By John Milliman, H-1 Program Public Affairs
NAVAIR PATUXENT RIVER, MD The UH-1Y Huey light utility helicopter, part of the Marine Corps H-1 Upgrades program, was approved April 15 by the Defense Department acquisition chief to be built as new helicopters rather than be remanufactured from UH-1Ns currently in use.
The Honorable Michael Wynne, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed the Acquisition Decision Memorandum that will provide new-built UH-1Ys to the Marine Corps starting in 2008 as part of the third lot of low-rate initial production aircraft.
A new-build UH-1Y better meets the pressing littoral warfare needs of the Marine Corps, stated Col. Keith Birkholz, the H-1 program manager. Both in todays battle space and for tomorrows requirements. This gives us the acquisition strategy to give it to them.
Program officials estimate production costs for building the helicopters new to add approximately $100,000 per aircraft, and non-recurring engineering costs to add approximately $8.1 million, to the program for a total increase of $17.4 million for the 90 UH-1Ys.
Per the Presidents 2005 budget, the H-1 Upgrades total program cost is estimated to be approximately $5.5 billion.
Although the H-1 Upgrades program originally planned to remanufacture 180 AH-1W Super Cobras and 100 UH-1N Hueys into the 84 percent identical AH-1Z/UH-1Y configuration, the UH-1N fleet has subsequently experienced a surge in operational tempo that is not expected to abate in the near term. Coupled with the average age and attrition rate of the aircraft, as well as the marginal cost difference between a remanufactured UH-1Y and a new-build UH-1Y, the program concluded, and DoD acquisition leadership agreed, that building UH-1Ys new better supports the needs of the Marine Corps.
With the current size and availability of the UH-1N fleet, having a number of them out of the fleet for two years to accommodate the remanufacture process severely and adversely impacts the Marine Corps speed, persistence, precision and reach in conducting expeditionary maneuver warfare in support of the Global War on Terrorism and other operations around the globe.
Program officials are currently studying the feasibility and cost of also building the AH-1Zs new. A date for that decision is yet to be determined.
Currently, 10 UH-1Y and six AH-1Z aircraft are in production at Bell Helicopters production facilities in Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas. By 2014, the Marine Corps will have procured 100 UH-1Y Hueys and 180 AH-1Z Super Cobras.
The H-1 Upgrades program to date has achieved approximately 2,800 flight test hours since Dec. 7, 2000. One of the test AH-1Zs recently flew to Yuma, Ariz., where it is currently testing weapons accuracy. The program is scheduled to begin its final operational evaluation later this year for both the UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft.