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The US Military's Futuristic "Helicopters"

| 15 Comments | 2 TrackBacks
JHL: QTR Concept
(click to view full)

The US military and NASA recently announced the award of five agreements/contracts for the Concept Design and Analysis (CDA) of a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) Joint Heavy Lift (JHL) rotorcraft. This is a futuristic aircraft that would carry roughly the capacity of a modern C-130 Hercules Transport, but with the ability to take off and land like a helicopter. No current US military helicopter even comes close.

To meet this goal, the competitors are deploying some radical and different technologies in their proposals. DID describes & explains them.

H-53 Pave Low
(click to view alt.)

At the same time, the US Marine Corps' vital medium-heavy lift CH-53E Super Sea Stallion helicopters are beginning to to wear out their airframes. Hence the HLR Heavy Lift Replacement program, aimed at fielding new-build CH-53X aircraft beginning in 2012.

As runaway cost growth on numerous US defense programs creates concern and pressures for program consolidation, however, some observers think the USMC's affordable CH-53X track upgrade may be sidetracked via a merger with the R&D heavy, schedule-uncertain, JHL. This has implications for Marine Corps aviation - and there are potential interactions with the US Air Force's $10-11 billion combat search-and-rescue CSAR-X/PRV helicopter program as well.

DID explains the platforms, strategies, and choices ahead.

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: September 27, 2005 3:17 PM
Dawn Patrol from Mudville Gazette
Excerpt: Welcome to the Dawn Patrol, our daily roundup of information on the War on Terror and other topics - from the MilBlogs, other blogs, and the mainstream media. If you're a blogger, you can join the conversation. If you link...
Tracked: September 27, 2005 6:26 PM
LAW on DID from Murdoc Online
Excerpt: Yesterday I noted a Strategy Page post about the return of the LAW. Defense Industry Daily has more details, and had already noted the comeback in March. Check 'em out. It seems that the real world, especially the parts of...


I was wondering, what happened to the Osprey in the end?

The tilt rotor is a design with great potential, but it seems that the Osprey was tried before the technology become mature enough.

In the end? Its still funded and a deathtrap as far as i know. The whole concept is flawed. The marine brass swears up and down it is safe but I dont hear any of them suggesting it for Marine 1 and letting the president tool around in it.

If the Osprey is any example this aircraft will end up carrying far less than promised, more slowly, and even then only under perfect conditions (ie not the battlefield). The funny thing is, we already have vehicles that accomplish this mission. They are called helicopters and they do it much more safely and under fire and have been for 50 years.

The Osprey's weaknesses make it uniquely unsuited to the combat search and rescue role, though I'm not a big fan of the Osprey in other areas either. $100 million utility helicopters are ridiculous and militarily stupid, period. Its performance is not that far above its helicopter contemporaries either, in critical stats like cruising speed at sea level and range. The damn things are unarmed, they can't even carry a Hummer, and their speed at altitude means the Marines have NOTHING they can escort them with (attack helicopters are too slow, jet fighters are too fast.)

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The V-22 is one of the biggest defense boomdoggles ever foisted on American taxpayers, and it has largely been kept alive by Congress despite numerous efforts to kill it. The USMC has been complicit in this, which deeply puzzles and disappoints me.

For the same money they're planning spend buying Ospreys, never mind the R&D sinkhole, the Marines could have...

  • Recapitalized all of their CH-53s with new builds (about 150) at $60 mil each.
  • AND added 150% more H-92s/EH101s than the number of ordered Ospreys (about 540), with better load-carrying capacity than a V-22 and, in the EH-101's case, better range. About $50 million each. If range was a real issue, air refueling probes could be put on these aircraft, as they are for Special Ops helis.
  • AND used the money still left over to buy and equip about 150 light BVS-10 armored vehicles to go with those helis, so the Marines had a new air-mech "operational maneuver from the sea" capability.

Far better than having 360 V-22 Ospreys. For all kinds of reasons, and especially given the parameters of the War on Terror.

The one thing I'd say for a QTR is that it may be less of a deathtrap. The V-22's problem is ring vortex state stalls, and its unique problem is that RVS affects only one engine (rather than the whole helicopter, which slides forward out of the disrupted air), thus flipping the V-22 on its back. A QTR might be able to treat RVS in one engine the way a helicopter would, which would make it safer.

More details about the V-22 Osprey are found in the CSAR-X article, which is linked within in the DID article connected to above.

A few months ago there was some discussion of VSTOL gyroplanes with C-130 capacity. Is this a dead idea?

Seems so for now. They didn't pick up a concept development contract.


