What comes after the RAF Puma?

So we know the RAF Puma helicopters are currently being upgraded (and you can argue the value for money of that endlessly) but at some point, they will have to be withdrawn.

Depending on what life extension we can expect from the makeover they are currently getting (planned out to 2025) a replacement is eventually required.

The cynic would suggest at the end of the Puma era the UK will have Wildcat, Merlin and Chinook as the three main rotary wing platforms and we will be lucky at that so first question is, do we actually need a Puma replacement?

One of our regular commenters (thanks Paul G) reminded me about the Agusta Westland AW 189 (it coming into service on the new SAR contract) and wondered if the MoD would be able to leverage the support arrangements from that sizeable fleet.

With the contractual framework I am sure it would be complex but with a bit of joined up thinking, who knows.

By the time the Puma goes out of service the competitive landscape will be very different today, the US search for a Blackhawk replacement may well have concluded, the various X designs on both sides of the Atlantic might have matured, the NH90 will have limped into service and the strategic, political and economic picture might be equally different.

All the UK Chinooks will have been upgraded by then by JULIUS, Wildcat will have been in service some time, the Merlin HM2 upgrade will have been completed and maybe by then, the Merlin HC3’s will have been fully marinised and transferred to the CHF.

Loads of what ifs but the first question is, do we need to be looking for a Puma replacement now, something in the 8-9 tonne category, 12-16 seats and about 4 or 5 tonne lift?

This is an off the cuff post, apologies for not thinking through any answers but instead, just asking a question.

Have a few nice videos to oil the discussion wheels!

 

 

109 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dave
Dave
April 24, 2013 7:43 pm

Somethink along the lines of the Bell V280

x
x
April 24, 2013 8:07 pm

http://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1010

I don’t think we need a tilt rotor craft or anything complicated.

Either the KAI or AW149 would suit me. Navalised of course.

EDIT: Do we need Puma? Not going to comment because I will end up in one of those tiresome “scrap the RAF” talks that gets everybody wound up. We do need more helicopters that is all I will say. My concern is more to do with Wildcat numbers and Merlin Junglie numbers than a need for Puma. And making sure the helicopters we have have everything they need which takes me back to Merlin ASW and Marte.

Jules
Jules
April 24, 2013 8:24 pm

AW149 for me it’s a good Chopper and they could have bought it for the RAF, ARMY and the Coastguard (Bristow’s) and set up a nice little three tiered support network there around the Country and indeed around the world, Hobbled because we make the damn things here!
Wildcats belong to the Navy, the Lot! AW149, “Joint Force Leopard, Mountain Lion, Insert Cat name of Choice, My Cat’s called Cooper!”

I also don’t want a Complex Tilt Rotor, for ferrying and Taxi work, it’s got to be uber reliable on the battlefield, however the new Bell one is pretty neat rotating only the blades and not the whole engine Nacelle is pretty cool!

Mark
Mark
April 24, 2013 9:06 pm

What do we want it to do transport 8 to 16 passengers, move cargo bit of both, urban operation, hot and high operations, naval operations?

What way do troops prefer to get into and out off the helicopter one side door, 2 side doors, a side door plus a rear ramp or just a rear ramp and does this change depending on the number of people transported. That would to me define a layout and propulsion option of the type.

I would be tending to the kmax for future cargo operations in an optionally manned configuration and consider the trooping for any future helicopter. The next gen helicopters needs to be more reliable for longer when deployed and require a reduced logistics framework that should built in early.

In the end I think chinook and wildcat will takeover the puma role for the uk.

Simon
April 24, 2013 9:18 pm

Wildcat – 6t
Sea King / NH90 – 10t
Merlin – 15t
Chinook – 23t

I’d say that without Sea King (or NH90) there is a gaping cavern between Wildcat and Merlin.

If we drop Merlin from our existing fleet I’d be immediately suggesting a 12t copter… CH148?

Mark
Mark
April 24, 2013 9:21 pm

Simon

Ch148 makes the chinook mk3 helicopter look like a well thought through procurement!!

Simon
April 24, 2013 9:28 pm

Mark,

I was just trying to give a size estimate. I’m not massively pro the thing. I’m not massively pro the NH90 either. I do happen to think we’re stupid not building more Sea Kings though :-)

x
x
April 24, 2013 9:35 pm

If only we had bought Blackhawk……… :)

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 24, 2013 10:06 pm

We should maybe have thought about replacing Puma and retiring Lynx instead.
NH-90 would have given us a decent sized multi-role helicopter with some commonality with the Merlin. Lynx mk7 became obsolete when Apache turned up so many years ago. And is half a dozen squadies in a Wildcat really a worthwhile or cost-effective battlefield capability?
Wildcat seems like a great little chopper, but hasn’t it missed its moment? With the arrival of Apache, the decision was taken not to pair that with an unarmed recce helicopter -unlike Lynx TOW & Gazelle. Since then there’s been the rise of the robots in that observation role, and unmanned options like KMax for light cargo too. The manned, rotory-wing light utility and reconnaissance role seems to have been reinvented specifically to justify continuing the Wildcat program and to protect AW, rather than for any pressing service requirement.
If you want to move troops around, Puma or NH-90 would do a better job. I can’t imagine that sending two or three Wildcats to deliver a usefully sized squad, in place of a single NH-90, would be a comparatively cheaper method – a couple of expensive aircrew in each little Wildcat, plus all the additional engines, gearboxes and other stuff.

paul g
April 24, 2013 10:25 pm

I’m a 2 faced bastard, because i slated the puma upgrade but now think it was quite a canny idea!! The rotary world will be going through some major,exciting times towards the end of this decade with the tilt rotor and the co-axial rotor systems all being proven and flying (yes i know they are flying now i meant as mature designs).
At the moment i’m liking the co-axial system which is obviously a few years behind tilt (which is why i like the new OSD of puma) but i see sikorsky is touting both a troop carrying version (blackhawk size) and an attack helicopter version (this they reckon flying by 2017). I haven’t looked at the stats but i think the only advantage tilt rotor has is altitude, obviously it has wings for lift as well.

I nudged TD about the AW149/189 (189 civvy version) as part of the SAR contract is there will be a centre of excellence in yeovil with a full hit simulator (chuffin’ expensive ask anyone involved in the apache project) and also yeovil is where our wildcat training is going to be centred so kinda neatly squared it all away.

good thing about the 149 is it’s internal size makes it a top medevac helo, plenty of room for stretchers and a med team, a job currently being done by a our heavy lift cab the chinook out in afghanistan, appreciate out there it needs a force protection team on board, although in an ideal world they would be in a seperate cab ie wildcat to be out of the way when medics are up and down the ramps plus the wildcat goes up to do overwatch, wishful thinking!

with regards to preference to disembarkation i have always prefered anywhere between the arcs of 9 and 12 o’clock seen a couple of near misses and remember hearing about the young AGC clerk in bosnia all giddy after first flight got out the wrong side of the cab and for some bizarre reason decided to run round the rear of the lynx, straight into the tail rotor, not nice. pilot sees me, i see pilot, happy paul!

shit link, nice pictures!

http://orbitalvector.com/Aircraft/CC%20Helicopter/COMPOUND%20COAXIAL%20HELICOPTER.htm

Simon
April 24, 2013 10:50 pm

BB,

There’s still the problem that Apache is not a small copter.

What we tend to do with all this kit is the same thing that happens in the car industry. I’ll pick the VW Golf, which got bigger and bigger, so much in fact that VW had to build something smaller than the Polo for those that wanted a smaller car, the Fox (I think). Then allong comes the “Up” for those on an even smaller budget or parking space.

Lynx has got bigger in the Wildcat.
Sea King has got bigger in the Merlin.
Harrier has got a lot bigger in the F35.

The trouble is that Lynx didn’t grow quite enough to fill the void left by the increase in size of SK to Merlin.

So, the long and short of it is… yes, BB, I think I agree. It should have been Lynx/Wildcat that was canned in favour of Blackhawk or NH90.

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 24, 2013 11:15 pm

I heard that clerk had asked where she was meant to be going, Paul, and that her destination was pointed out to her without the expectation that she’d immediately tuck her head down (as though the main rotor was any danger on the flat dispersal) and trot off in that direction. Just an unlucky unfamiliarity with dangerous equipment, I guess. I was also told the tail rotor was fine afterwards.

