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MH-53K Updates?

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MH-53K Updates?

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Old 7th Jan 2018, 17:39
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MH-53K Updates?

Happy New Year Y’all
Just curious, does anyone have any specific information on the progress of the MH-53K King Stallion program. It appears that there is plenty of PR info surrounding it capabilities but very few specifics. I noticed the published spec weight for the K is 33226 lbs. the exact spec weight of its predecessor the E. I can’t help but believe the K must be heavier. The 33226 weight for the E was established for the self-retrieval mission. To achieve 33226, the number 1 and 3 EAPS barrels, external aux fuel tanks and associated bat wings were all removed. The actual typical mission empty weight was in the neighborhood of 36,000 lbs.
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Old 7th Jan 2018, 18:31
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What they are quoting is Manufacturers Empty Weight I think - which probably is the absolute basic weight before anything (and I mean anything) is added for the customer to get the MISSION Empty Weight - same acronym but probably a few tons different.............
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Old 7th Jan 2018, 21:58
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well they were $115 million each at the last count. See if that's changed !!
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 13:56
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Jack,

If you're interested in a detailed update, Jane's published a comprehensive report titled "Long live the king: USMC prepares for delivery of the most powerful helicopter ever built by the United States" last June, though alas it's no longer online.

For what it's worth, Jane's gives the CH-53K's OEW as being 43,750 lb (vs. 33,226 lb for the CH-53E). The consultancy states an internal MGW of 74,000 lb for the Kilo (vs. 69,750 lb for the Echo), and an external MGW of 88,000 lb for the K (vs. 73,500 lb for the E). This last figure is the most significant spec change yet announced for the Kilo during its development, representing a 4% increase from the 84,700 lb Ext. MGW originally targeted.

What else is new?
  • Lockheed Martin received a contract for the first two LRIP aircraft last August, five months after the DAB approved Milestone C
  • GE Aviation subsequently received an LRIP contract for the first 22 T408-GE-400 (ex-GE38) turboshafts in November. Earlier last year, the Navy's H-53 PO noted a couple of engine issues, namely excessive #2 engine bay heating and post-landing flameouts, but neither was considered serious.
  • Jane's reports that the first four CH-53K EMD aircraft have logged over 500 hours of flight testing, with the first four system development test aircraft (SDTA) aircraft in final assembly at WPB
  • According to the PEO-Air briefing given at AHS 74 last year, the Kilo's IOT&E has slipped to December 2019, a four-month delay over the date given in the 2016 SAR. This latest slippage appears to be validated by a report that "NAVAIR may compress remaining CH-53K test points following positive progress," and by a suggestion from CAPE that IOC may slip to May 2020.
  • Reuters reports that the Kilo will make its global debut at the Berlin Air Show in April, though a report last May that the German Air Force "would like to fulfil its heavy transport helicopter requirement as soon as possible, and with the highest number of helicopters that can be secured with the available funds" suggests that the CH-47F -- which has a sticker price four times lower than that of the CH-53K -- may be the Luftwaffe's preferred replacement for its existing CH-53Ds
  • Lockheed is still pitching the Kilo hard as a replacement for Israel's CH-53s, and was doubtless encouraged by the reported freezing of Israel's evaluation of the V-22 Osprey
Note, all of the above relates to the CH-53K. Right now there is no MH-53K program, the existing MH-53E's AMCM role having been passed to the MH-60S (using a suite of five sub-systems, in lieu of the Sea Dragon's sled), though Lockheed does continue to pitch the idea of an MH-53K.

Originally Posted by Sir Korsky
well they were $115 million each at the last count. See if that's changed !!
The GAO's most recent Assessment of Selected Weapon Programs states that the $115M unit price is now $131M (as of August 2016), with Bloomberg reporting last May that the latest CAPE cost assessment had hit $138M/aircraft.

I/C
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 14:49
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Originally Posted by Ian Corrigible View Post
The GAO's most recent Assessment of Selected Weapon Programs states that the $115M unit price is now $131M (as of August 2016), with Bloomberg reporting last May that the latest CAPE cost assessment had hit $138M/aircraft.

