Friday, December 18, 2009

UH-72 Lakota...update

I wrote a post earlier this month complaining about the UH-72.  Well a person who appears to be well connected with the program responded under the name Anonymous with this comment...

Anonymous said... 

The UH-72a is a great replacement for the tired fleet of OH-58 & Huey's. Modern technology for 5 mil a copy. The aircraft is a dirivitive of the FAA certificated BK 117 C2 built in Germany, test flown and certificated there, then disassembled, boxed up and shipped to Mississippi for reassembly with all the bells and whistles. Test flown and given an FAA certification with 'N' number, then deregistered and put into military markings.
The aircraft is then to be maintained in accordance with FAR part 91 standards so the parts can be purchased from a 'pool' of civilian parts on an exchange basis for a much lower cost than maintaining an inventory all over the globe. The Arriel 1E2 engines are also to be maintained in accordance with FAR 91 as well. The Arriel engines to be manufactured in pieces in France and completely assembled and test run in Texas.
A nice little package with glass cockpit and 760 shp per engine to fly into the next generation. Gives me wood!
UH-60 A to L conversions and M's freed up to do their jobs as needed, at over 20 mil a copy.

Hmm.  Maybe its cost effective but now attention must turn to the convoluted route its takes before it reaches the hands of our...not warfighter (these aircraft aren't certified or designed to be part of the fight)...pilots.   Like I said this person sure sounds like he is in the know.  So lets assume that the information they provided is correct.  Is that really the type of manufacturing base that we want to encourage?  Ashton Carter spoke about the US helicopter manufacturing base being in trouble.
DOD Buzz covered the issue quite nicely.  So now the question becomes.  Is this something that we want farmed out?  Is it "good" for our country to have our workforce simply playing Ikea with French engines and German airframes?  And despite the costs wouldn't it make sense to have helicopters designed, and built in the US serving our armed forces?

Seabasing...International Efforts

I've been over at the USMC Seabasing Website.  While looking through it I came across the nation of Germany's effort in this area.  I was surprised and pleased.  The Nordic countries are already developing vessels for seabasing (whether they know it or not) and the German's have at least started working on the concept. 

Required reading...

Multinational Cooperation/Coalition Operations

The German Navy's Seabasing Concept

Seabasing...The Initial Concept (German Navy)

Concept for NATO Joint Seabasing

MEB Force Laydown

EFV...if it fails what then?

The long knives have been out for the EFV almost since its inception.  With the program suffering from cost overruns, a lack of reliability (solved) and a redesign to deal sufficiently with IEDs (also solved) it might be understandable.

The problem is this.  The Program Office for this program has allowed the critics the time to assemble a hit list of problems.  The program has proceeded at a snails pace-- that's the fault of the manufacturer-- and unlike the F-35, this program has only one customer.

So we're left with the question.  What if the EFV is canceled?  What next?

The issue then becomes the AAV.  First designed during the Vietnam War, the AAV has served honorably but is lacking in certain areas.

  1.   Water speed is inadequate.
  2.   Armor protection is outdated 
  3.   Vulnerable to IEDs.
  4.   Lacks infrastructure for networked operations.

The AAVs specifications
Production history
FMC Corporation
FMC Corporation
22.8 tonnes
7.94 m (321.3")
3.27 m (128.72")
3.26 m (130.5")

45 mm
Mk 19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher (864 rounds) or M242 Bushmaster 25mm (900 rounds)
M2HB .50-caliber (12.7 mm) machine gun (1200 rounds)
Detroit Diesel 8V-53T (P-7), Cummins VT 400 903 (P-7A1)
400 hp (300 kW)
VTAC 525 903 525 hp(AAV-7RAM-RS)
18 hp/tonne
torsion-bar-in-tube (AAV-7A1); torsion bar (AAV-7RAM-RS)
480 km (300 miles)
64 km/h, 13.5 km/h (45 mph, 8.2 mph)

BAE is the current manufacturer of the AAV (General Dynamics is developing the EFV) but the real question is can they (BAE) make it better than it is now and if they can what should the Marine Corps ask for?

First we need a more powerful engine.  Not necessarily for land speed.  The AAV's land speed is comparable to the EFV's and M1 Main Battle Tanks.  Marine Corps Infantry will not get left behind if they're carried by the AAV (cross country speed is generally lower anyway).  No, what the bigger engine is for is to help with the water speed issue.  For the engine I recommend the MTU-883.  The EFV is considerably faster in water and that must be solved.  I don't think that it will be necessary to develop a planning hull but better hydrodynamics should be incorporated into what I'll call the enhanced AAV.

Additionally the advancement in water jet technology should allow for faster water speeds.  They too should be incorporated in the product improved AAV.

Next should come armaments.  It will be hard to beat the 30mm Bushmaster on the EFV (hopefully it won't be canceled but this is a what if post).  BAE has experimented with alternate arming on the AAV and while interesting, I find it lacking.

The concept above is called the AAV7A1/UT-30. I assume the UT-30 stands for unmanned turret 30mm.
Regardless, I'm concerned about the room that it takes up on the inside of the vehicle.  If it carries the same number of troops as the EFV with this setup then perhaps it could be a go.  If not then a different solution must be found.  As far as the EFV turret simply being mated to the enhanced AAV, I just don't know about the engineering of it.  I suspect that it might destroy the center of gravity.  If both solutions are unworkable, we might be stuck with some unfortunate compromises.  One that might hold promise is the compact 20mm being produced by ATK.

In a pinch this weapon, mounted on a remote station would certainly be less bulky and space consuming than either of the alternatives we've already discussed.

The next issue would be armor protection.  Plasan has developed a number of kits designed to provide additional protection to our vehicles in the war zone.  This project should not be a problem for a company with their expertise.

The improved suspension incorporated on the RAM-RS upgrade should be further enhanced if possible.  I'm not sure of what that entails but it seems doable to an engineering layman.

Sea speed, mobility, armor protection and lethality have all been covered in this short "what if".  The main issue remains.  If the Marine Corps is to remain an "Amphibious Force in Readiness" then it needs either the EFV or an enhanced AAV.  To lose the forcible entry capability (and to rely only on helicopters would be to lose that capability) is unacceptable.

More info..
ATK Weapon Systems
BAE North America Land Systems
MTU (designer of a compact 1500hp engine...)

NOTE!  If BAE is not capable or doesn't wish to update/improve this vehicle then all is not lost.  Samsung Techwin has a license to build this vehicle and we should offer them a chance if BAE declines.