I have seen folks get dangerously close to Lynx tail rotors on two occasions.
Once at Aldergrove, which had me comically flapping my arms about and mutely shouting under the noise of several aircraft to try and get his attention, as he happily bimbled towards the back of the aircraft – confused it with a Chinook perhaps.
Another time in Stettin, after organising a pickup in a park -nice big, flat open space- without realising there’d be some kind of community picnic going on; a family strolling around the back of the aircraft.

Sol
Sol
April 24, 2013 11:38 pm

not one person called for a version of the X-3. i’m surprised, i thought it would have a bigger following.

Challenger
Challenger
April 25, 2013 12:18 am

I agree that in an ideal world the AAC wouldn’t be getting the Lynx Wildcat (I’m still not really sure why they want it and how it’s justified beyond keeping AW in business?). I would have either solely ordered the RN variant (they still seem to have use for a small, fast, armed helo) or possibly in an even more radical alternative wouldn’t have selected it at all and actually gone for a mid sized general purpose utility platform and try to kill multiple birds with one stone.

We are however in the position we are in, and it’s not all bad. With the Chinook fleet being expanded and upgraded, the Apache with a fairly stable future ahead of it and plans afoot for Wildcat and Merlin. Throw in the Puma upgrade (whether you think it was a good investment or not) and id say the only thing that really niggles me is the abandonment of those spare Merlin HM1 airframes and a vague idea for the hazy future when we scrape together the cash to bolt Crowsnest onto the HM2 which will already have their hands full with ASW. Helicopters are in too short a supply to be thrown away or left in storage to rot, and things can’t be so tight that the FAA can’t afford to run and man an extra 8-10 airframes, even if it’s at the expense of something else and particularly when it’s for something so integrally important to the capability (and safety) of the wider fleet.

Back to the original question and a replacement for the Puma in 2025 would definitely be my next helicopter priority once the rest of the fleets upgrade paths are cemented and a proper Crowsnest programme becomes tangible reality. No need to push the boat out, but we could certainly do with around 20-30 mid sized platforms with as others have said the ability to carrying roughly 16+ troops into tight urban environments, cope with hot/high flight conditions and be useful in the med-evac role and other secondary tasks.

The AW149/89 seem to be goers, although I’m sure other good alternatives exist. The only one id actively avoid is the NH90!

Observer
Observer
April 25, 2013 3:02 am

If you are looking for a Puma replacement, then I would think you would need to do 2 things. 1) Take the Puma’s old requirements and capabilities and use that as a template. 2) Look through the old requirements and see if any are outdated or in need of modification.

Side load or rear load, I’m neutral to both. Like paul said, 3/9 or 2/10 is the safest, pilot can see you, you can see pilot, but rear loading is very very convenient, allows larger sized cargo loads and the jet blast works great as a dryer, so both have their advantages.

Jules
Jules
April 25, 2013 4:42 am

+1, Everything Paul g Said!
AW149, ALL THE WAY!
Wildcat is great for the Navy a will fit in well with MHPC, if it ends up actually being a small chopper capable vessel, then Lynx will fit, perfect for maritime roles/sonar dipping/boarding and dealing swift justice. Army needs a 12+ man chopper , RAF will need a Puma MKII eventually, Bristows will be using them all over the Country too, Keeps the clock ticking at Yeovil, and it’s a lovely helicopter, whats not to like?

Repulse
April 25, 2013 6:02 am

No one has explained why we need a helicopter of this category? If you want to get 12 men somewhere use a Merlin. Or am I missing something that warrants a separate class?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 25, 2013 7:28 am

Hi Simon,

The car analogy is used a lot, but it is really about cashing in on brand (and model, as a mini-brand) loyalty. Whereas the below has been driven by specific requirements
“Lynx has got bigger in the Wildcat.
Sea King has got bigger in the Merlin.
Harrier has got a lot bigger in the F35.

The trouble is that Lynx didn’t grow quite enough to fill the void left by the increase in size of SK to Merlin.”… and if it had, the navy would need one more (smaller) chopper type?

The tilting rotors/ engines are sexy, but what would be our real requirement, to go in that direction? For Osprey it has been stated as the combination of speed and range. As you have pointed out yourself many times, Merlin is not bad for its range. That leaves speed.
– recce? We have other platforms (the nominated representatives from the helos side being both Wildcat and Apache)
– CASEVAC and its behind-enemy-lines variation; yes, but that alone would not justify a new platform
– what else? Crowsnest, with the altitude+speed combination coming in handy. Again, a very small number of units, and deployed very differently from the above mentioned niche requirement

I just don’t see the need for now.

If we were buying now, it would be the AW. If we are to buy in 2025 (appr.)… can’t say, and as paul g pointed out, the Puma decision affords us the luxury to wait and see
– what I would be looking for is engine commonality; less fixated on whether we should have 4 or fewer helo types in service

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 25, 2013 7:38 am

On this fixation on 4 or fewer types: Found it strange that the long NH90 video did not make a reference to the navy version.

As it, Blackhawk (and Wildcat) can all do “double duty” and Blachawk’s successor already being designed, the interesting (but rhetorical) question is: Would NH90 be able to operate from all the current vessels, and would it stretch out the MHPC dimensions (whether MHPC is a concept or a ship, this is still a relevant question)

Jules
Jules
April 25, 2013 7:40 am

Hmm, I want to try to justify AW149 as I like it but it’s not as simple/easy as all that?
Deploying a Squad, traditionally 8-14 Men, Half a Merlin or Two Lynx?
Most underslung Heli Loads don’t weigh 12,000 pounds, Three Engine Choppers are Extortionately Expensive and we don’t really have enough to meet the Navy’s needs, let alone anyone elses. Actually I’m a little stuck on why the RAF needs Puma, and why the Army couldn’t just have em for Special Forces etc?
Don’t the Puma’s spend most of their time working for the Army?

Simon257
Simon257
April 25, 2013 7:47 am

When the Bristow SAR contract was announced, I did a quick search for the AW149 and found this website. To be totally honest, I couldn’t remember what a AW149 looked like!

It is a French Helicopter website. If you scroll down, past the images of the Bristow SAR version. It shows the internal configurations possible of the Helicopter as a troop carrier.

http://www.helicopassion.com/fr/03/wbl317.htm

Obsvr
Obsvr
April 25, 2013 8:13 am

AAC has never been in the troop lifting business in a serious way, they never really wanted Lynx in the first place as a Scout replacement. They are in the business of small utility tasks and a myriad liaison type duties. Ah happy memories of being in a Lynx at night with a 3* general in the pilot’s seat (albeit with a WO1 QHI alongside!).

Jules
Jules
April 25, 2013 8:30 am

@Think Defence, You like to stimulate debate don’t you? The two most unreliable/problematic Choppers in History, you’re pulling my leg?
I could be tempted to go AW149/Chinook and have done but I like the Navy Lynx for Frigates/Smaller Vessels because you can have two or, with a UAV in the Hanger. I like Merlin coz Well it’s a Merlin, they’re just great, and I like Chinook coz it is Peerless at what it does, and we’ve already got em, or can I play Fantasy Chopper Fleet Too???

Bobblelink
Bobblelink
April 25, 2013 9:20 am

wouldn’t touch NH90 with a bargepole- Aw149 seems a much better aircraft

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 25, 2013 9:34 am

The Bundeswehr solution ” NH90 in both the naval and troop carrying version Then, bin Chinook in favour of the CH53K 2 types not 4″
– I make the implicit assumption that they fly their helos; could be the Luftwaffe for all I know

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
April 25, 2013 9:54 am

Bobblelink, Australia was silly enough to sign up for 46 NH90’s while it was barely more than a prototype.
So far we have about 18 and the contract is on our ‘projects of concern’ list.

On paper it should be a great helicopter but in the real world it has been taking an awful long time to get right. Initial deliveries were nowhere near ready for use and have been cycling through the workshop for upgrades.

To top it off the logistics system hasn’t been able to support planned flying hours, so training is way behind.

I suppose we will get there but it has been painful ……and the Tiger hasn’t been any better.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 25, 2013 10:18 am

Eurocopter has been aiding KAI with their Surion, RE
“we will get there but it has been painful ……and the Tiger hasn’t been any better.”

When I watched the vid on Surion, I could not decide whether it was an NH copy or a Blackhawk copy
– I would not surprised if the Koreans take the best of both and eliminate the negatives

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 10:42 am

What comes after the RAF Puma? Nothing – unless there is a defined requirement for it and that’s the nub of the problem. Like it or not, helo procurement after Merlin HM1 and WAH64 has been driven entirely by either a) desire to maintain RAF crew numbers and squadron badges or b) the domestic helo design and manufacture of AW in Yeovil. Both of which have been complicated by the demands of Herrick which has emphasised the Chinook over all else because of a number of requirements and environmental factors (MERT, patrol base resupply, hot and high performance), which have excluded to some degree or other, alternative cabs.

