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Brown looks at £1bn helicopter order

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Brown looks at £1bn helicopter order

Old 14th Nov 2009, 19:28
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Not sure about the merits of doing dust landings in a Type 23 Frigate. Probably best if it's done in a helicopter.
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Old 15th Nov 2009, 08:43
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At least you shouldn't suffer from Vortex Ring State in a Type 23...
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 06:18
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As noted, any additional Chinook procurement is long overdue and would help to put right Mr. Rifkindís wrong in the 90ís.

Boeing will be only too aware that when it comes to heavy lift the UK MoD only has eyes for Chinook, which puts them in a strong negotiating position, but that shouldnít detract from the need to buy more.

The idea of giving the CHF the MK3ís to replace the Sea King has been around for some time, although a desire for a fully marinised platform will likely see a costly modification program in the future.

I hear from some circles that if more Chinooks are coming, then FMH is dead. Assuming the MK3ís go salty, then the Sea King solution is identified, but not so for the Puma as I still see a role for a smaller utility/medium lift platform post 2022 Ė 2027 when the Pumaís finally goes and also for Spec Ops.

There is a need (and it makes sense) to reduce platform model numbers to as few as possible, so itís a shame we didnít go the Chinook, BlackHawk, Apache (and maybe even a flight of Little Birdís) solution as they are all proven, do what they say on the box and are widely used by a large number of our allies. Interoperability - what a novel idea.

A weekend opinion poll shows a growing majority of the UK population want British troops out of Afghanistan within 12 months. I see Mr. Brown wasted no time at last nightís Lord Mayor's banquet in making a little political gain out of this news and in spite of what the Military see as a need for the future, I wonder whether any expedited exit strategy will cause Ministers to question the number of new platforms on the wish list?
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 07:03
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Hilife,

Some valid points, but regardless of whether UK Plc pull out of Afghanistan in the next 5 years or not is in my eyes irrelevant. Whether it is future warfighting against large armoured formations or disaster relief New Orleans style, HMT and Prime Minister Brown can look for as many scape goats and political spin options as they want, but the hard fact (backed up now by considerable operational experience and not just RUSI 'think tanks' ,Operational Analysis and NAO reports) is that the UK has been taking considerable risk in underfunding/resourcing helicopter lift. Not just an odd per cent here and there - but a huge amount of lift capability shortfall.

Like anyone I welcome any politcal solution to any conflict (war is after all just a continuation of politics by another means!), but if we believe that once the requirement for H M Forces in Afghanistan is reduced/removed that the requirement for helicopters is also reduced/ removed then we are deceiving ourselves (again) or shifting the risk to another Govt or generation.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 08:40
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Are we going for an of the shelf purchase with proper hard/software support or are we going to do the usual insist on a myriad of changes that will have to be trialed and approved?

As for pilots I'm sure once the Harrier and Tornado fleet are run down there will be a surplus of pilots available and given the offer of convert to helecopters or redundancy at a time when there will be poor job prospects outside many will air and ground crew will jump at the opportunity.

If Merlin HC3 is going CHF how much work will be needed to maritimeise it and is this why one of the Carriers or the carrier will be an LPH as it will have bigger lifts to accomidate the non folding tailboom etc.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 09:05
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I see the Blackhawk in UK colours raises its head again!

Maybe it would be a better contender for Flynx replacement and cancel the puma upgrade to fund it and when the AAC has its blackhawks scrap puma.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 12:12
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Merlin HC3 to sea?

Start from scratch. Folding head, folding tail, reinstallation of lashing points which may or may not be sufficient for deck ops but have been removed as a weight-saving measure, full SHOL prog (HC3 not cleared for deck ops or in BR766).

Then the whole EMI/EMC process and thats before e deal with any airframe issues...............

Needs folding head, otherwise will be unable to work on LPD or LPH and tail as it won't fit in hangars (tail rotor tip 6.7m off deck) otherwise.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 15:19
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Not a Boffin,

Although we all know that Merlin is not the answer - as many know it is certainly better than the current airframe. But be careful at a time of SDR and financial constraints in making the whole evolution appear too difficult and costly.

Get your foot in the door (hopefully with improved engine performance) and then start the SHOL and marinisation process. You (the Fisheads) can even start talking about force mixes (CH47/Merlin) if you really want.

But all in time, and if a CH47 can remain decked park on the O Boat, then as an interim measure I am sure that a Merlin can offer a limited IOC (for the right price I am sure that QQ will clear a Mk3 pretty quickly for a limited SHOL). Here and now (i.e. today) lets start the ball rolling with increasing the lift, through more CH47.

And if CHF doesn't want Merlin, then I am sure that it can join a light blue CH47 double earmarked amphib wing ready for when HMS Prince of Wales becomes an LPH with CH47 capable lifts.

