Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Helicopters for the ADF thread...

Starting this post to put forward the helicopter knowledge of some of our readers like Bushranger; and, starting out with one of his quotes from another post below. I tend to agree. ADF needs a low cost effective solution to do most of the farm chores; even if the Defence bureaucracy and industry prefer gold-plated "solutions" that don't do much especially well. Where, we are now on the path to having a small number of expensive helicopter designs that fail at trying to reinvent the wheel.


"The Hotel model Iroquois upgraded to Huey II and in enhanced Bushranger gunship configuration with full fuel and with a 4 man crew would carry: 9,000 rounds of 7.62mm for twin miniguns, 3,000 rounds for twin doorguns both sides and 500 rounds of 20mm HE for twin low recoil podded NC621 cannon. All of that and around 600 pounds availability for optional fits of FLIR, EOTS, defensive suites, datalink, etcetera. At MOGW, it can hover in ground effect at around 12,000 feet AMSL in ISA+20C. That number crunching is based on info provided by Bell Helicopter.

As at 2007, there were over 5,000 Hotel model Iroquois still in service worldwide and see this link for the AMARC catalogue: - there are likely many more available. Some of the operable ADF fleet are still in storage awaiting disposal.

A Hotel model acquired by Bell from stored reserves and put through their Huey II upgrade program to virtually 'as new' condition costs around $2million, about one tenth of a UH-60M Blackhawk. Unit cost of the Tiger and MRH90 seem rubbery and much higher.

In 2010, I wrote to MinDef pointing out that the ADF was sacrificing Kiowa recce, Iroquois utility and gunship capabilities plus Blackhawk, albeit the latter is undesirably about twice as heavy as a Huey II. The Tiger is inadequate for both the armed scout and gunship roles (I can explain separately) and the MRH90 is categorised as a medium lift platform. I suggested spending just $100million on 50 Huey II to recover diminishing capabilities. The response from a MinDef Advisor was that the Huey II does not meet Australian DoD crashworthiness standards even though increasing numbers (northwards of 200) are entering service around the world in multiple military and civil aviation agency roles.

Australian defence planners seem unappreciative that battlefield helos largely perform pretty basic roles and should desirably be cost-effective and readily maintainable in remote harsh operating locations, like PNG. Also; the increasing technical complexity of all the expensive hardware being acquired, whether aircraft, warships or whatever, is going to drive ADF operating costs off the clock.

Alas, the hard-earned aircraft operating lessons acquired post-WW2 in our rugged wet tropics near neighbourhood and the invaluable combat experience of the Vietnam War seem lost within the 'group thinking' that prevails in Canberra."


Anonymous said...

If there is one technology that australia should spend money on. Helicopter would be one.

It's a flat and open land. Made for fast infantry/heli.

The difference between medium and small heli isn't all that much either technologically. Heli as a whole is relatively cheap technology. (we are not talking about super large/heavy or high speed heli here.)

So I for one find it amazing that OZ isn't investing in homegrown heli industry.

Albatross said...

Oh my God!! Can you imagine what DMO would do with a home-grown helicopter project?

Thoroughbred horses turning into flea-bitten camels - nah, make that dromedaries, dromedaries with THREE humps! - is the image that immediately comes to mind...

Anonymous said...

.... and ten years later than promised and at ten times the cost than budgeted.

Snorbak said...

....That ultimately does'nt perform in the role it was intended!

Snorbak said...

Our combined ability to see into the future is disturbing.

Snorbak said...

On a serious note, regardless of type upon which the platform is based, a simple, relativly low cost fire support heli with effective balistic protection that can place a large volume of fire to a given area, not unlike the fitout of the Bushranger, would be an ideal fire support weapon. As alluded to in another post elsewhere, unless there are masses of heavy armour to contend with, the ARH is expensive overkill.

One possible solution could be to refurb & refit some of our existing blackhawks. However, I am unsure as to the cost effectivness or viability of such an exercise.

