By John Milliman, H-1 Program Public Affairs
Photo: Going down?—The Marine Corps newest utility and attack helicopters, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, ride an elevator aboard the Multipurpose Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan (LHD-5) off the Virginia Capes recently. The aircraft were aboard to test their capability of living aboard amphibious shipping. During the shipboard compatibility testing, or sea trials, they made 267 landings during nearly 30 flight hours in both day and night operations to test their ability to operate in the shipboard environment. Photo by Troy Lancaster.
NAVAIR PATUXENT RIVER, MD The Marine Corps newest utility and attack helicopters, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, made their first shipboard landings May 7 while conducting shipboard compatibility testing, or sea trials.
Operating aboard the Multipurpose Amphibious Assault Ship USS Bataan off the Virginia Capes, the two aircraft made 267 landings during nearly 30 flight hours in both day and night operations to test their ability to operate in the shipboard environment.
Program officials are satisfied with the results.
We met all the test objectives we hoped to accomplish, said Matt Funk, the H-1 lead flight test engineer for sea trials testing. The idea was to verify shipboard compatibility by looking at the aircrafts ability to operate in the maritime environment and during all aspects of shipboard operations.
The testers werent completely happy, though...
The weather was too good, he explained. We conducted launch and recovery operations in winds up to 35 knots over the deck. The only thing preventing testing in higher wind conditions was a lack of higher winds.
Despite the curse of beautiful weather, partially salved by the Bataans mess serving the flight test crew lobster and steak meals while aboard, testers put the two aircraft through a wide array of tasks designed to evaluate the aircrafts degree of marinization, including day and night aided and unaided launches and recoveries, refueling, shipboard handling (with the ship pitching and rolling in the ocean swells), rotor blade folding and unfolding in winds up to 25 knots, and flight deck crew familiarization training.
"The whole idea was to demonstrate the platform's marinization," explained Lt. Col. David Anderson, the H-1 program's assistant program manager for systems engineering. "We need to know that when we go aboard the boat, we can live there. The test team did just that."
As Marine Corps aircraft, the AH-1Z and UH-1Y must be marinized to support the Corps mission of assault from the sea. Marinization refers to the unique capability of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft to withstand the daily punishment of temperature extremes, salt water, high structural loads and harsh conditions associated with shipboard/austere location operations in the expeditionary environment.
Specific aspects of marinization can include blade and tail folding, ruggedized avionics and airframe structure, improved corrosion resistance for both the aircraft and support equipment, ability to withstand salt water ingestion by the engines, and close quarters deck-handling ability.
To date, the H-1 Upgrades program has more than 2,900 flight test hours tallied since Dec. 7, 2000. Other current testing includes AH-1Z weapons accuracy testing at the Armys Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona and UH-1Y firing loads and vibrations testing here. More than 870 2.75-inch rockets have been fired during testing, as well as 13,662 rounds of machine gun and automatic cannon ammunition, 11 Hellfire anti-armor missiles and three AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
The AH-1Z and UH-1Y are slated to replace the current fleet of AH-1W and UH-1N aircraft which have been operating at sea with the Marine Corps for many years. The H-1 program provides over 80% parts commonality for the two aircraft.
A change to the program that will build UH-1Ys completely new, rather than remanufacturing them from aging UH-1Ns, received approval by the Defense Departments acquisition chief in April 2005. The first new build UH-1Ys will start production in 2006 as part of the third lot of low-rate initial production aircraft. First deliveries of the new aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2008.
Currently, 10 UH-1Y and six AH-1Z aircraft are in production at Bell Helicopters Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas facilities. By 2014, the Marine Corps will have procured 100 UH-1Y Hueys and 180 AH-1Z Super Cobras.