NAVAIR Patuxent River, MD - At 8:00 AM Tuesday, May 9th, four H-1 aircraft, two AH-1Zs and two UH-1Ys, left the Naval Air Warfare Center here to begin the program's long awaited Operational Evaluation period.
"This is a significant milestone in the H-1 Upgrades program and brings us that much closer to fielding this critical capability to the Fleet Marines who are anxiously awaiting these tremendously capable aircraft," said
Col. Keith Birkholz, H-1 program manager at NAVAIR. "This milestone also is a tremendous testimony to the government-Bell team that has labored so hard for the last few years to achieve it."
"This is a great day for the U.S. Marines and the H-1 Program," said
Bell Helicopter Chief Executive Officer Michael Redenbaugh. "Over the next six months these aircraft will demonstrate and validate the significant improvements that have been made to make them more valuable to the Marines. These aircraft are among the worlds most technologically advanced and posses capabilities that the Marines need now but also in the future." he continued.
The aircraft will fly to
China Lake Naval Air Station in California (
Map ) where they will spend the next six months undergoing numerous tests and evaluations to determine the H-1 aircraft operational suitability. Start of OPEVAL represents the last exit criteria before a Defense Acquisition Board is to decide on Low Rate Initial Production Phase III.
The H-1 Upgrade Program will replace the current fleet of AH-1W and high time UH-1N aircraft by providing 180 AH-1Z and 100 UH-1Y new, zero-time aircraft starting in 2006. Key to the program is the fact that the two different models of aircraft have 84% commonality of parts. Initial Operational Capability is scheduled for 2008.
Photo: Some of the four H-1 aircraft, two AH-1Zs and two UH-1Ys, leave the Naval Air Warfare Center, Patuxent River, Md., for China Lake, Calif., to begin the program's long awaited Operational Evaluation period.