A simple heli that can sustain large amounts of battle damage, be serviced & repaired quickly in field & provide a large volume of direct & indirect fire support, would provide better value & protection to ground forces than expensive, complicated & dedicated anti-armour types such as the ARH.

It would seem that many within DoD have forgotten the KISS principle.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the premise put forward by Bushranger. Simpla nd cheap to operate. COuld be a n ideal to resurrect a Reserve Force.

Atticus said...

"Alas, the hard-earned aircraft operating lessons acquired post-WW2 in our rugged wet tropics near neighbourhood and the invaluable combat experience of the Vietnam War seem lost within the 'group thinking' that prevails in Canberra."

Atticus said...


Atticus said...

I bit of trivia Bushranger.
The T53 is a direct descendent of the Jumo 004 engine from the Me262.
A long line .

Bushranger 71 said...

Hi Snorbak; contrary to popular belief, the Huey has been proven to absorb an incredible amount of battle damage, although some light-weight armouring around the engine and transmission would be beneficial. Probabilities of helicopters being downed by ground-fire during the Vietnam War were 1:13,461 sorties for US Army and 1:79,270 for 9SQN RAAF. Not much has changed since regarding weaponry threats, with MANPADS not dominating battlefields.

There are assorted weaponry fits for Blackhawk with the MH-60L Direct Air Penetrator being the most comprehensive; but its a heavy machine at MOGW with operating cost of Blackhawk near 5 times Huey, according to Australian DoD 2007 figures.

ADF Blackhawk and Seahawk will both be forfeited in another murky deal related to the MH-60R for the RAN; with both types to be upgraded by LM/Sikorsky then sold to third parties and the proceeds split with the Australian government.

The MH-60R is a highly complex machine so stuffed full of systems that it will be unable to adequately perform more utilitarian roles including boarding parties, so invaluable platform versatility/flexibility is being sacrificed thus diminishing military capabilities. Acquiring some more versatile MH-60S and upgrading existing Navy Seahawks toward Sierra standard would have been a sensible choice - see post #48 at this link for reasoning:

The disastrous ADF helicopter fleet rationalisation strategy has derived from Army Aviation hierarchy and now Navy within the Helicopter Systems Division of DMO generating planning that is actually diminishing helicopter capabilities at huge cost to the taxpayer. It is unforgivable in my view that Service Chiefs have allowed this to happen as their obligation is to assure continuous adequate and credible military preparedness, even if that means falling on their swords. The now retired CDF should have been hung by his scrotum rather that being annointed 'Father of the Year'.

Anonymous said...

Angus and crew have a lot to answer for.
He will surely be remembered.

Atticus said...

Bushranger, perhaps you can answer this.
Why do we not have a viable reserve. It would seem to me that the UH1 would be an ideal vehicle?

Anonymous said...

Just a slight correction - the proposal to upgrade and onsell the Black Hawks and Seahawks remains just that, a proposal.

It has been proposed by Sikorsky Helitech alone (not Lokcheed Martin), and is not part of the Team Romeo bid for the MH-60R.

No agreement regarding this proposal has been reached with government, and it will not be linked to contract negotiations for the MH-60R.


Bushranger 71 said...

Hello Atticus. You are bordering on my deep-seated belief that the genesis of the whole raft of problems pertaining to the defence realm in Australia derives from the creation of the thinly-veiled unified ADF in 1974, which is now subject to Public Service domination moreso than direct political control. 'Organisation' is the fundamental basis for effective management systems and a time-honoured proven politico-military structure was discarded in favour of creating a burgeoning bureaucratic empire. But I digress, so let's think a bit about military reserves.

The most valued asset for any armed force is a strong nucleus of dedicated warriors with combat experience; but for decades, the Australian armed forces had age/rank related retirement causing premature shedding of the invaluable skills and experience (for which there is no substitute) now resting largely within the retired military community. This reservoir remains largely not advantaged due to inflexible thinking.

Military retiring age is apparently now 60 for most and 65 for high rankers, but why is any retiring age necessary? Many leaders of nations and large corporations are in their 80s and it would be more beneficial to have a flexible 'on medical condition' system where diminution of mental faculties and bodily functions become the prime determinant of a member's ability to usefully contribute to the defence realm.