If you look at requirements, you get the following :

Navy – need a helo capable of fitting on T23 and smaller, must be fully marinised, must have good RF and EO sensor suite and comms, must be able to carry lightweight ASW torps, a decent ASGW type and number and ideally provide a cabin and HMG for overwatch. Must be manned, with ability to support VERTREP and HDS (principally pax).

Navy – also need a troop lift helicopter capable of delivering RM units ashore in coherent manner, including arctic kit. Should fit aboard current LPH/LPD/LSDA and RFA (secondary ops platform for both RM and VERTREP) as well as QEC. Needs to be fully marinised as sustained embarked ops required. Needs also to be capable of ops from Arctic to high desert / mountain. Needs USL capability ideally for empty Viking / Warthog, definitely for 105mm light gun and crew or FSC Rapier battery. If possible up to 4000kg for VERTREP.

Navy – need an ASW helicopter capable of fitting on T23, localising and prosecuting both surface and sub-surface contacts at long ranges from ship. Needs to have significant time on station in a predominantly low-level profile with a number of weapons and sensors (eg.dipping sonar). Ideally have a secondary Vertrep and HDS capability, so needs a cabin and needs to be manned.

Those tasks are definitively helo-based. There is also the AEW/ASaC requirement which could be helo-based, but is largely tied to the QEC, so less of a driver.

Then we get to Perce. Perce needs the following :

Troop lift. Either able to lift a significant chunk of a Coy grp (eg Platoon) in one lift over longish range at low-level NoE if required. Could comprise a larger number of squad level lifts instead.

MERT – need a CASEVAC capability that will allow a medical team to work on a casualty in transit. Indicates large floor area and cabin height.

Heavy lift. Need the ability to lift 155-class arty, Rapier FSC, Engineers kit, DROPS pallets and a wide range of “stuff” as USL, preferably with associated crew as well.

Observation / liaison. Ability to reconnoitre ahead of force and lift small numbers of people about area of operations. The latter could be done by a smaller troop lift helo, which means the former role could be unmanned.

Most of the above roles require a good DAS and the ability to survive varying amounts of small arms fire.

RAF

Need ability to recover aircrew from hostile areas (JPAR). Long range, low-noise, good DAS, a cabin, ability to carry a small med / security team.

“Them”

Need ability to approach targets quickly and quietly while carrying smallish team. Also need ability to get into tight areas (particularly urban). Need (if possible) passive avionics / nav system. Long range, low-noise, good DAS. Could also require a larger cab with the ability to carry vehicles internally over a low-level / long range insertion / recovery profile.

Er, that’s it.

Now to me, that sounds like three different frames.

Smallest – something that could do the small naval helo, lightweight army lift and JPAR / “them” role. Something like Wildcat, or SH60/UH60, possibly even NH90. Trouble is that begins to get a bit big for the smaller decks. Not necessarily a killer, but needs thought. Might be Puma, but a bit tall for small ship deck ops and no real sensor/weapon capability.

Medium – Sorts out the Navy ASW and Navy Lift requirement and potentially the MERT role as well, might do some of Perce’s troop lift. Bigger than SK and NH90. Probably Merlin, but fully marinised.

Heavy. Perce’s troop lift and heavy lift role. The long-range vehicle role for “them”. Potentially the Navy’s troop lift role as well, but would not be good for use with RFA and the current LPD/LSDA. Could be CH47 or CH53. Highly unlikely to be V22.

If you now look at what’s on the plot for the next 20 years, you’ve got :

Small – 28 Navy Wildcat and 34 for Perce, plus the 20-odd Puma HC2. Likely to last until 2040-ish for Wildcat, late 20s for HC2.

Medium – 30 Merlin HM2 in the CSP, plus 28 HC4 if modded. Likely to last until 2035-40

Large – About 60 CH47 HC4 and HC6 once new deliveries and Julius completed. HC4 to be replaced post 2030?

That plot looks (to me) a bit heavy in terms of the heavies and isn’t going to change until 2030-ish. At which point you might be able to settle on a common medium frame to replace Merlin and some of the HC4. Reduces the heavy lift element somewhat but beefs up the middle where most of the requirement is.

The real trouble is balancing off the smaller roles. Wildcat is definitely too small for some of them, but SH60 / NH90 are too big/heavy for some of the ships. You might end up with a situation where Perce’s Wildcats are flogged off or used as attrition reserve spares for the navy fleet and the “puma replacement” becomes something like NH90 / SH60 / AW159 and you end up with four types. As the smaller ships fall off the plot, you might get a naval variant and go back to three types towards the back end of the 30s.

Troble is that at the minute, some peole are treating this as “what can the RAF have to replace Puma?”, instead of what type of aircraft do the Andrew and Perce need and does it need to be owned by the RAF?” Absolutely not an RAF-bashing attempt, merely pointing out that the RAF themselves only have the JPAR requirement. The other requirements are owned by the Navy and the Army, yet in one case the customer appears to have limited sway in the procurement, even if JHC owns the operational tasking. It would be interesting to see where the “budget” for any Puma replacement sits. LAND or AIR?

paul g
April 25, 2013 10:57 am

a short vid of the AW 189/149 flight testing in the US in dec 2012, note still in camo paint job

Simon257
Simon257
April 25, 2013 10:58 am
paul g
April 25, 2013 11:02 am

couldn’t put 2 vids in the same comment so here’s it flying in civvy colours

Tom
Tom
April 25, 2013 11:42 am

NaB – One of the roles of the RAF is Air Transport, both Inter and Intra Theatre. Support Helicopters fulfil the Intra Theatre requirement. To the RAF they are Intra Theatre transport assets, whether than is transporting a fine body of men in a air assault mission or transporting supplies to a FOB.

Puma has been retained primarily to maintain helo numbers and because we need something than can can a dozen or so men with black lines over their faces in to tighter spots than a Chinook can fit.

Wildcat/Lynx is useful for this role but is always constrained by its size – with a pair of door gunners and carrying a decent DAS, its lift/carry ability is limited.

Simon
April 25, 2013 11:47 am

ACC,

“The car analogy is used a lot, but it is really about cashing in on brand…”

I agree, but you’re missing the point that it only happens because of demand. Everyone “thinks” bigger is better, until they come to pay for running it, owning it and storing it. It’s the same with the military (from what I see). And, yes, if Lynx had grown to 8t then there’d be a strong reason to fill the lower void with a Gazelle replacement.

The trouble is Lynx did not grow enough for this to be the case and Wildcat as it stands is a great little copter. In it’s class, I don’t think anything else comes close. The problem is that Merlin (especially the non-naval version) is massive.

However, at least we are making the most of what we’ve got in the shape of a Chinook capable carrier and Merlin HC being navalised.

If one started again then I think you’d probably end up with Wildcat, Merlin and Chinook even though they are not well balanced. Better to have Wilcat, Sea King MkII (10-12t) and Chinook.

Simon257
Simon257
April 25, 2013 11:57 am

The one basic requirement needed, whatever type is decided on, and no matter which service fly’s it. Is that it is able to go to sea from Day 1. So it must have powered folding rotor blades at the very least.

I think realistically, we need to go down two troop carrying types post 2030. For Heavy Lift, the CH-53K. As for the other, I think we should wait to see how the NH90 or the V-280 turn out.

This question should have been asked a long time ago. We should have realistically have replaced both the Lynx (both Variants) and the Puma with one helicopter. That would have been the AW149.

As the CH-53K has been mentioned here’s a video of the aircraft, cuertesy of Aaronlee33’s YouTube Page

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=k_pAe8Gvua8

x
x
April 25, 2013 12:03 pm

TD said “best anti submarine helicopter money can buy”

Yes. But at least Lynx is a good helicopter. The Army got something better than they “needed” and that is good procurement. Rather like RAF with Phantom and Buccaneer and Sea King. It is when they all have to share and compromise when nobody wins that is when to complain. Not that you were complaining.

I find your liking of NH90 troubling. ;)

x
x
April 25, 2013 12:11 pm

@ TD

Yes I hear what you are saying. For me though NH90 offers what Merlin offers only less of it. And we are already have Merlin.

I will muse some more…..