I/C


So the old argument from the past decade that the Osprey was overpriced and should have been scrapped in favor of an equivalent buy of 53Ks now seems like a real rib tickler.

I don't think even the most fervent V22 supporters imagined that the 53K unit price would end up DOUBLING the Osprey.
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 15:58
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Sans,

It's pricey, no question. The exact delta versus the Osprey depends on the specific cost figure used, however.

The GAO figure of $131M/aircraft is a fully burdened 'program unit cost' number, which includes R&D. Looking at the latest SAR data available (from December 2016), the CH-53K's program unit cost has risen to $156M/aircraft ($31 Bn program cost, spread across 200 aircraft), while the V-22's equivalent cost is $122M/aircraft ($56 Bn program cost, spread across 462 aircraft). So by this metric the King Stallion is 28% more expensive.

The actual unit flyaway costs (i.e. excluding R&D and GSE/training, etc.) are - of course - lower. Using the most recent SAR reports issued for both programs (March 2016), the CH-53K's recurring flyaway unit cost is $94M, while the V-22's recurring flyaway unit cost is $76M (this figure being a composite of the vanilla MV-22 and SOF's pricier CV-22). So by this metric the King Stallion is 24% more expensive.

(For comparison, the CH-47F's March 2016 SAR shows a program unit cost of $27M and a recurring flyaway unit cost of $25M, the R&D associated with the F program having of course been far lower than that related to the clean-sheet Osprey or the only-the-dataplate-stays-the-same CH-53K.)

I/C
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 19:22
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Helicopter by the Pound

I/C
Helicopters, like salami or cheese at the deli can be pretty accurately priced by the pound. Using your numbers a the V-22 would be approximately $1600/lb, the (aged)CH-47F would be $540/lb. and the CH-53K works out to be about $1250/lb. Just saying buying bulk may pay off.
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 20:00
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Ian's post clears the cost subject up quite a bit.

Re the 53K vs the 47F, a few points:

1. Max gross. 88,000 vs 50,000 lbs.
2. Installed Power: 22,500 vs 9466 SHP.
3. Fly-By-Wire: Yes vs No.
4. All New Aircraft: Yes vs No ( modified older models in most cases for US Army anyway ).
5. Cargo Hook Limits 53K has 36K Ctr and 25K Fore and Aft. Several values noted for the 47F, but all were appropriately lower.

These are just some of the factors facing prospective other customers for each. Politics and fleet commonality/maintenance organization/spares commonality are always in the mix. Some might say that the installed power and weight put the K in another class.

Almost forgot: Re the 53E vs 53K empty weight question: At the moment the 53K test aircraft are in what is termed development/qualification flight test. Some people assume you simply design the machine, do a first flight, and then transition into the qualification testing phase. In reality, the first phase of the process is typically called " development flying. Establishing the speed, handling and maneuver envelope etc. In the helicopter business, this phase of testing invariably uncovers problems, 100% of which add weight to the previously sacrosanct empty weight bogie ( target ). Obviously, if there is enough weight growth, a weight reduction program is the typical response. I should add that I am not involved with the program in any way thus I have no idea where they are on this subject. In summary, at this point in the K flight test process, putting an exact number on weight-empty is premature. Its also worth keeping in mind that because of the technologies applied to the K, some areas have benefited from significant weight reduction ( composite tail, composite sponsons, composite main and tail blades and Fly-by-Wire controls etc ).
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 20:40
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Originally Posted by Ian Corrigible View Post

For what it's worth, Jane's gives the CH-53K's OEW as being 43,750 lb (vs. 33,226 lb for the CH-53E). The consultancy states an internal MGW of 74,000 lb for the Kilo (vs. 69,750 lb for the Echo), and an external MGW of 88,000 lb for the K (vs. 73,500 lb for the E).