And we all know how well double earmarking works
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 15:51
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MM4

Only too well aware of the finance constraints, but having looked at this very issue a couple of years ago, the Wokka is in many ways an easier bird to get aboard.

You can indeed deck park them on Ocean, but when there are a lot more birds (eg somewhere between six and nine for a full Coy grp lift) then you'll run out of space real quick.

And CHF live on a lot more platforms than Ocean. Typically you'll have one or two detached living on LPD (not possible with a non-folding bird).

The real killer is the EMI/EMC issue. If there are any dramas then they'll be expensive to fix and definitely not work-roundable.........

You should also know that the uprated engines are of chocolate fireguard use without the GB rating being fixed.

You're right on the lift issue, but running headlong at a (IMO dubios) solution because it gets a few more Wokkas doesn't fit the bill and might end up somewhere worse. In any case, I thought this issue was aircrew availability, not airframes.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 17:01
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N_a_b,

Agreed - power plant improvements will always require gear train/transmission mods and hopefully the Freaks and Cap ALM will ensure that a hollistic view is taken in any potential future upgrade.

As to EMI, of course an issue - but if Osprey, AH and other data bus digital FADEC platforms can make it onboard one of your floating tubs then unless there is some very special electricky with the Merlin then it should be able to embark (even if work rounds and selective switch offs are required in the early IOC days). Not ideal I agree, but not a show stopper.

But why am I trying to force Merlin on the Fisheads? I have always said that CH47 is the answer, and if amphibious lift capability is the true requirement from those on the ground, then why are we either bothering with Merlin? A joint CH47 force ain't that bad - I know that you were bitten with the Harrier fraternity, but trust me there is absolutely no appetite for us light blue to spend our careers bobbing up and down looking for your beloved golden rivet! Give the mighty wokka a try and you will not look back!

SAR H needs a platform (can HMT see a contra deal with industry's SAR H prime contractor?). Merlin is already proven in this role in Canada and Japan isn't it?

Why not AH/CH47 (BRH/Wildcat - if we must) for JHC and then keep Puma (post LEP) for any niche specialised tasks on the rare occasions when size really doesn't matter?

Saves the 2nd CVF through a genuine requirement for Amphib shipping, full of CH47 will certainly solve the NAO's amphibious lift deficiency. All of the other boats can be used for AH, BRH/Wildcat (if we must) and U(C)AVs.

Last edited by MaroonMan4; 17th Nov 2009 at 17:20.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 17:21
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If the answer is the Wokka, then what's the question?

Your points on EMI etc are well made, but I think I'm right in suggesting that neither V22, nor AH have operated off a grey-war canoe for extended periods. V22 (which is designed for a maritime environment) has done a couple of landing on a CVS and AH has done a number of deck trials off LPH, but neither has operated to the best of my knowledge.

Nor can one get round the issue of folding by hoping that a limited capability of LPH/CVS will suffice while waiting for a big-deck CVF with appropriate lifts. Those cabs will have to operate off a range of decks (including the cloggies) and a Wokka on deck knocks out two spots compared to a folded MH of some description.

As to light blue proclivities towards embarked ops, you're not kidding. When I was going round Benson and Odiham a couple of years back, the unanimous response to the idea of such was "where's me PVR form?" from a bunch of people who were busily working their @rses off in both sandy places and quite rightly worried that another demand was in the offing.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 17:37
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MM4 / NaB,
You two sound like attendees at a SABR requirements meeting...

The cycloptic muppet and his CS/Military outriders killed the folding CH47 SABR platform 5 years ago with the £1.5Bn raid on the RW budget. Ironically, they'd be arriving soon. Be sort of handy right now wouldn't they?

The imperitive seems to be getting aircraft at the rush - this would preclude any attempt to marinise the CH47F - that boat has probably sailed (pardon the pun..). So, what we're left with, is spending almost as much money 5 years later to buy (likely) inferior aircraft v the SABR baseline (no fat tanks, no blade fold, no wx radar, no wet build etc etc). However, it HAS to be better than buying more Merlin. The final config state of a CHF Merlin would need to be such that it genuinely provides the CHF with an uplift in capability - and a load more wokkas should ensure there are always enough for 2-3 in future TAGs.

The marinisation of the Merlin will probably take some time, but then we've got it. I can't see many fighting a temporary "capability holiday" on Amphib lift if the cabs (SK or Merlin) are doing the job in Afg - hopefully it will give the OEM time to think through the maritime, performance and capability problems.

Oh, and NaB, having operated extensively of one of the war canoes during Ops near a sandy place, I would always chose an air conditioned cabin, head and wardroom over a tent, tent and tent!!
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 18:13
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Evalu8ter,

I bow to your superior knowledge - and there is only one requirements meeting......

get the commander off the ground (or beach) and ask him what he wants

and that should also answer Nab's 'what is the question'....

