More on those cheap Blackhawks

I think the more we say it the more chance it will actually sink in to the people that shout about the £8-10 million Blackhawk helicopter.

It is more that the basic airframe price, a helicopter is not much use without engines, DAS, spares, simulators, manuals and a whole host of ‘stuff’ that is needed to bring it into service.

As a follow up to our earlier posts on the subject, the Swedes are thinking about buying a number of Blackhawk’s

The Government of Sweden has requested a possible sale of 15 UH-60M BLACKHAWK Helicopters, 34 T700-GE-701D General Electric Engines (30 installed and 4 spares), 15 AN/AAR-57(V)3 Common Missile Warning Systems, AN/APR-39 Radar Signal Detecting Sets, AN/AVR-2B Laser Warning Sets, Aviation Mission Planning Station, transportable operations simulator, communications equipment, spare and repair parts, tools and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, logistics, and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $546M.

5 seconds on the calculator…

£23million each

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Marcase
Marcase
October 3, 2010 8:29 pm

Ahem,

“the Norwegians are thinking about buying a number of Blackhawk’s…”

“The Government of Sweden has requested a possible sale…”

Don’t pi$$ off the Vikings ;)

paul g
October 3, 2010 9:02 pm

just wait until the blackhawk line opens in poland (model to be called blackhawk international) we’ll never hear the end of it.

DominicJ
October 4, 2010 2:04 pm

Although cost is clearly comparable, there were three arguements in favour of Blackhawk.
Cost
Capability
Availability

We’ve eliminated Cost.
LynxWildcat is still ****
and
Its still not available.

Euan
Euan
October 4, 2010 3:24 pm

Pardon me but aren’t the Swedes an NH-90 customer and they even have their own high-cab variant. So why not just buy more of something they have already and are learning to use as well putting some more money into smoothing out the kinks with the NH-90?

Anyhow well said Dominic I agree with your points.

Monty
October 4, 2010 3:27 pm

I don’t understand the anti-Blackhawk sentiment that exists here. There are seven compelling reasons why this helicopter makes sense:

1. It’s the battlefield utility helicopter most preferred by the Army Air Corps
2. It’s battle-proven, something that counts for a lot among soldiers increasingly cynical about new kit selections based more on unit cost than mission suitability
3. It can fulfil every Lynx Wildcat role and more, including serving as Puma replacement
4. The latest Seahawk variant could actually replace Merlin as well as the Lynx Wildcat in the ASW role
5. It would reduce the total number of airframe types in service and thus reduce resources required training, maintenance and spare parts
6. Westland Agusta could easily build it under license, which would keep UK workers in jobs while giving the troops the tools they need
7. Newer Lynx variants will not be ready for deployment for another three years and even when they do arrive they’ll still take time to establish reliability and combat effectiveness credentials – in other words such alternatives carry significantly greater risk

…and I almost forgot, Blackhawk is available now.

Euan
Euan
October 4, 2010 3:46 pm

I agree with Admin here it’s not really Anti-Blackhawk we just want to highlight what we as disinformation surrounding the Blackhawk that never seems to go away even when there is data to back us up.

As for NH-90 either would be fine but NH-90 still is not battle proven and still has got a long way to go until I would select it over and above Blackhawks especially if we are busy and need them to save lives.

Phil Darley
October 4, 2010 3:48 pm

Uummm….. If only… A fleet of hybrid Blackhawk/Seahawks fitted with RTM322 and HIDAS, even better if a 5bladed (scaled down BERP IV) rotor blades could be fitted as well.

Bloody hell we could have only a few helo types; Blackhawk, Apache and Chinook two of which are powered by the same engine.

Dream over

Jed
Jed
October 4, 2010 5:29 pm

Monty, as per all other comments, not Anti-Blackhawk per se, but…..

1. It’s the battlefield utility helicopter most preferred by the Army Air Corps

Erm, says who exactly ?

2. It’s battle-proven, something that counts for a lot among soldiers increasingly cynical about new kit selections based more on unit cost than mission suitability

The AW101 is battle proven then, as for that matter so is the Sea King Mk4, but I would not recommend buying anymore of them.

3. It can fulfil every Lynx Wildcat role and more,

Not it can’t. Where is the production Blackhawk serving as an armed reconnaissance helicopter with radar and full optronics fit ? They have been demo’d with such kit and armament too, but getting it into production would cost – and it’s too big for the role anyway

including serving as Puma replacement

Absolutely it could have been a Puma replacement.