Hmm, that would be a disaster for the 'K'.
That would leave 5klbs less internal payload, only 5klbs more external payload and due to higher fuel consumption a worse payload/range with internal and external load for the 'K' compared to the 'E'. Hard to believe.
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Old 8th Jan 2018, 21:38
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John,
Most of the US Army CH-47Fs will be new builds, or modified late production Ds. The cost delta between new and refurbished (particularly for the older airframes) was quite small in the end. The Chinook also doesn't suffer from tail rotor vices/compromises, is largely impervious to wind, is much smaller (it's relative...), can be flown more aggressively in the latter stages of a zero speed landing and is substantially cheaper to buy, fly and operate with an extensive worldwide support network, rather than relying on one customer with a limited fleet. The proposed Block II -47F will close the gap somewhat in terms of lift as well. The -53K seems to be exactly the aircraft the USMC wanted, and I agree it's in a different class. It seems like an awesome piece of kit if your mission set really needs it or you need to spend a prolonged time embarked. If not, buy the -47F and spend the (considerable) change on avionic/DAS upgrades and flying hours.....
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Old 9th Jan 2018, 11:55
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Originally Posted by Jack Carson View Post
Happy New Year Y’all
Just curious, does anyone have any specific information on the progress of the MH-53K King Stallion program. It appears that there is plenty of PR info surrounding it capabilities but very few specifics. I noticed the published spec weight for the K is 33226 lbs. the exact spec weight of its predecessor the E. I can’t help but believe the K must be heavier. The 33226 weight for the E was established for the self-retrieval mission. To achieve 33226, the number 1 and 3 EAPS barrels, external aux fuel tanks and associated bat wings were all removed. The actual typical mission empty weight was in the neighborhood of 36,000 lbs.
Hi Jack

Happy New Year , though with the costs quoted by IC ...I wonder how attractive this still will be to the Bundeswehr when selecting their CH53GA/S replacement. Loooking forward to seeing it in a few months @ILA.

Cheers
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Old 9th Jan 2018, 20:48
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I'd have to say, even though I'd normally be all in favour of bigger and more power, at that cost surely you'd buy 2x 47F, use the spare change to fund flying hours. I appreciate USMC have specific requirements, and if your specific requirement single load weighs more than a 47 can lift, fair one. Otherwise save the cash!
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Old 9th Jan 2018, 21:38
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Eval:

Your point re the final part of an approach is well taken. One of the design decisions for a single rotor machine is what forward shaft tilt to install. More forward tilt and you get a more level fuselage at cruise ( assumimg no controllable horizontal empennage ) thus lower drag/more speed. Also get lower shaft stresses/higher life on the shaft. More nose up in the flare.

In the larger world of single vs tandem, there are two other subjects which have been put out in the media but conflict with the performance of aircraft that are in production. If you'll allow me:

The first is that tandems always have a wider center of gravity range due to their configuration. Some time ago, when we were doing the MH-60K and Boeing the 47E, both for the TF 160th troops, I looked at the 47E CG range and compared it to the 53D. You can do this at your leisure, but in fact, at max weight you'll be surprised at who has a small advantage.

The second is that the tandem has a huge advantage with regard to crosswind landing capability. If one were comparing to single rotor machines designed against the FAA 17 kt criteria, that argument would stand, but that isn't the case nowadays. The last few machines that SA has put out we see a 35 kt crosswind capability in the manual, and in fact the flight loads survey test point data includes 45 kts-both directions. This subject, of course, was a huge discussion point when SA proposed an H-60 version as a replacement for the USN H-46 Vertrep aircraft. We conducted two evaluation flight sessions for senior operational USN aviators at the Stratford plant and that question was put to bed ( I heard that the second session took place because there were some folks who didn't quite accept the report from the first group and had to see for themselves ).