Years back, the RAF had a system which I think was call 'branch commissions' wherein one could elect to continue service at a particular rank level; so there were numerous fossils with a wealth of combat experience operating transport and maritime aircraft in particular. During the Vietnam War, the RAAF recruited a bunch of such Brits for service on Caribou and Iroquois.

I recall at one stage during my periods of service with Qantas, some former Air Force pilots offered to fly for the military part-time and unpaid; but that was not palatable for the Service hierarchy. The ADF has now gone somewhat overboard on flight simulators and there are many hundreds of retirees experienced in this training function; but it seems there is resistance within the military QFI fraternity, perhaps aimed at protecting this avenue for empire building.

There would be a lessened need for reservists if conditions of service were more flexible and experienced retirees were able to be recruited on mutually acceptable terms, whether in uniformed or civilian contract roles. It only requires some outside the square thinking.

Bushranger 71 said...

Hi Magoo; it seems there has been some contradictory publicity regarding the Blackhawk/Seahawk enhancement proposal! The obvious question is why are perfectly useful airframes being shed (Iroquois, Blackhawk, Seahawk) when they could all be cost-effectively enhanced? As for C-130A and C-130E, they will be snapped up by third parties and remain in service elsewhere in the world.

Anonymous said...

Did I read this incorrectly in that there is a proposal to sell/shed 6 C130H aircraft to Indonesia.
These aircraft are viable for years, look at what the Kiwi have done with theirs.
I onderstand that the J,s are being worked very hard at the moment.

Atticus said...

Bushranger you make sense. There must an amazing resource to be tapped.
Certainly a case for more affordable and working assests with such airframes as the Huey2 and soon to be recycled Blackawks/Seahawks

Bushranger 71 said...

This contribution considers ADF helicopter training.

Phase 7 of the ADF Helicopter Strategic Master Plan (HSMP – Projects Air 87 and Air 9000) embraced in DCP2009 aimed at introducing 'the new Helicopter Aircrew Training System (HATS)' and prospective platforms being aired for this role are all twin-engine types. This irrationality apparently derives from an obsession to reduce the number of helo types in service (presently 7 plus some leased types, with Iroquois and Sea King having already been shed) to as few as 4 types – see .

The recently published DCP2012 persists with the same very costly capability diluting program for restructuring of the ADF helo fleet, although no longer refers to 'as few as 4 types' – see , Page 68.

Basic flying training, fixed or rotary wing, is overwhelmingly universally conducted on pretty simple single-engine platforms that should also desirably be low cost regarding operation and maintenance. Teaching people to fly on multi-engine platforms, whether in military or civil aviation, would be needlessly complicated, expensive and foster accident potential. So why is the DoD intending to deviate from common world practice? Presumably, the Army Aviation originators of the HSMP strategy have succumbed to lobbying from defence industry endeavouring to market newer costly platforms less suited for very basic roles, which Army Aviation apparently also envisage as an LUH in lieu of Iroquois foolishly forfeited.

The single-engine Kiowa is a widely used basic helo training platform with other well proven military applications and is supportable well into the future due to commonality with models in civilian usage worldwide. Similarly for the Squirrel and both types also have potential for basic training of other helicopter aircrew categories. That they are both from differing international stables matters nought as they are wholly-owned assets performing useful roles with other proven applications in battlefield reconnaissance and general fleet support respectively. Versatility of these types and their cost-effectiveness is quite obvious, so why would anybody contemplate replacing them both with more complex and arguably inappropriate platforms at unit cost of up to $7million? If rationalisation of training platforms were seen as beneficial, then perhaps sale of Squirrels and acquisition of more Kiowa would be logical, as a cost neutral exercise!