RLC
RLC
April 25, 2013 12:12 pm

I see absolutely no need to replace puma with anything other than merlin. perhaps by 2025 we can get AW to make a two engined Merlin,or not. the NH90 is too small, ~20 chaps, and there will always be a demand to do large scale helicopter assaults where being able to transport ~40 chaps is going to be much more useful than 16 to 25. Another reason to keep Merlin is that the AW149 is ~2m shorter but carries less than half the troops and less external 2.7Mg (AW149) against 5.4Mg (Merlin).

On another note Lynx is useful as it can take missiles, Merlin can’t. also its small size = small radar cross-section

Also NH90 is around double the cost of Merlin, so there

Edit p.s: all figures from wiki

paul g
April 25, 2013 12:14 pm

to me this just sneaks ahead due to the fact you don’t have to dick about designing folding wings a lá tilt rotor. if the raider concept puts in a good performance in 2014, then just due to the history of boeing and sikorsky i think it’s a winner (not that i’m important mind!)

http://defense-update.com/20130306_sikorsky-boeing-team-to-offer-next-generation-medium-helicopter-to-the-us-army.html

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 12:27 pm

“NaB, you might equally argue that helicopter procurement before HM1 and Apache was defined by what the RN wanted, I know its an old joke but the Army have always flown in the best anti submarine helicopter money can buy!”

So hang on, the Bristol Belvedere, Puma and Chinook were all defined and bought by the RN? You would be on firmer ground if it had only been the Whirlwind and the Wessex I think. Both of which were designed as troop carriers as well as ASW. Lynx was IIRC procured to give the army an airborne scout and TOW capability, rather than a troop lifter. I do agree that Merlin HC3 was foisted on the RAF, hence the comment on Yeovil – but it is not the “naval requirement” that has affected the bird, more the poor gearbox design.

Can’t for one moment imagine why you would want to substitute an NH90 for an Apache!?

K-MAX is a one-trick pony. You’re buying a cab and it’s support essentially to transport stores only from A to B. Cheap, in isolation yes. In the context of wider roles which still need helos with cabin space, emphatically not.

“One of the roles of the RAF is Air Transport, both Inter and Intra Theatre. Support Helicopters fulfil the Intra Theatre requirement” for which the customer and requirement is almost exclusively LAND. Remind me again why the RAF gets to own the requirement and the procurement budget?

“Puma has been retained primarily to maintain helo numbers and because we need something than can can a dozen or so men with black lines over their faces in to tighter spots than a Chinook can fit”. In which case a SK4 would do just as well (particularly now they have Carson blades) and would also be able to go to sea while Merlin HC3 is converted to HC4 and sustain the SKIOS contract, preventing the looming ASaC gap. The overall length (turning) is about 3m greater.

Your comment might have been better phrased as “Puma has been retained primarily to maintain RAF helo numbers and pilot slots”…..unless there is a compelling overall difference between the SK4 and HC2 that I’m missing.

wf
wf
April 25, 2013 12:48 pm

@TD: I really don’t see the advantage of NH90 at all. Compared the the UH60, it’s only advantage is shorter length, and despite the same installed power, composite body etc, it lifts less and is considerably less robust. I would have replaced Lynx, Merlin and Puma with the UH60 for the same logistical reasons you advanced, but sadly I think it’s just too late now :-(

George
George
April 25, 2013 1:14 pm

Good point there by NaB.

Why upgrade the Pumas and not the Sea King HC4s instead? Genuinely interested!

Simon
April 25, 2013 1:18 pm

TD,

The NH90 is almost perfect (in a conceptual sense). So, on paper, I too would advocate the NH90 to replace Wildcat/Lynx and SeaKing/Merlin.

The trouble is that reality gets in the way.

So, we’re still shopping for a 10t copter! I mentioned the CH148, which is actually pretty large for what it brings to the party.

Can someone please list the reasons why Sea King has been retired. If I started up a production line and produced new airframes with newer, more efficient and lighter engines, what’s not to like? 5h endurance for AEW, 27 troops (squeezed), floats on water, etc.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 1:22 pm

“Can a Merlin HC3 lift a Viking half, let alone a Viking TES half?

If not (and I suspect what the answer is) the RM’s principal means of protected mobility has to be lifted by the RAF Chinook force, interesting, no?

Will also be interested from an RM perspective what happens when Rapier goes out of service and whether its known replacement (FLAADS on a MAN SV) can be lifted by Merlin, again, I suspect not”

Which is why surface lift is still an essential part of the RN/RM requirement and why I suggested that “ideally” it would include Viking lift – not even a Wokka will lift a Warthog complete. Similarly, for FLAADS, the launcher is a pallet which may or may not be truck-mounted, leaving open carriage as USL. It will be interesting to see whether the army plump for a truck-mount outside the limits of Wokka USL you’d hope not, but…….

wf
wf
April 25, 2013 1:24 pm

@TD: NH90 is considerably *less* useful to Westlands than the UH60, since we withdrew from the NH90 program long ago, Westlands would get sod all value added work if we bought it. Morever, both can use the RTM322.

Westlands have already licence produced a UH60, back in 91 (the WS70). If we want to re-open the Thatcher/Heseltine spat from the mid-90’s, in the long run the latter won in the formation of AW, and Westlands has shrunk to a shadow of it’s former self, while in it’s previous incarnation as mainly a licence builder for Sikorsky, it was doing rather well.

: fascinating point. Both are around the same age

Simon
April 25, 2013 1:27 pm

Merlin cannot lift the front car of a Viking.

…which is why I’m not sure I see the point in converting the HC3 for naval use!

Mark
Mark
April 25, 2013 1:32 pm

Rtm 322 engine is I believe no longer owned by rolls Royce

Observer
Observer
April 25, 2013 1:32 pm

Hang on guys, think some of you slapped 2 types of different requirements into a helo. The Puma is/was a transport for troop carry and underslung, yet somehow you are talking about its successor as an ASW/Transport helicoptor, the Puma is not an ASW helo.

It would be nice if a new helicopter could dual role, but the chances of them switching from Navy control to Army control is rather low, most of the time, helos are stuck in a role that they were customised to specialise in, Army for transport, ASW for Navy. If you are going to specialise and segregate to that extent, then their really is no point for a common airframe system is there?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 1:54 pm

“then their really is no point for a common airframe system is there?”

Other than logistics which is absolutely the best reason of all.

Alex
Alex
April 25, 2013 1:58 pm

All right then, why not AW149 (clue in the first two letters) in place of Lynx, Puma, and Merlin, and make up the lift gap with more Wokka? Can get to three airframes!

pity it’s an awkward size for the ships.

Jeremy M H
April 25, 2013 2:21 pm

@TD

UK helicopter procurement has long baffled me. Conceptually I like the NH-90, Apache, Merlin solution.

The problem there really is that the NH-90 program has been a rolling disaster for what it really needed to provide which is a utility helicopter that people could afford in numbers and almost as importantly if you actually plan to use them in combat afford to lose in reasonable numbers. Is the thing really any cheaper than a Chinook? The 28 million Euro price for France is with a discount they receive so for anyone else add 12% minimum to the cost. That is a $40 million dollar transport helicopter. The US Army bought Chinooks for $29 million in 2011. UH-60’s were $21 million.

I like my transport helicopters to be as cheap and disposable as I can while still getting the mission done. Wildcat seems to small for the utility role on the battlefield, particularly if pressed into work for cargo movement. NH-90 is great but just so freaking expensive for what 90% of its jobs will end up being in a land role. I think there was a lot of questionable innovating on the NH-90 frankly. Sure, fly by wire and composite construction are great in a fighter jet. In a helicopter that needs to be cheap I am not so sure.

Simon
April 25, 2013 2:29 pm

Surely Wildcat is good enough for the kinds of operations it needs to do from the back of a frigate. With the exception of… No dipping sonar :-(

It’s no troop lifter, but okay to quickly insert a special forces team at low level. Isn’t this the kind of tactical lift that would actually happen from a frigate?

For the army, I think it should replace Apache. Maybe this is a pipedream, but Lynx was an excellent battlefield support copter. Apache is useless for CASEVAC and ammo drop. At least Lynx/Wildcat could be an attack copter and provide light utility.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 3:33 pm

“Apache is useless for CASEVAC and ammo drop”

Of course it is – it’s designed to be an attack helicopter in a high-threat scenario.

“At least Lynx/Wildcat could be an attack copter …….”