4. The latest Seahawk variant could actually replace Merlin as well as the Lynx Wildcat in the ASW role

Hell not it could not ! Replacing Merlin HM1 / HM2 would be a backward step in many areas, including range and endurance, time on station dipping etc.

5. It would reduce the total number of airframe types in service and thus reduce resources required training, maintenance and spare parts

Yep, but so what if it cant meet the operation requirement (e.g. replacing Merlin as ASW helo).

6. Westland Agusta could easily build it under license, which would keep UK workers in jobs while giving the troops the tools they need

Could they ?

7. Newer Lynx variants will not be ready for deployment for another three years and even when they do arrive they’ll still take time to establish reliability and combat effectiveness credentials – in other words such alternatives carry significantly greater risk

Yep I will grant you that BUT as far as I am aware the Army does not have a current requirement to replace the Lynx AH MK9A and the Puma replacement has been subsumed into the programs to upgrade the Puma (flogging a dead horse admittedly) and buy more Chinooks.

Comparing Blackhawk to Wildcat is Apples to Oranges – original requirement for Wildcat was for armed scout / recce for AAC, not as a battle field transport. Compare Wildcat to Augusta Mongoose, some variants of EC Tiger, OH58 C/D, ARH70 etc but not to Blackhawk !

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 4, 2010 6:09 pm

Jed,

“Comparing Blackhawk to Wildcat is Apples to Oranges – original requirement for Wildcat was for armed scout / recce for AAC, not as a battle field transport.”

You’re right about the fruit, but the original requirement for the Wildcat was as a Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter (BLUH), this was later changed to the recce role. Its an ongoing argument as the AAC requirement is supposedly to support the Apache. Unfortunately, the Apache’s seem to doing quite well in Afghanistan without it. Also, the AAC version has no radar and the only proposed weapon system is the 0.5 M3 that’s currently used in the Mk.9A.

As a BLUH, which was its original requirement, it just seems a very expensive option.

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 4, 2010 6:11 pm

Personally, I’d go for an EC645!

Jed
Jed
October 4, 2010 6:34 pm

Sorry Richard but your wrong, the Wildcat (previously Future Lynx) was always an Armed Scout / Recce design for the AAC, there was never a requirement nor a specification for it to be a BLUH for the Army, because the Lynx AH9 is the BLUH.

If it aint got no radar or guns or missiles, that is due to budget cuts ??? But Wildcat was never intended to be a battle taxi.

IanB
IanB
October 4, 2010 8:16 pm

The Wildcat was NEVER designed as the BLUH/BRH but as the Surface Combatant Maritime Rotorcraft (SCMR) for the Navy, it is a purpose built Naval Attack Helicopter not just civil conversion(that is where the money has gone) just for commonality issues it was selected as the Army BLUH then the BRH. The MOD never wanted it to do any more than that, that was the role of the SABR which were the Merlin/Chinook now just Chinook.

Ideally the way to go would be a light helicopter for the Army/Navy (WILDCAT), a intermediate helicopter for the Army (NH90,Blawkhawk,AW149), a medium Helicopter for the Navy,CHF (MERLIN), a Heavy for the RAF (CHINOOK)

But to save money i would scrap the BRH keep the SCMR, and buy the NH90 for the Army and CHF.

All those spare merlins the RAF want shut off, it would be a waste of money trying to convert them to naval specs, give them to the Navy as SAR helicopters and let them be the sole SAR operators save on training and maintenance.

paul g
October 4, 2010 9:44 pm

Again at the risk of repeating myself, I’m not anti blackhawk, I’m anti journalists who repeatedly get it wrong (prince harry flying the RAF apache!!!!)
jumping on the grief bandwagon and claiming “our boys” would be alive if we had bought the £8 million blackhawk. This actually grips my sh1t because a) they would never be £8 million a point proved on here many times, and b) and this is the cruncher having experienced a parent who although having a son in the forces not really knowing about the job reading horseshit in the paper while i’m on ops and getting really upset. I assume i’m not alone in this. (sorry guys rant over)