Synthetic training warrants mention, but its applicability and benefits directly relate to platform complexity. At very basic levels, aids like Cockpit Procedures Trainers are appropriate and perhaps some Aircraft Systems Trainers with broader usability for technical training. Flight Simulators (fixed base and/or motion types) have revolutionised aircrew training around the world over the past 50 years, but the economics of their acquisition need to be carefully considered. In a commercial sense, they are only justifiable if there is sufficient utilisation, which is why training centres have been developed around the world with aircrew flying from all parts of the globe for mandatory checking and training. Retaining suitably qualified technical staff to maintain simulators at adequate standards has hitherto been a significant problem. In a military sense, simulators can do some magic things, but justification for their high cost acquisition and relatively low usage in small air forces needs careful consideration. The extent to which synthetic training is envisaged as part of the HATS notion might arguably be an inappropriate and expensive overkill.

Some focus from me on battlefield utility helicopter functions in the near future.

Bushranger 71 said...

This contribution addresses battlefield utility helicopter functions.

'...The (US) Army's decision to standardize on a utility tactical transport helicopter has far-reaching implications on every operation from its planning to its execution. Literally hundreds of our key battles could not have been fought without a light, agile machine that could go into improbable landing zones at a critical time. Had the Army chosen to build its airmobile tactics around a "platoon carrier," different and less flexible tactics would have been forced on our commanders. As we move to replace the Huey fleet, we must never lose sight of the essential characteristics that made the Huey invaluable to the Infantry commander...' (Statements within quotation marks are extracts from an Air Mobility 1961-1971 Vietnam War study by LTGEN John J. Tolson, US Army).

Agile utility helos are a battlefield imperative for troop movement, casevac, ammo resupply, logistic support and a whole bunch of other roles for suitable flexible and versatile platforms. Doorgun armament is essential in engagement situations and particularly where other protective fire support is not available, as in the following anecdote.

Location Bien Hoa Province near FSB Bearcat 1968. V Coy, 4RAR engaged with enemy and requiring ammo resupply. Albatross arrives at scene of action in moderate height jungle and manoeuvres over weapon muzzles to begin dropping ammunition at Coy forward positions. Noise of battle deafening with intense continuous small arms fire from both sides within cricket pitch proximity. Further manoeuvring to winch out a casualty with near vertical doorgun suppression as necessary.

'...Statistics on relative vulnerability show that out of 1,147 sorties one (US Army) aircraft would be hit by enemy fire, one aircraft was shot down per 13,461 sorties, and only one aircraft was shot down and lost per 21,194 sorties... Used properly the helicopter was not the fragile target some doom-forecasters had predicted...' The Huey has been proven to absorb an incredible amount of battle damage, although some light-weight armouring around the engine and transmission would be beneficial. Not much has changed since the Vietnam War regarding weaponry threats, with MANPADS not dominating battlefields

Comparing Huey II with Blackhawk, the principal difference is a superior cabin layout in the Iroquois with the 2 rear crew stations clear of main cabin space and gunners able to step somewhat outside the aircraft to suppress rearwards. Blackhawk was designed to carry a squad (section) of 10 men and Huey II has performance to do likewise with reconfigured clip-in seating, although a bit cramped. Blackhawk is faster, has longer range and can lift a little more externally than Huey II, but is twice as heavy and H2 has superior hot and high performance. Blackhawk was designed for enhanced battlefield survivability, but is about 5 times more costly to operate. Unit cost of UH-60M is about $20million and Huey II around $2million.

The recently published ADF Defence Capability Plan 2012 persists with a very costly capability diluting program for restructuring of the ADF helo fleet aiming to shed ALL real utility helo capability (Iroquois and Blackhawk) with ultimate acquisiton of a twin-engine machine ostensibly for training, but apparently also viewed as a light utility helicopter (LUH) – see: , Page 68. Such platforms are designed to carry just 2 pilots and varying passenger payloads, but have no provision for rear crew doorgun stations. Unit cost may be as high as $7million with operating cost likely to exceed Huey II due to twin-engine complexity considerations. The notion that these machines can adequately perform the utility helo roles of Huey II and Blackhawk reflects lack of appreciation by Australian defence planners regarding effective battlefield support.