No. It couldn’t. Unless the anti-helo threat was the peace-loving people of Umbhoto Gorge with their sharpened mangoes……

Jeremy M H
April 25, 2013 3:34 pm

@Simon

You want to replace helicopters you pretty much just bought that are world class attack helicopters with Wildcat which would be a poor attack helicopter (no mast mounted radar, no real armoring, less weapons, less sensors, no trainable cannon) as well as a marginal to poor utility helicopter (it does not lift many troops or much cargo really). On the battlefield the thing will have little more utility than a UH-72 in practical terms.

I don’t see the point of that honestly. Even in COIN operations you would lose one of the big advantages of Apache in that you don’t have to be too afraid of guys with assault rifles really hurting you so you can get close and do the job. You get a marginal cargo and troop carrier out of it at best.

x
x
April 25, 2013 3:50 pm

“The Viking can be split into two sections in just 20 minutes to be carried by the Merlin helicopter.” from Army Tech dot com.

My question is apart from rare circumstances why would you want to lift a Viking by helicopter anyway? It would take 12 aircraft two trips to move enough for one company. Isn’t that why have landing craft? Nobody is saying let’s not buy Chinook as it would take 12 to move a company’s worth of Viking in one go. (How many lifts did the RAF have to do in Kosovo that time moving CVR(T)?) Helicopters have their uses but lets not dismiss some models for a rare need. They are not a panacea for military ills. As I have said before here “we” are guilty here of treating the helicopter as a “second class” citizen in some areas, such as being deployed in numbers on CVF, because we all obsess about jet numbers overlooking the former’s capabilities against ship and submarine. We don’t need £100million mega jet to make CVF useful; CVF is no less useful for being a very big fast helicopter carrier. Then at other times when it comes to battle field mobility (include in that ship to shore life) we over estimate the helicopter’s worth. Like the plan is for the RAF to move whole battalions in huge tactical leaps and bounds when in reality it spends its time moving humans and pallets around a good distance behind the forward edge of battle (because helicopters are expensive and vulnerable.) That is high end war not Taliban bashing.

Observer
Observer
April 25, 2013 4:24 pm

NaB

“Other than logistics which is absolutely the best reason of all.”

The Navy and the Army share parts? This was the problem I meant with segregation. Unless you get a Joint Force Helo, your supply chain is in 2 parts anyhow. What are the chances of JFH Mk II happening?

As for helo hauling, you can use them to do a short range-“deep strike”, not of Vikings only, which is actually quite a heavy vehicle, but LSVs and recon bikes too. I’d class this as your medium lift helicopter, the ones that go in frigates and destroyers need to be lighter, so in the end, you still end up with a 3 tier fleet, light helos for frigate/destroyer ASW/AShW use, medium lift for LSVs, troops or supplies and Chinook for heavy lifting.

Tilt-rotors look nice and gives better performance, but the traditional rotor and tail configuration has a big advantage in the narrow profile, which makes it easier to slip into the hanger of an escort. Of course you can swing the wings of the tilt-rotor to storage positions, but they are still rather chunky.

I wonder if a contra-rotating helo might be worth a look, without the tail, you can have a direct access cargo bay ala Chinook style. Maybe not…

Jed
Jed
April 25, 2013 4:26 pm

AW149 – replace Army Wildcat and Puma

To replace Wildcat: Apache becomes Armed Recce feeding Longbow targets to Brimstone equipped AW149 “missile carrier” via dataline, plus:

To replace Puma: can carry door guns and rockets in traditional armed helo mode, can do casevac / medevac, can do troop assault (fully armed squad with support weapons), troop transport (more men, less kit and ammo), etc etc etc

Navy: Wildcat and Merlin
Army: Apache and AW149
RAF: Chinook

:-)

Challenger
Challenger
April 25, 2013 4:29 pm

@Not a Boffin

‘The real trouble is balancing off the smaller roles. Wildcat is definitely too small for some of them, but SH60 / NH90 are too big/heavy for some of the ships. You might end up with a situation where Perce’s Wildcats are flogged off or used as attrition reserve spares for the navy fleet and the “puma replacement” becomes something like NH90 / SH60 / AW159 and you end up with four types. As the smaller ships fall off the plot, you might get a naval variant and go back to three types towards the back end of the 30s’

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head there. If we see a medium sized Puma replacement it won’t be until around 2030 and take us back up-to four types, with the chance of dropping back to three only coming if/when the Wildcat is no longer needed by the RN because of it’s small size (with the AAC it’s less of a problem of course). The chances of retaining everything that’s currently in service or on order will be difficult enough in the years ahead.

Id like to see the RAF remain stable with it’s 60 Chinook’s and 24 Puma’s, the AAC keep at least 66 Apaches (although when it comes to the upgrade point I reckon 14 fully marinized additions wouldn’t be a bad thing) and a fleet of 60 Lynx (38 Wildcat, 22 upgraded AH9’s, not sure what they need them for but they are on order and it’s always good to keep the numbers up!) and the FAA with 30 Wildcat’s and 70 Merlin (yes 70, 30 HM2, 30 HC4 and 10 for Crowsnest).

Might be slightly ambitious, but it only represents what we have now, plus a couple of small additions in a decade or so’s time when we can hopefully scrape the money together. By my reckoning I would want 324 helicopters in 5 types (with AW189 or something similar replacing the Puma and eventually the Wildcat in the distant future to bring us back down to 4 types), with a smaller Army and a generally more expeditionary stance that could well be quite a good number to aim for.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 4:37 pm

“The Navy and the Army share parts? This was the problem I meant with segregation. Unless you get a Joint Force Helo, your supply chain is in 2 parts anyhow”

Currently in place for Merlin Integrated Operational Support (MIOS), Sea King Integrated Operational Support (SKIOS) and will be in place for Wildcat in due course. Not perfect (often due to inappropriate central funding of spares contracts), but working quite happily nonetheless.

Mark
Mark
April 25, 2013 5:18 pm

A few things really on an interesting topic. How important is speed and range to uk operations? If we don’t need the speed then perhaps evolution not revolution is the way forward. It would appear from reading thru people like the side door exit entry option for this medium size helicopter. A development of the EC 645 may tick many boxes here.

Side exit entrance to me would be difficult for the concept which I find the simple and most low risk higher performance option the eurocopter x3 layout . The co-axial blade option would be a concern to me in way off ship hanger height and cargo aircraft transport.

If the helicopter is to go to sea that means it needs designed in from the beginning but it come with a higher initial cost and a weight penalty that could potentially limit sales further afield. This will make the hot high requirement more difficult to achieve especially if a 8-16 troop requirement is required in those conditions. This will lead to a big helicopter which wont be a gd fit with urban operations. Hot and high requirements are best handled by tandem rotor designs as all the power can be directed to lift were tail rotor designs require power for turning the tail rotor. Advanced Avionics and DAS a must for all uk military helicopters this will also drive cost but allow white/brown conditions to be handled ect. Extreme cold requirements icing drive a while other set of requirements too.

While civil helicopters can be converted successfully for the para military type roles converting a civil design to a pure battlefield role is more difficult and usually less successful I suspect the lack of aw149 sales points in this direction.

For the uk going fwd chinook will be here to stay prob until mid century with weight grow issues most likely tackled in the next upgraded. I would not have continued with puma it would have been scrapped. I think if more chinooks had been ordered the raf would have let puma go.
Merlin better than its press but really should have been given a new gearbox. Wildcat I personally like it sf 4 man team insertion or urban ops obervation, sniper team ect to me suggests it has a role. Apache top quality helicopter its real problem is speed it’s quite slow, chinook will happily out pace it loaded. Army should be upgrading the fully apache fleet but like the navy aircraft take a back seat in those organisations to tanks and frigates which is why we have an organistation solely focused of things that fly :).

In essence chinook merlin wildcat apache is a gd mix going fwd. If our concept of operation changes and we want change then the minimum number I see is a 3 fleet solution. X2 type attack copter taking on more cas tasking, an x3 type layout for the heavy lift and a more traditional medium helicopter along the ec645 layout. Though being a bit radical marrying the Augusta project zero layout with underslung sky crane type body make be interesting to play around with.

Phil
April 25, 2013 5:52 pm

“Puma has been retained primarily to maintain helo numbers and because we need something than can can a dozen or so men with black lines over their faces in to tighter spots than a Chinook can fit. Wildcat/Lynx is useful for this role but is always constrained by its size – with a pair of door gunners and carrying a decent DAS, its lift/carry ability is limited”

Sounds about right. My TAMs is telling me that the area needing to be free from obstruction over 0.6 metres around a HLS is three times bigger for a Chinook than a Lynx and twice the size of Puma / Sea King. I imagine that that very real limitation is one reason to keep different sized choppers – especially if we are going to be operating in plenty of urban terrain.

x
x
April 25, 2013 6:16 pm

The US Army’s Lakota programme was a good example of COTS working well.