Anyhow back to rotors people rave about blackhawk because as it’s 20 years old it’s been seen in action thanks to on site media coverage since the ’91 war, NH90 hasn’t been seen, therefore less known. The finnish have sorted the floor problem and if you look at 2010 photos it’s different to 2007 (particularly look at engine cowlings). those engines are the same as the apache,makes life a lot easier, plus it CAN be built now as unlike blackhawk AW have the licence, plus the european production line agreement has been signed it’s going to be built in poland, full stop. maybe in 20 years everyone will be saying “bloody hell should’ve bought that sh1thot NH-90 from AW” after they’ve just seen it on the news in yemen/iran/somalia etc etc. It’s new and it’s better (not 100% but close) than the blackhawk, which was,is and will a good aircraft but now for the first time has a genuine competitor.
Time for me to stop rambling on!!!!

paul g
October 4, 2010 9:47 pm

just in case it’s not clear the european production line for blackhawk will be in poland as 2011. cheaper to produce there so would be surprised if we could even get a look in. afterthought would you pay AW to build it or just buy probably a lot cheaper from poland? oo decisions decisions!!

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 4, 2010 11:03 pm

Jed,

Flight International, 21 – 27 August 2001, reference to BLUH.

http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/2001/2001%20-%202840.html?

Hansard, Commons debate between Bob Ainsworth and Douglas Carswell, 17 June 2008.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080617/text/80617w0015.htm

“An assessment was made by the Department in 2001 which concluded that the Future Lynx aircraft likely offered the best through-life approach to the delivery of the Army’s battlefield light utility helicopter (BLUH) and Royal Navy’s surface combatant maritime rotorcraft (SCMR) requirements……

….We continued to benchmark the Future Lynx approach against other opportunities, including within the analysis that underpinned the future rotorcraft capability programme during 2004-05, where the Army’s requirement was described as the battlefield reconnaissance helicopter (BRH).”

Jed
Jed
October 5, 2010 12:50 am

Richard – I hate to appear stubborn, but those references just seem to confirm my contention that the Future Lynx / Wildcat was not “DESIGNED” to be a Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter.

You can call the Gazelle a BLUH, or you can call the Scout AH Mk1 a BLUH, or you can call a flippin’ Chinook a BLUH if you wish, but it does not mean any of them were “designed” for the role.

The reason Wildcat is crap as BLUH is because there is no room in the back for anybody because of all the extra electronics / communications kit etc

So I would content that my original comment still applies BLUH = comparison of AH9A versus Blackhawk (if you must)

BRH = comparison of Wildcat versus ARH70 (as an example).

DominicJ
October 5, 2010 8:08 am

The Army was told it was going to get some Wildcats and that it had best find a use for them.

Which way round the roles were assigned is irrelevent.
Wildcat was designed as a light ASW/ASuW helicopter for the RN.
It was then squeezed into whatever role the army seemed to need that week.
So its been a “scout” for a helicopter that is faster, better armed and has better eyes, at only marginaly more expense.
Its been a section transport, until people pointed out it couldnt fly a section and its now called a battlefield light utility helicopter.

The roles were created to fit the frame.

The arguement as to wether the Wildcat is better than the Blackhawk is irrelevent.
In Afghanistan, in 2006, for £15mn a piece, we could have deployed dozens of Blackhawks (without missile protection).
Properly used, these could have saved, who knows, 100 lives?

Monty
October 5, 2010 5:52 pm

,

Ask any serving AAC officer above the rank of major what he or she prefers and they would gladly tell you (in public, if they were allowed to) that they would buy Blackhawk in a heartbeat if they could. This view was confirmed to me in person only last week.

When I ran British Army helicopter operations for my regiment in Belize in 1984 as a Captain, I myself believed that there was no better battlefield utility helicopter. Years later, having observed countless operational deployments, I still believe that Blackhawk is the best option. I was a user not a desk jockey. I’ve experienced Blackhawk ‘up close and personal’ and been able to compare it directly to Westland products, including the latter’s most recent offerings, which in my experience are simply not built with the same structural integrity or basic understanding of how soldiers use such machines as Sikorsky equivalents.

I really cannot see what additional capabilities could be designed into NH90 that would make it better than Blackhawk. When it comes to warfare in hostile climates that test the basic design and reliability of an airframe, I would always prefer to go with something that has stood the test of time. And when it comes to flexibility, you can use a larger helicopter for armed reconnaissance, but you can’t use a small helicopter as a utility / troop transporter. I heartily endorse IanB’s remarks that suggest the Lynx was a Navy helicopter forced upon the Army simply because it was available.