Disclaimer: After flight school graduation in May 1963, I was assigned to the Test Board at Ft Rucker ( service test, not engineering test ) and immediately was checked out in the CH-47A, of which we had three production prototypes. They were fine machines, easy to fly ( certainly, compared to the H-19 C/D aviation school aircraft, they were fantastic! ) and generally a lot of fun, especially for a young pilot right out of school. My instructors were to Boeing test pilots, who were assigned to the test program there. They never tired of answering my often naive questions.

Now, there is a site where you can look up US Army CH-47 aircraft by tail number, and none of these Test Board machines are now D models ( in fact we lost one before I went to Vietnam due to a main blade structural failure ). Reason for mentioning that was your statement re the new F models being mostly late model D's. Correct me here, but I have a recollection that between 1982 and 1994, the Army recycled all the A,B, and C models and made them into 47D models, so late D models might in some cases be " rather late " A models??

Not to worry, Eval, keeping the single vs tandem discussion lively and current is fun. Have you flown both models?

Best,
John

Last edited by JohnDixson; 9th Jan 2018 at 21:41. Reason: add modifier and additional sentence.
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Old 10th Jan 2018, 20:35
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John,
Thanks for coming back, great to chew the fat on these topics - I've flown the -60 a bit, as well as lots of time in the -47, but, alas, not the -53 (though I keep asking.....!). At MAUM, the -53 has that slight advantage, but most USLs are not flown at MAUM - and a -53 at MAUM has a horrendous downwash thanks to that disc loading - despite being called "Big Windy", the -47 does a good job in distributing its downwash over it's larger disc area - it's certainly less violent than the Merlin/-53. I've done VertRep in a -47...some of those DD/FF decks sure are small! The Army certainly did recycle a load of A-Cs to D, but when I was at Ridley Park the consensus seems to be that only the later frames would be retained. The issues with the earlier aircraft and the F was that the airframes were built to a different standard (milled vs machined) which meant that there were subtle differences in wiring/stress paths as well as the knowledge that stripping, cleaning, inspecting, repairing and rebuilding a 30-40 year old airframe (with probable accident/battle damage in the past) was only as few $10s K cheaper than buying new. Plus, it enabled PM Cargo to sell surplus airframes through the CHAPS initiative and govt auction, some of which now fly for Columbia Helicopter. So successful in fact, that PM Utility is doing the same thing with early model UH-60s under the BEST project - I got to fly one last year with an aftermarket digital cockpit, and lovely it was too! The -53K will be a beast, I don't doubt it. But unless you absolutely need that level of payload or the ability to operate from ships, it's an enormous amount to pay out just to be "different". The German acquisition will be the litmus test for the export of the aircraft (Israel doesn't count...) - if they buy it, then, perhaps, others will follow (France still needs a heavy lift asset IMHO). However, what's better than one Ch-53K? To quote the RAF, "the answer is two chinooks".....and you can buy 3 for the cost of one Kilo.....
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Old 11th Jan 2018, 02:09
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It looks like we will have to see what the FMS price of the two machines is, and then let the foreign customers balance the price differential against the product/performance. And yes, to some extent: new vs remanufactured. BTW, you may recall that the German CH-53G machines were all ( less the first two ) manufactured in a factory in Speyer.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 17:14
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John,
Indeed - and I've been to Donauworth where the -53s are looked after by Airbus. If the Germans feel that they need to show their Euro credentials, then -47 remains the better option. There's a production line already in Italy or Airbus could build them under licence, and there's already European options on cockpits, DAS/ASE, avionics and EO/IR turrets they can choose - and all of the above not chock-full of ITAR! -53K will be eye-wateringly expensive, even more so once the FMS surcharge is applied (the price is calculated on the block price the US military pay plus 5-7% typically for "overheads"). Any changes to the design to accommodate more European content will just make the bill even higher as components have to be re-qualified / re-certified, and then, of course, you're dealing with a "new" configuration which may fall outside the FMS bulk-buy deal.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 18:46
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Some of the above posts seem to muse that the CH-47 would be a better choice over the CH-53K for even the USMC. While I do agree the CH-47 is a great choice for most land based forces, and much cheaper than the CH-53, it is important to talk about more than just cost, and talk about the implications of a CH-47 aboard ships- which is an extremely important factor for the USMC.