Apache for me sits on its own. What it does is more important that what it is.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 6:23 pm

“My TAMs is telling me that the area needing to be free from obstruction over 0.6 metres around a HLS is three times bigger for a Chinook than a Lynx and twice the size of Puma / Sea King”

So no real difference between the ability of a Puma or Sea King to get into a confined area. How interesting………

Phil
April 25, 2013 6:31 pm

Nope not according to my TAMs there is no difference in HLS size they come under the same requirements for cleared areas.

Mark
Mark
April 25, 2013 7:00 pm

Would have been politically difficult to have binned sea king sar due to them being old ect ect and kept jungly…..

mike
mike
April 25, 2013 7:11 pm

I also think there were other reasons, such as air-frame fatigue (could argue the SK Jungly fleet was worked harder due to afghan ops) and service support contracts.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 7:36 pm

“Would have been politically difficult to have binned sea king sar due to them being old ect ect and kept jungly…..”

But SK3 (and HU5) are being binned because there is (allegedly) no mil requirement, and no money rather than on basis of age. Besides, by keeping a wider SK fleet, there may even have been scope to retain a limited SAR fleet, as opposed to binning it all, for a small fleet that will only be used on troop lift etc.

“I also think there were other reasons, such as air-frame fatigue (could argue the SK Jungly fleet was worked harder due to afghan ops) and service support contracts.”

SK Jungly fleet has consistently been worked harder throughout the 90s and beyond and the cabs are indisputably tired. However, they do have an extant support contract that includes more than just the SK4 fleet, rather than having to arrange a new one. There was also an extant mod to improve performance (Carson & tail rotor). I’m sure fatigue is an issue, but extent outside the rotor and GB components?

I’m afraid it looks more and more like a case of seats for the boys, rather than a Joint view of requirements.

topman
topman
April 25, 2013 7:47 pm

you mean youd prefer sk to stay in service and the merlins to stay where they are?

Jules
Jules
April 25, 2013 9:15 pm

Hear Ya jed, Hear Ya!

AW149 – replace Army Wildcat and Puma

To replace Wildcat: Apache becomes Armed Recce feeding Longbow targets to Brimstone equipped AW149 “missile carrier” via dataline, plus:

To replace Puma: can carry door guns and rockets in traditional armed helo mode, can do casevac / medevac, can do troop assault (fully armed squad with support weapons), troop transport (more men, less kit and ammo), etc etc etc

Navy: Wildcat and Merlin
Army: Apache and AW149
RAF: Chinook

Thats exactly as it should be,, then we get a Tiltrotor attacker when Apache wears out…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2013 11:16 pm

“do you think a decision of that magnitude and joint service impact would get by without some pretty comprehensive staff work and scrutiny by the other services, don’t LAND hold the budget line for JHF”

I’m not sure they do, although they certainly hold the operational budget and OPCon for JHF.

“you mean youd prefer sk to stay in service and the merlins to stay where they are?”

Not necessarily. SK4 cannot last forever, but I wonder whether extending them for ten years instead of the HC2 rebuild might have delivered a better short term option. It would give more time to provide a considered replacement for the CHF/Amphib capability in the medium term, rather than a potential bodge job on the HC3. It would also remove the primary cause for gapping ASaC (lapse of SKIOS).

It’s also worth considering this. At the minute, a lot of RAF HC3 crews without a Wokka conversion slot are either at risk of redundancy or are PVR, as CHF crews go through the HC3 conversion. AIUI, the Puma HC2 prog is not yet delivering RTS cabs and yet the HC1 stood down some months ago. What exactly are all the Puma force doing during this period? Benson may be a very unhappy place….

There’s no smoking gun to look for. Your exam question was “do we need to be looking for a Puma replacement now, something in the 8-9 tonne category, 12-16 seats and about 4 or 5 tonne lift?”. The not unexpected answer was “no – we need to be looking for an Army Wildcat replacement in the medium term”, but the logic of why that was so and how to get there, led to the question regarding SK4 vs HC2.

jed
jed
April 25, 2013 11:30 pm

Jules – nice idea but the way we eek the very last drop of life out of kit we will be replacing Apache with the Falcon from HALO: http://halo.wikia.com/wiki/UH-144_Falcon

Challenger
Challenger
April 25, 2013 11:59 pm

@Jules

‘Navy: Wildcat and Merlin
Army: Apache and AW149
RAF: Chinook’

Id go for that, it essentially makes the best out of a less than ideal situation. Their are perfectly justifiable and valid reasons for the Army (either AAC or RAF operated) to use a mid sized 16-20 man helo with reasonable agility/speed/endurance that can operate in urban environments, but like yourself I can only see it appearing as a replacement for the Wildcat, not the Puma and taking the size/diversity of the wider helicopter inventory beyond it’s current set-up.

A Puma replacement is a desirable thing, but it’s not essential. I’m sure the RAF and AAC would make do with what it already has in the way that the wider armed forces have been doing without seemingly important (or in some cases vital) bits of kit for years. However yeah, if/when the opportunity presents itself then some AW149 would be a good idea!

What would you propose to do with the AAC Wildcat’s? Flog them abroad, or give them to the FAA, or simply bin them?

jed
jed
April 26, 2013 1:35 am

Challenger, Jules was quoting me and I would give AAC Wildcats over to RN for littoral / RM support tops :-)

Simon
April 26, 2013 2:31 am

I didn’t make myself very clear did I.

Apache is simply a platform with a mast radar, hellfire and a steerable cannon. The Wildcat chassis (if there was one) is a more common platform. We could have enhanced Wildcat to include Hellfire (well Bromstone, actually), a cannon (or two from the door mounts). We still can, espcially when you look at the speed weapon systems improve and leave the ones on Apache a little long-in-the-tooth. They’re also getting smaller and lighter.

It’s absolutely never going to be as good as Apache (6t as opposed to 10t), but as a home-built battlefield CAS copter it would be as good as most others. Apache isn’t particularly reliable, or efficient, or cheap to run. Lynx/Wildcat is… I think.

If it’s good enough for the RM then it’s good enough for the Army. Im going to regret that aren’t I ;-)

Jules
Jules
April 26, 2013 5:00 am

@Jed/Challenger

Jed, I think I came up with the same idea quite a while back on the first page but I did not iterate it quite so succinctly as you!

Challenger, Yes like Jed I’d give em to the navy…Now, and tag on a dipping Sonar order, with the foreign Johnnies who just ordered Wildcat (Can’t for the life remember who?), MHPC if indeed it’s a Ship will need Helo’s, even if it just consists of a collection of deployable systems it’ll need Helo’s.
Lynx with Dipping Sonar, would be a great second tier capability…

Challenger
Challenger
April 26, 2013 9:24 am

Apologies, I didn’t realise Jules was quoting from you! I don’t have a major problem in giving some more Wildcat’s to the RN, but with roughly 66 airframes on order that seems like a rather large number to give to a significantly smaller and increasingly overburdened service (one which can hardly operate the helicopters it already has).

I believe the Army is getting 8 ‘light assault’ versions for special forces work. I can see how this makes sense and so maybe a larger batch of 20 or so retained by them for that kind of fast, urban insertion work would be justifiable?

@Jules

The South Koreans have ordered a few Wildcats, and considering the popularity of the original Lynx and enduring need out there for small maritime helicopters I think we can expect a few more takers over the next few years.

Dipping sonar would be nice, as would a lot of things, but it is of course whether the money could ever be found for such a luxury!

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
April 26, 2013 9:29 am

Westland S-70-19 (WS-70):

http://www.flickr.com/photos/26062409@N02/2822604480/in/photostream/

There are a few more photographs on that Flikr stream too.

Regarding Merlin, @x summed it up for me in his comment about the Apache and I feel Merlin is worth defending in the same vein: There are huge advantages supplied by the different operating modes of the three engine layout for it’s at-sea designed purpose. (@NaB – On that topic, agree with your assessment last year on DA approval of the maximum gearbox SHP ratings for in-service).

Challenger
Challenger
April 26, 2013 11:48 am

P.S

How much are new build Merlin’s these days? Significantly cheaper than the initial RN/RAF orders?

As ever with the British Armed Forces they missed a trick in not laying out a clear and succinct development path for the Merlin. The RAF could have incrementally replaced it’s Puma’s with extra airframes instead of stopping at 22 and likewise the RN could/perhaps should of looked at ordering more Merlin’s to replace it’s HC4 and ASaC Sea Kings after the HM1’s had been brought into service.