Merlin may be a better ASW helicopter than Seahawk, but Seahawk is definitely a better machine than Lynx Wildcat. Merlin as a utility transport helicopter simply isn’t agile enough to manoeuvre in hot and high scenarios – despite having three engines. As I said before, it lacks the agility of a lynx and the carrying capacity of a Chinook.

You’re right to say that comparing Blackhawk to Wildcat is like comparing Apples to Oranges. But if we’re reducing the number of airframe types so that we can buy more helicopters, then I’d prefer to use a Blackhawk for the reconnaissance role when its primary role is utility, than a smaller Wildcat for the utility role, when its primary role is reconnaissance.

Perhaps a five airframe fleet would be better than a four airframe one:

1. Blackhawk/ Seahawk for medium utility role (Army)
2. Apache for Attack role (Army)
3. Merlin for Medium ASW role (Navy)
4. Chinook for Heavy Lift role (RAF)
5. Wildcat for armed reconnaissance / surface attack role (Army/ Navy)

paul g
October 5, 2010 6:13 pm

how about a rear access ramp, all round better flying capability ie night/poor weather as for ask anyone above major, well while your there ask them how much flying they’ve done recently, 84 was 16 yeas ago would you buy a ford sierra now they were good in 84? I spent 8 years with the AAC and so not just spouting here plus I, more importantly was part of the elemnet that fixed them. My friend is still in and a QHI and he does see any problems with either although sees the advantages of the new systems in the NH90
As we all keep saying yes it’s a great helicopter BUT it is not the only option, and i think you’ll find the NH90 is just as crashworthy as blackhawk, and slating westlands is a cheap shot especially as in a previous post you advocated obtaining the licence to build blackhawk, so who would build them then?
BOTH are capable aircraft one is proven, one IMO will be proven, troops will say blackhawk as like you they have experienced it, give a NH90 to the troops for week and they would sing it’s praises at the end. What is required is a series of tests just like the recent ocelot vs supacat, then we could buy the right aircraft. I hear what you’re saying monty to be honest I’d have either but as it shares engines with apache and the licence is already sorted, rather than having to get the licence have the usual arguement about the systems and engine, (8 years to get apache because of that). Then the NH90 gets the vote over the hawk. next time when you speak to your AAC friend see if there’s a REME bod around.

Jed
Jed
October 5, 2010 9:12 pm

Monty – again I defer to your greater experience when it comes to things green, but not entirely…..

ref: “Merlin as a utility transport helicopter simply isn’t agile enough to manoeuvre in hot and high scenarios – despite having three engines.”

How agile does it need to be exactly ? I remember watching some documentary recently about USAF Para-rescue in Afghanistan, and they had to literally strip the aircraft to make a night time SAR mission for some Spec Operators stuck up on a a mountain somewhere, they had to remove all the guns, defensive aides, their own body armour etc I know USAF MH60G’s are not the latest variants, but even so, if it struggles to make the altitude at all, how agile would it be ?

Anyway, when it comes down to it, only ‘Green’ painted helo I ever traveled in was a Puma, and I think we all agree they are well past their use by date :-)

Monty
October 5, 2010 10:31 pm

Jed,

With the MoD’s increased sensitivity to criticism, we need to be careful about citing Army sources on sites like these. That said, my understanding is that Merlin has performance issues. I just don’t have sufficient fact-based knowledge to explain what they are.

Paul G,

If I could buy any brand new car today, I’d buy a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 190. Way over-engineered for it’s time, there are more examples of this car on the road than any other 28 year old design. As for military kit, CVR(T) is almost 40 years old. FV432 is almost 50 years old and if my memory serves me right, the Royal Engineers are still using some vehicles that date back to the late 1940s. Has helicopter design fundamentally evolved between Blackhawk and NH90? That said, I take your point that Blackhawk is not the only option; however, you always tend to like what you know, especially when it works.