-The 53 is marinized properly. The 47 is not.
-The 53 has a powered fold system, and a surprisingly small (if you can call anything about the 53 small) spot factor when folded for such a large aircraft. The 47 blades can be folded, but not quickly or easily. A proper powered blade fold would likely require a new rotor head? And would you still need the blade support "rack" on the center fuselage?
- Would a 47 fit on the elevators and hanger bay of a US Navy LHA/LHD? I do know they can fit on a Nimitz class lift/hangar, but the USMC rarely operates heavy helos from CVN's.
- Do 47's fit behind the foul line on the forward flight deck of the LHA/LHD? This is where heavy/medium helos are usually parked when folded. The CH-53 is nosed towed and can hang its rear out over the water. The 47, as it is towed by the rear wheels would likely have to have the cockpit hang well out over the water. Acceptable?
- How many CH-47s would you need to replace the lift capacity of the 53's? Both troops and equipment? Is there space for the larger number of aircraft required?
- Spot factor of the CH-47?
- Capability. Can the CH-47 lift some of the big USMC loads required? LAV, multiple Hummers, etc. The 47 has a smaller capacity for trooping, supply and tactical recovery missions.


Please I'm not a hater of the CH-47, it is a great aircraft, but when you want heavy maritime lift, the 53 might be the only (expensive) choice for the USMC. Yes the 47 has worked aboard ships, and will do so wit the UK, but it is not tailor made for maritime heavy lift. A maritime CH-47 would be more expensive than a land based one. Yes you could lessen USMC requirements, but would need to make doctrinal changes as well.
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Old 12th Jan 2018, 19:14
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Eval, the 53G’s were built in Speyer to ensure German jobs, and control over the process once the machines were fielded. Euro credentials were not a factor. I had a chance to closely inspect one at the Hanover Airshow one year and it was absolutely perfect. But then it should have been: they assigned a maintenance Leutnant to each one. Not in a position to speculate as to whether the German Gov’t would envision doing this again, but their first experience turned out well for them. And, if they still have that fine test establishment down at Manching, they are in a good position to test/evaluate and approve mods. Lastly, while aware of the FMS surcharge subject, I saw some FMS numbers on the UH-60 ( some time ago, to be honest ) that looked pretty close to our contract numbers, and at the time we were making quite a few and the contract price was very favorable to the buyer-the people who cash my income tax payments. So, FMS pricing can be a factor.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 14:02
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SD,

Boeing-Vertol built Tandem Rotor aircraft for the Navy/Marine Corps for over fifty years....and they seemed to serve well. All the technical issues you mentioned are not insurmountable.

As to whether the 47 can meet the operational needs is a separate issue.

For sure one Army Chinook unit operates off Navy Ships on a frequent basis....so it can be done as it is now....and with the technical modifications then it only gets easier.

The Navy has modified its Ship building specifications to accommodate the Osprey so it could...if necessary do the same for inclusion of the Chinook into the aircraft fleet mix.

The Law of Unintended Consequences poses real challenges to changing horses in the middle of the stream however.
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Old 13th Jan 2018, 20:03
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Sandie,
I can assure you that I was not making the case for the -47 for the USMC. It does not meet it's requirements, and though perfectly capable of operating for a short time embarked (I've spent a couple of months at sea with few issues, albeit with extra husbandry) it is not a marinised design. It also will not lift some of the USMC loads. The USMC are getting the right frame for their needs - albeit at great cost.

My point was that IF you don't need to be at sea for a prolonged time, or lift USMC combat-configured loads, then it's a very expensive way of delivering payload to the battlefield when compared to the -47F. The likes of Germany will weigh up the acquisition/running cost of both aircraft, and then sprinkle offset and politics into the mix, and arrive at an answer. In the European context, and since Germany has stated that both aircraft meet their requirements, IMHO the increased cost/risk of -53K probably count against it.
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