I guess it comes down to money at the end of the day, but then having said that this was in the late 90s and the first half of the 00s when the ‘order now, work out how to pay later’ culture was very much in fashion.

Jed
Jed
April 26, 2013 12:55 pm

Jules / Challenger

Yep, agreed if we give all the Wildcat to RN, they we dont need 66 SO…… transfer some of the army orders to the AW149 buy – I doubt Augusta Westland could argue with that ?

Jules – definitely no need for a dipping sonar equipped Wildcat, we have never had more than one Dipper even during ASW heavy cold war years. Not money we need to spend right now.

HOWEVER I did miss off a capability which Challenger reminded me of by mentioning the 8 x “Utility” Wildcats on order (and please lets not forget, the Wildcat for the Army was originally a cold war inspired armed recce / scout to pair with the Apache NOT a LBH).

So my:

Navy: All Merlin and Wildcat
Army: 100 x AW149 / 66 Apache
RAF: 60 (ish) Chinook

missed out the Light Battlefield Utility capability currently provided by the Lynx Mk9A, Able to carry a lightly armed / equipped 8 man squad (probably only just in full body armour in hot and high) or more likely a 4 man scout team / sniper team / ATGW team etc but also able to act as the “battlefield” taxi for senior commanders, shuffling them around the battlefield in “VIP” transport mode. Also useful in COIN, and at a pinch even airborne command post roles.

Of course it has peace time roles too.

So, do we keep it until it runs out of air frame hours ? Giving the AAC a 3 a/c mix (in the AW149 fantasy fleet). Then what do we replace it with when its gone ? Does such a small aircraft have a battlefield role at all these days (need to carry aloft an Active DAS / ECM etc plus a little armour protection). Two candidates for me:

1. Super simple – UH72A Lakota
2. Less simple more future looking – Sikorsky S97 Raider (fast and survivable).

What do you think chaps ?

Fatman
Fatman
April 26, 2013 2:51 pm

There are many interesting points and useful suggestions here, but the bottom line is that there is just NO money and without a significant improvement to the state of the UK economy there is unlikely to be any change to current procurement plans for the next few years. Puma will almost certainly leave without a replacement, which is a great pity. As I understand it there is no intention to introduce any new rotorcraft to the inventory with the possible exception of a small Osprey purchase, and even that is very dependent on getting a good deal. in the longer term (2025-40) the UK will probably look to the US JVX programme and the emerging AW and EADS counterparts for new tilt rotor solutions and other novel air vehicles to replace the present generation of rotorcraft.

Mark
Mark
April 26, 2013 3:00 pm

The aw189 is essentially the civil version of the aw149 so from that perspective commonality with the sar fleet has plus points.

Aw149 would offer decent capability in the right size could boost its sale potential. I’d put it in the raf as the AAC is no big enough to support that many a/c, 80 would be my number but and it’s a big but what goes to free up the 2-3b pound investment? Oh and no tinkering other than das/radios to the off the shelf option.

More than a dozen wildcats delivered so far stop the buy at say 36. The aw139/149/189 series have been developed with the offshore oil industry in mind. So how hard would be be to fully marinise aw149 I wonder? Do minimum interim work on green merlin and then convert them to aw149 as well.

Jed
Jed
April 26, 2013 3:53 pm

Mark

We could have paid for AW149 by not doing Puma upgrade, not buy Army Wildcats, and even by not (and I think this is pushing it too far) not upgrading Lynx Mk9 to 9A.

I don’t see what “commonality” of the base airframe with Civvy owned and run SAR fleet brings to the party ?

We also don’t need a Navy AW149 – fine with Merlin and Wildcat, which we already have, so no need to spend money on that.

TD question was what could replace the Puma :-)

Mark
Mark
April 26, 2013 5:08 pm

I don’t like puma so I wouldn’t disagree there. But I also don’t think the navy needs two helicopters now all it’s ships are merlin capable.

The commonality with the civi design means a simulator training facility and logistics setup is already up and running in he uk we could leverage and expand it.

If its only puma replacement were looking at no more than 20 airframes with a deployable capability of prob single digits.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 26, 2013 5:12 pm

A company in a single lift ? “no more than 20 airframes with a deployable capability of prob single digits.”
– if those helos happen to be all in the same place
– add a few of other types for escort/ securing LZ

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 26, 2013 5:28 pm

Counted 5+5 and 2+2 (Little Bird escorts) in this one, so a separate procurement (of admittedly twice as big helos by capacity), why bother, it isn’t really a capability
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30QzJKCUekQ

The SF already have 5-7 of the size, which is not too far off

Unclear to me whether the 8 Light Attack will be for the RM or the SF; nothing to say that they would need to be dedicated to one or the other

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 26, 2013 5:50 pm

Well, my pennyworth.
Leave RAF Merlins with the RAF. Trying to marinise non-folding Merlins is the next MoD procurement disaster waiting to happen. So the RAF has Chinooks & Merlins, so no need to buy a Puma replacement. If we had money, then 7 CV-22s for a special forces sqn would be good, but is probably a distant wish. Along with 10 AW-189 (2 VIP, 8 SAR for overseas/Falklands/Cyprus).
I would raid DfID to pay for new folding transport Merlins for the FAA(with suitable sensors/weapons so they can also do the CSAR role).
Big fear is the drop in AAC numbers. Most logical is more Wildcat, but its small cabin, makes the AW-149 a better bet.
Yes we have no money, but we still give £11 billion in foreign aid, more billions to the EU, & have not sacked any of the 300,000 plus of Gordon Browns diversity/multi-culti/climate-change/target-fiddling non-jobs.

x
x
April 26, 2013 6:20 pm

I thought it took 34 Puma lifts to lift one light role battalion and 18 Chinook lifts to do the same.

alien8ted
alien8ted
April 26, 2013 11:43 pm

Up late chillin’ after a stressful week at work with TD, beer and rock & roll …

@JH Fully agree with replacing RAF Pumas with……. RAF Merlins. Too easy for MOD / Govt. apparently. Buy new Merlin transports for RN/RMs. Buy AW149 (with RTM322 engines) as battlefield taxis for Army, later for SF and as Griffin replacements.

Could have saved on Puma upgrades / Merlin conversions / Army Wildcats, plus commonality with civvi SAR and job security / creation for UK. Better investment than EU blackhole or useless windfarms or legal aid for terrorists.

Opinion3
Opinion3
April 27, 2013 7:36 am

The Puma upgrade plan was a surprise. The Apaches, new Chinooks, upgraded Merlins, Chinooks and Lynxs and finally the introduction of the Wildcat illustrates the substantial investment that has finally been made in the helicopter fleet.

I don’t understand the rational for the Army Wildcat though, whilst apparently they are wired for Naval use and built to Naval standards (which is a good thing) I would have gone with more Navals and done away with these and instead spent the money on.

1. Upgrading the Pumas (done with the intention that it’s replacement replaced both the Lynx and Puma) mid-sized like the NH90/AW149. (Change £none)

2. The BLH Wildcat just seems too small for the likely role of moving troops and their kit. Therefore the order would be for the Naval variant only. (Change £ reduction)

3. Upgrade all of the Merlins (including the 8 in storage). Navalise as required (folding tails etc) (Change £ increase) Implement a plan to redesign and replace the troublesome gearboxes.

4. Order the ten(?) Chinooks that were originally ordered by the Brown government and ensure that the new build Chinooks are fitted with powered folding blades (Change £ increase)

There needs to be enough money around when the time comes to upgrade and keep in service all the Apaches. There is also a strong case for further Navalisation. I like the Merlins and would also consider picking up more of these airframes (Indian VVIP fleet?)

AAC: Apache Puma
FAA: Merlin Wildcat
RAF: Chinook

In future

AAC: SeaApache AW149
FAA: Merlin Wildcat MV-22
RAF: Chinook
SF: either whatever they want (surely a US fit comes in more handy than a UK fit) or AW149, MV-22 and Chinooks are all available suitably equipment for SFoperations. This would be a medium term project. RUN BY PROFESSIONALS :-)

Fatman
Fatman
April 27, 2013 8:13 am

Oh dear, the last few comments just confirm my belief that too many TD readers just do not understand the really desperate state of the UK defence budget. CVF, TCW, F-35, the SV vehicle, the Apache replacement and SSBN successor are going to swallow the bulk of resources over the next 15-20 years. There is simply no more money unless a future government really slashes spending on health, social services, welfare, education, pensions, etc. That just will not happen unless a serious near-term threat appears. Readers need to start thinking realistically, not in these fantasy terms about acquiring AW149, NH-90, etc. The fact that RR has recently disposed of its RTM322 share to Turbomeca shows what they think of the future prospects for helicopter engine sales.