The question is....what does the commander on the ground really want and need to deliver (lift) his troops into combat? And before anyone says infantry grunts know diddly about air operations or elecopters, then sadly there is many a brown job that truly knows what is required....both now in our current conflict, and probably for the troops that are going to need to lifting for future conflicts.

Ironically though (if you re-read my posts) Evalua8r, I do agree with you, and an increase in lift is required 'at the rush' and therefore we should just get on with it - and yes, Merlin will adapt to adding value to current and future conflicts (if the Junglies can make their current Sea King work, then I am sure that they will work around the limitations of our Merlin!) - there you go Talk Split, there is is your rare compliment.

We are where we are (yeeeeuch - did I just say that ) - lets just get on and do it shall we (but first of all lets see if Prime Minister Brown actually approves what us non-civil serpents having been waxing lyrical about shall we!)
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 19:31
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MM4,
Totally agree with you - but, as you intimate, those culpable in the cuts to SABR/FRC are now faced with the problem of trying to explain a new RW order without totally embarressing themselves - and the probelm of wriggling out of the "we've got enough 'elicopters" statements of the past two years.

JHC have a very good idea of what's needed - after all, that's the point of a Joint HQ and a lot of the guys/girls in the building have been that commander on the ground, or worked for him. In the past, these aspirations haven't been matched by funding and appetite in Town. If the leaks/rumours are true then perhaps this has changed.
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 20:48
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Gents,

I'm the first to say that I know nothing about 'elecopter ops (other than they can be damn fiddly for our heroic aircrew to slot with the Mighty Fin! Rubbish! ) So in the spirit of ignorance, perhaps I can ask a few uninformed questions...

The thrust of this debate has been we need more lift - Yes, got that bit. But this seems to mean lots of people saying let's get some more Chinooks (presumably CH-47Fs (HC4, or does Project Julius get HC4 making a -47F HC5?)). Is there no useful role for Merlin HC3 in the RAF SH force or is simply that more Chinooks (per the 1995 recommendation) would be better?

If buying more Chinooks is the right answer - and I'm sure that this is a sensible idea, those who removed £1.5bn from the RW budget a few years back could say that the commitment to current ops is greater than they expected (it almost certainly is more than they expected, but whether their expectations were remotely realistic - John "We're not going to fire a single round" Reid front and centre - is another matter. )

So IMHO there's no presentational problem that can't be overcome - so what of the technical solutions?

For Maritime heavy lift, Chinook seems great if it were marinised and had folding rotors. Currently, it doesn't, so why is CH-53K not an option? Is it cost alone or the spectre of a new type into the fleet mix? How much would full marinisation (sp?) cost for Chinook?

On the other hand, the Italians seem to have an origami Merlin Utility variant at sea - beyond the folding bits, how different is the design? What would have to be done to (i) retrofit the origami bits to HC3/3as or (ii) could we trade them in to AW for ones that do fold up?

Again, my apologies for my ignorance, but I'd genuinely appreciate understanding the pros/cons/compromises of this argument.

Cheers,

S41
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 21:06
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Squirrel,

There are no stupid questions - but remember this is a rumour 'blog' and actually just shooting the breeze here!

But to try and answer your question - and it really is the only reality pill that I personally swallow is that of fleet management and TLS.

Adding another aircraft type to the UK inventory will not do us any favours and when looking at commonality of training and spares alone adding Blackhawk or CH53 or NH90 or anyother worthy 'old' FMH potential suitor not only significantly adds cost, but also will take an awful amount of time to enter service.

Hence why although I do not think a Merlin/CH47 is not the turn key solution, but if Prime Minister Brown, HMT and civil serpents are serious about increasing rotary wing lift then there is every possibility that it will deliver a large increase in short time frames. Conceivably CHF aircrew could start green Merlin conversions tomorrow (aircrew and gingers) as could Merlin crews to CH47 - all with spares and TLS contracts in place for the initial stages of the transition.

And as to keeping a weather eye on future requirements, then as already discussed, CH47s are a huge lift capability, and will only get better with engine and avionic upgrades. Admittedly the Fisheads should also have had CH47, but given their current archaic aircraft, then Merlin is not that bad and I dare say that the Fisheads will make their deck cycles and the rest of their oggin gumpf work as well as potentially help the rest of JHC in land locked conflicts.

If Merlin to the Fisheads is the only political/UK industry compromise (to keep AW ticking over and not really admit (for export purposes) that it was an SH white elephant) then for the greater good of rapidly procuring 20 or so more CH47 will be worth it for the overall requirement, namely the boots on the ground.
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