when the last one will be inducted."

There are currently 162 AH-1Ws in the fleet, all of which will be remanufactured into -1Zs. The remaining 64 AH-1Zs will be new-builds. The AH-1Z has now been equipped with a new nose-mounted, three-barrel M197 20mm cannon to increase its firepower. The M197 is an electrically powered, lightweight derivative of the six-barreled M61A1 Vulcan Gatling type cannon, built by General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, and capable of firing 1,500 rounds per minute. The M197 is currently fired using linked ammo, but will soon be going to linkless feed ammo, Hewson says. "This provides a significant cost reduction and reduces jamming."

While the AH-1Z is the Marine Corps’ heavy attack gunship, the UH-1Y is also being heavily armed, carrying a complement of three different types of machine guns, to include the older lightweight M240 (previously M60) 7.62-mm machine gun, the GAU-17 7.62-mm mini-gun and the 50-cal. GAU-21 machine gun.

"It can also carry 7.62-inch rocket pods, either seven or 19 per side. These were all carried forward from Vietnam, except the unique thing now is the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS). This is a laser-guided package that is put on a standard 2.75-inch rocket to give precision guidance for the rockets," Hewson says. "The APKWS will be qualified for both the UH-1Y and the AH-1Z."

The AH-1Z line has now started taking deliveries of the Lockheed Martin Target Sight System (TSS), designed for day/night/adverse weather target acquisition and designation, he explains. The TSS is mounted in a Wescam gimbal "that has its own on-board distance measuring units that are constantly comparing [the target] position location to the aircraft. It is an extremely stable sight system. Once we get it fielded, it will be the best battlefield sight system out there." The first production TSSs were installed last June, and "will be on every -1Z," Hewson says.

The new UH-1Ys will be equipped with Bright Star Block II sensors built by FLIR Systems, "which is a very good sensor," he says. "It’s not quite the performance of the TSS, but the -1Y is not a Hellfire hard core shooter."

Along with the Bright Star sensor, the UH-1Y is getting a new satellite communication system to provide a satellite link network, as well as a new Command and Control package that will provide video data links from the aircraft sensors, as well as give ground commanders the ability to sit in the back of the aircraft with their own radios or laptops which they can plug into the system. They can also upload ROVER, or Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver, which receives camera images from nearby aircraft and UAVs, then integrates with other targeting software. — By Douglas Nelms

Live chat by BoldChat