In the early 1980s the USMC made the V-22, the advanced AAV and the LCAC the cornerstone of their "leap ahead" in capability versus the Soviet shore based cruise missile threat. It would allow an "over the horizon amphibious assault" that would let the amphibs avoid targeting and destruction by shore based cruise missiles as well as sea mines.

The Soviets are gone but that institutional DNA for that tripartate program in the USMC is still there.

The LCAC turned out to be the only thing that was close enough to technological maturity to work.

The AAAV is as much a pink elephant as the V-22, it is just less visible in the V-22's shadow.

For the price AAAV the USMC could have built a new Abrams class mobility AAVs and a new class class of high speed catarmaran ferry to deliver them from converted oil tanker mother ships. (In the late 1980's tankers were being broken up for lack of a market and a number were converted into semisubmersible ferries for dry docks and non-ocean going small craft.)

The idea was in the USNI Proceedings in the 1980s and has been born out by the commercial development of such high speed catamaran ferry designs by the Australians. Ferries that are now being leased by the US military in support of the war on terrorism.

This is the AAAV background information from the Federation of American Scientists site:

Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle

The Marine Corps plans to replace the amphibious assault vehicle with 1,013 advanced amphibious assault vehicles for $6.7 billion, including a $456-million increase due to a 2-year procurement delay. With a water speed of 23 to 29 miles per hour, the new vehicle could be launched from amphibious ships 25 miles or more offshore and reach shore far more quickly than the current vehicle. This improved mobility would reduce the risk to Navy ships from missiles, aircraft, boats, and mines. Until the new vehicle is fielded, beginning in 2008, the Marine Corps anticipates spending more to maintain the current vehicle.

Ah! I missed the name change.


This is a link to a video on the EFV from the General Dynamics Land systems web site:


With the proliferation of anti-ship missiles around the third world, that template isn't an entirely wacky idea. But its limitatons should be acknowledged, too. Most of the time, that isn't going to be the template.

And even granting that template, there are helicopters with longer unrefueled ranges (and as SOCOM proved, we can make them refuelable too), and better load capacities, that would cost less and could be escorted by armed attack helicopters. You'd think that last bit might be important for an opposed landing sophisticated enough that anti-ship missiles are a concern. So even based on the premise, the V-22 makes little sense to me.

I see the V-22 Osprey program gutting Marine airpower for a generation, and creating a real crisis down the road as crashes and losses take their toll on a fleet that's already too small. Classic example of techno-itis, the worst kind of political interference, and the defense procurement spiral all at work. If tyou want to see what's wrong with US defense procurement, the V-22 strikes me as the poster child.

And the worst part is - the poison may be spreading to other contracts and decisions, so add the classic commitment trap to the list.

Familiar with EFV. It's also supposed to have a bit more protection and punch than AAV Amtracs - so it's more like the Marines' Bradley equivalent, where the Amtracs are closer to the M113 in lineage and Vietnam-era age.

My jury's still a bit out on the EFV... if one accepts the scenario, one can still trash the V-22 but the EFV it's harder to imagine the equally capable substitute. Also, the EFV isn't yet as concrete in terms of "here's the vehicle." And the AAV Amtracs are a bit deficient in the protection dept. can they improve the EFV enough to justify it? I can imagine how they might, but we'll see.

FYI, just covered the Austal and Incat Australian catamaram ferries (again) on DID yesterday. They're doing great work, but naming your ships after genital herpes doesn't strike me as a great idea.

Helo's of the future? Why do I get this sense of "deja vu" as I read of this 6.3 funding?

Have anti-ship missiles become more abundant than anti-air missiles? And Joe is right, the V-22 sucks resources away from other aviation projects, such as Harriers and JSFs which could be used to destroy ASM assets in the first place.

I have always wanted an Osprey as personal transport.

They're doing great work, but naming your ships after genital herpes doesn't strike me as a great idea.

Lol, now that is damn funny.


Three words for you to chew on with regard to the EFV:

Add on Armor.

Go look at the FAS photos of the this EFV beast and tell me where the add on armor is going to be hung from? Mine, RPG and autocannon proof add on armor has no place to be hung from because this beast is part transformer when it goes into planning hull speed boat mode.

Additionally, the basic armor levels are that of the 24 ton M2A0 and not the 32 ton M2A3 with add on armor plus reactive armor applique.

The EFV has 18 people in it versus nine for the Bradley.

Can you say RPG and IED magnet? I knew you could.

Agree that the ability to quickly put up add-on armor, in the field and without any depot-level maintenance, is critical for the EFV.

If they can't get that part right, then they would have been better off just building up-engined AAV Amtracs.

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