Sat, Nov 04, 2006
Pentagon Approves Proposal For New Aircraft
The Pentagon approved USAF plans to purchase a fleet of up to
141 combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopters. The winner
of the contract -- reportedly valued at some $10 billion -- is to
be announced following next week's elections.
Reuters reports the decision must be finalized by the Pentagon's
Defense Acquisition board. The board met Tuesday to discuss the
plan which includes 141 new helicopters to replace the USAF's aging
fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawks.
CSAR ranks near the top of the military's most demanding
aviation missions. The aircraft must carry specialized
communication, navigation and sensor equipment to enable its
highly-trained crew to find and communicate with downed aircrew and
isolated personnel in the most hostile environments.
Most combat aircraft rely on speed and surprise to ingress and
egress a dangerous area before an enemy has time to react. Not so
with CSAR. Many times the crew must fly to an area of known enemy
activity only to hover -- a big fat stationary target -- while
rescuees are pulled aboard.
Pilots must be willing to place their aircraft and crew into the
most dangerous situations making the design of a CSAR aircraft
critical. It must be durable and tough to generate the kind of
confidence a crew needs to operate effectively in combat
CSAR aircraft are also called on to function in the sometimes
harsh environments of natural disasters. While not as dangerous as
combat, evacuating victims and providing airlift for humanitarian
aid can make for challenging missions.
In the running for the contract are Lockheed Martin's US101 --
last year's pick for the new presidential helicopter, Boeing's
CH-47 Chinook and the Boeing - Sikorsky team effort VH-92 (photos
in order top to bottom) .
Reuters says the US101 is the current front-runner in the
competition because its bigger than the VH-92 and has three engines
-- a definite plus in combat situations.
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