The UK is not going to be in a position to deploy more than one brigade plus a battalion battlegroup in future – we just will not have the forces, the cash or the political will to fight any more major conflicts. Future wars will be more Mali-style interventions than Iraq, simply because that is all we can realistically undertake. Consequently the existing Chinook-Merlin-Wildcat plan should be more than adequate to support any future military operations. It is possible that a handful of extra Merlins or Chinooks might be ordered, but I would not go beyond that (except for some SF-acquisitions). So let’s get real – Britain is now dropping out of the group of major military powers and its future potential for serious operations necessitating lots of transport helicopters will be extremely limited.

Mickp
Mickp
April 27, 2013 9:06 am

@fatman I broadly agree. We could still contribute significantly to a larger coalition operation but I agree that, rightly, the political will won’t be there. A much greater focus on direct defence of uk interests rather than wider strategic amibition should really be the focus of SDR 2015. It seems to me the helicopter fleet is probably about right for that. A refurbished puma will do the job as a largely uk based utility transport helicopter

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 27, 2013 9:10 am

Pretty much agree with Fatman. What is TCW, btw?

I would say it is a bit better than indicated, due to the recent regrouping:
– a light intervention brigade (RM+AAB combo, which in theory make two bdes)
– to be followed pronto (30 days?) by one of the three heavy bdes
+ a battle group in some other location, either to stop the rot or cover an evacuation

RE the last point, if you look at what France had to send to Mali, to be effective, it was well in excess of a BG

Hence, I can see only two real gaps on the helo front:
1. Vertical insertation part of amph. ops. Fingers crossed that the marinisation will not turn out to be a botch
2. Crowsnest. I am fully with the idea of the roll-on/ roll-off kit for Merlins, as that way the capability can be deployed where needed (rather than only where [the] carrier has sailed with the few precious dedicated airframes)

Yes, army and the RAF may be shrinking and be under the cut-off for major powers, but the maritime & littoral part of the forces (CASD is also in there) still counts in any peer comparison

Opinion3
Opinion3
April 27, 2013 9:58 am

@Fatman

Not going ahead with the Wildcats for the army would save a fair few million. That money is spent instead on the merlins and a few more chinooks. -30 odd wildcat +8 merlins and maybe +10 chinooks. Do the sums not add up then?

Certainly it was not my intention to venture into fantasy land. The bit I am putting in extra (and represents some risk) is the marinisation. But rebuilds are the time to do it.

ALL Politicians are the Same
ALL Politicians are the Same
April 27, 2013 10:20 am

@Fatman
So let’s get real – Britain is now dropping out of the group of major military powers and its future potential for serious operations necessitating lots of transport helicopters will be extremely limited”

Whilst I agree with the premise of the rest of your post I would argue that the UK is actually cutting our cloth according to threat and circumstance as are most other Nations. There are only 2 major military powers, the US and a growing China. there are several countries with large armies but they would struggle to project or support them beyond their own borders.

Challenger
Challenger
April 27, 2013 12:28 pm

Hartley

‘Trying to marinise non-folding Merlins is the next MoD procurement disaster waiting to happen’

I sadly agree, why on earth weren’t additional Merlin’s ordered 5 or so years ago to replace the Sea King Commando’s! Everyone knew they were ageing and would soon need a replacement, and then we could have left the RAF Merlin’s WITH THE RAF, ditched the Puma’s and their upgrade and still remain in a comfortable position. Guess as ever that makes too much sense for MOD to contemplate!

@ Opinion3

‘Not going ahead with the Wildcats for the army would save a fair few million. That money is spent instead on the merlins and a few more chinooks. -30 odd wildcat +8 merlins and maybe +10 chinooks’

Although I totally agree that the AAC Wildcat’s lack a defined role/requirement aren’t they already paid for? Maybe we could shuffle a few more into the FAA, or retain a clutch for SF work and try to flog the rest second hand (in mint ‘never used’ condition) but id be very dubious on exactly how much money we would get back at the end of the day.

With a shrinking Army and Herrick coming to a close I actually think 60 upgraded Chinook’s is a suitable number, any-more feels like a luxury, plus the idea of folding blades and other nautical bits that some people tout seems a bit pointless when one looks at how gigantic the flight-deck/lifts/hangar on CVF is.

I think if the money were available (and it’s a big if) then some additional Merlin’s, either to go to the FAA as HC4’s with the navalisation of the RAF ones being cancelled, or the other way round (as in the current ones are transferred over and the RAF is topped up with some in time to replace Puma in 2025) wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Sadly I think the best we can hope for is a retention of the current fleet and planned procurements with a very vague hope for a small buy of something like AW149 in the distant future IF the RAF/MOD feel the need for a Puma replacement and IF the money is around.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 27, 2013 3:20 pm

RE: “Not going ahead with the Wildcats for the army would save a fair few million. That money is spent instead on the merlins and a few more chinooks. -30 odd wildcat +8 merlins and maybe +10 chinooks”

Half of the cost of each Wildcat is programme cost: take away 30 from 66, and you almost double the unit price (do the “Typhoon” and export sell from the committed allocation, to mitigate the unit cost? Or push out the take up of your own units, and hence the time of parting with money?)

Opinion3
Opinion3
April 27, 2013 11:17 pm

@Chally

Yep point made about poor timing for my suggestion! Its pants isn’t it.

The marinisation of Merlins and the need for an eventual/immediate replacement or retirement of the Pumas could have been fullfilled by more Merlins of new build, to spec. Then there would be some work for Westland, a replacement for the Pumas and the removal of a type.

Personally whilst I think the naval wildcat might get oversea sales I am not convinced the ‘utility’ version ever will. Which leads me to developing a powered blade folder (already designed) for chinooks. This might actually have a big market, and generate a profit…… imagine that eh :-) As for our need, didn’t we suffer once because we put all our eggs in one Conveyor? folding blades of course can be done manually but flexibility = good

The SDSR10 had cuts that had knock on effects for project costs, and the writing off of huge sunk costs for minimal marginal savings.

jed
jed
April 28, 2013 1:33 am

Fatman – yes we are skint, we know, but the title of the post is “what comes after the RAF Puma”- hence the fantasy fleets discussion, now cut along and stop being a boring grown up :-)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 28, 2013 6:41 am

Opinion3, yes, as you say “developing a powered blade folder (already designed) for chinooks”
– it is a California company
– I have been baffled for a long time who for (or did they self-fund it)?

Even if the lifts on QEs would allow movement unfolded, surely in the hangar it would turn into a nightmare

John Hartley
John Hartley
April 28, 2013 9:15 am

Whenever the political elite do not want to fund something, they say we are broke, yet they always have money for their pet projects. Fat subsidies for wind farms, £5000 an hour consultancies paid by DfID to the pols mates, 300,000+ non-jobs, £11 billion foreign aid, EU/IMF funding, it goes on & on. If we are broke, why not declare an emergency & put back Romanians & Bulgarians from coming to Britain for 3 years?

Fatman
Fatman
April 28, 2013 9:44 am


On that basis the answer is simple – nothing at all comes after the Puma. Which makes for a short thread.


TCW = Team Complex Weapons – the new family of missiles that MBDA and TADL are supposed to be providing such as CAMM and LMM.

@ All politicians
I think you are confusing the UK’s ability to mount a minor intervention operation with the status of being a serious military power. Serious powers include not only the USA and China, but increasingly countries like India, South Korea, Japan and Turkey (and perhaps Brazil in coming decades). They may not (yet) have the ability to intervene in the way the UK does, but they increasingly have the ability to sustain a major operation against a serious opponent. The UK is taking a risk by maintaining the ability to get involved somewhere (like Syra) without the military wherewithal to sustain it or achieve military success. I am not saying the UK is incapable of achieveing success given the right resources (though our military perfomance in Iraq remains a subject of discussion), but that there is a dangerous tendency to confuse policy objectives with the actual physical ability to achieve it. The failure to replace Puma indicates that we are not really serious about providing the means. Britain’s remaining claims to major power status rest upon the CVF and SSBN successor, both of which are vulnerable to disposal or cancellation, especially given a government that does not seem to have any strategic vision.

Mick
Mick
August 29, 2013 9:07 pm

Why not save life cycle and development costs and buy more Merlins?