New Marine H-1 Helicopters Hit 3000 Flight Hours

By John Milliman, H-1 Program Public Affairs

NAVAIR PATUXENT RIVER, MD – With more than 95 percent of their development complete, the 84 percent identical AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters marked their 3,000 flight hour June 1 during weapons accuracy testing in Yuma, Ariz.

Marine Corps test pilots Maj. Vic Argobright and Capt. Mark Angersbach of the H-1 Integrated Test Team flew through the milestone on their way to the range in AH-1Z #2.

Nearly simultaneously, and on the other side of the country, other members of the team were conducting a firing loads survey with one of the UH-1Y test aircraft here, as well as getting ready for the operational evaluation of the aircraft – the formal acceptance trial by Marine Corps operational pilots and aircrew.

“The engineers, maintainers, pilots and supporting staff on our combined contractor/government test team continue to click on all cylinders,” said the H-1 program’s Buck Buchanan, deputy program manager for the AH-1Z and UH-1Y upgrades. “Crossing this 3,000-hour milestone is a testament to the reliability of these new aircraft and to the diligence of our flight test team.”

This comes hard on the heels of the aircraft’s first shipboard landings May 7.

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.

“With recent completion of shipboard compatibility tests onboard USS Bataan and on-going weapons accuracy tests at Yuma Proving Grounds, we’re looking forward to completion of the systems integration phase of our testing and entry into OpEval later this year,” Buchanan added.

Since the first upgraded H-1 made its maiden flight Dec. 7, 2000, the H-1 Upgrades program has more than 3,000 flight test hours tallied since Dec. 7, 2000 and has fired more than 2,000 2.75-inch rockets, 13,662 rounds of machine gun and automatic cannon ammunition, 11 Hellfire anti-armor missiles and three AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. Other current testing includes UH-1Y firing loads and vibrations testing here.

Both an AH-1Z and a UH-1Y have also entered their final modification period prior to starting OpEval. Operational pilots and aircrew have also begun training in preparation for conducting OpEval.

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-1N’s, received approval by the Defense Department’s 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 Helicopter’s Fort Worth and Amarillo, Texas facilities. By 2018, the Marine Corps will have procured 100 UH-1Y Hueys and 180 AH-1Z Super Cobras.

Photo: Guns, Rockets, Missiles... Cameras! AH-1Z #2, loaded with "all of the above", surpasses the 3,000th test flight hour mark for the H-1 Upgrades Program during Weapons Accuracy Testing June 2 at Yuma, Ariz. Maj. Vic Argobright and Capt. Mark Angersbach flew through the milestone on their way to another day of weapons firings, while back at Patuxent River, the UH-1Y took to the air shortly thereafter for a Firing Load Level Survey. Photo by Jon Hammerstein, courtesy of Lockheed-Martin Missiles and Fire Control Systems.

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