Jed
Jed
October 6, 2010 1:13 am

Monty – no worries, open source only ! At least PaulG, myself and may a couple of other commentor’s have had “opsec” beat into us an early age…..

paul g
October 6, 2010 10:25 am

It has, composite blades and in the case of the 90 the first composite body, being ex REME (now don’t throw things at the screen) I had the joy of working on all the aforementioned, all good but well overdue replacing, I would recommend reading the excellent article on CVR(T) on here.
Now in a slight twist, I have actually posted on here in the past pointing out what i believe are faults of the NH90 so in an effort to look at both sides I’ve gone and had another look at blackhawk, The very latest version answers a lot of the questions i asked the “m” version has the uprated gearbox and engine and they have the glass cockpit to rival NH90, it’s faster and rear sliding doors with a dedicated loady/gunners hatch which i think is the major flaw in the 90. It is much bigger though,(only 10ft shorter than merlin) with roughly if not less cabin space, with the new gearbox I would like to see it with 322 engines in, risky if we remember the fiasco with apache (i was there, clusterfudge) however that required a complete rework due to new engine and gearbox. downside is uh-60m is flippin’ expensive. So in short i’ll concede on my last comment and say the latest version is worthy, but which ever if ever the forces received i think the one thing we can agree on it goes to the AAC, no point it being a battlefield helo if it’s based an hours flying time behind the battlefield (there’s a story behind that dig OPSEC prevents me from telling it)

Dave
October 8, 2010 3:46 pm

The reason the Swedes have ordered the S-70 Blackhawks is because of delays in their NH90 order. I believe this issue is partially being caused by the fact they’ve asked for specific variant.

I think it is interesting that the Australians went for NH90 over S-70 because the Blackhawk is essentially 70s technology.
Meanwhile the Canadians are regretting ordering the CH-148(S-92) as its militarisation is turning into a disaster.

Adding the RTM332 engine isn’t the simple task that some think. A better option would be to order the NH90 through Westland as their parent company has already worked on both the NH90 and AW101. As the NH90 is often consider a AW101-lite, it could well be the production might be easier as well

Euan
Euan
October 8, 2010 5:51 pm

If we are talking about the Rolls Royce RTM-322 fitting into the Blackhawk i would suggest some people have another check on google. What would take time and money would most likely be the integration into the avionics although software is becoming more open so who knows.

Jed
Jed
October 11, 2010 6:40 pm

There is an interesting article in this months ‘Combat Aircraft’ on Joint Helo Command, including interview with its last leader, Air Commodore Simon Falla, RAF.

The two really interesting points in the context of our conversations in this and other comment threads are:

1. Puma when retired in 2022-2025 timeframe will be replaced by a “small, unspecified number of medium lift helicopters for insertion and extraction in areas where LZ size is restricted, e.g. urban environments”

2. The acquisition of additional WildCat’s is being examined to maintain a niche “Light Assault Helicopter” capability beyond the retirement of the AH9A.

Interesting eh ? Not sure how the Wildcat as it exists right now can replace the AH9A, which I thought had more cabin space available ? Maybe in a couple of years when Wildcat is in service we might see photos of the main cabin ??

20 to 22 aircraft to replace the Puma in 2022 – what do we think, mature variant of the NH90 by then ? Or AW149 ??? Or some fan tailed, co-axial rotor super-copter, or maybe a variant of the X2 developed for U.S. Army ??????? :-)

paul g
October 11, 2010 7:02 pm

I reckon when he says 2022-2025 he means sometime after 20 past 8 in the evening towards the end of october! I really can’t see the £300million upgrade getting past the SDSR and early retirement coupled with bye bye benson. I could be wrong (again).
Euan sidenote it’s been pointed out blackhawk has already done over a thousand hours with 322 in so software there, but we’ll still find a way to balls it up!!!

Richard Stockley
Richard Stockley
October 12, 2010 3:58 pm

Jed, judging by the videos I’ve seen of the Wildcat cabin, its the same size as the Mk.9A. The difference in troop numbers comes from the crash-worthy seating replacing the old troop carrying seats.

On the video its about 4:20 in, if you ignore the spotty ‘youfs’ narrating, you get a insight that a Chinese state ‘operative’ would give his right gonad for.

Jed
Jed
October 12, 2010 6:39 pm

Thanks Richard, the shot at 4.20 does indeed show the empty cabin, but there could be a fair amount of “stuff” to go in there, not just crash worth seats. I have never flown in an Army Lynx, but RN Lynx tended to just have 6 removable seats in the rear cabin, 3 facing each side door (but sometimes only 4 in total), there was no room for the extra 3 that go along the back wall (?) in an AH7 / 9.