Apache AH1, worth it or not?

449

We were having an interesting chat about the acquisition on another post recently and we veered onto the subject of the Westland Apache AH1, problems with its introduction and potential for the forthcoming upgrade programme, probably a UK specific version of the US Block III programme.

I do wonder if as a concept, the attack helicopter is all it is cracked up to be, a throwback to another era and for a given and finite future budget, whether we could get more for less elsewhere?

Elsewhere does not necessarily mean another attack helicopter or even helicopter at all by the way, focus on capabilities, guns, rockets, missiles and eyes on.

There is no doubt it is expensive, there is even less doubt the sustainment and upgrade programme will be budget constrained and will take an increasing percentage of the armed forces wide rotary aviation budget as Gazelle and Lynx gradually disappear and Wildcat comes into service.

A handful of relevant parliamentary questions;

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the performance of Apache during Operation Ellamy.

Answer

Gerald Howarth (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (International Security Strategy), Defence; Aldershot, Conservative)

Apache helicopters performed well on Operation Ellamy, deploying from HMS Ocean for the first time, and made a substantial contribution to the NATO mission to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and protect the civilian population of Libya.

 

Question

Richard Drax (South Dorset, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent discussion he has had with representatives of Augusta-Westland on the contract to build Apache helicopters.

Answer
Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

No requirement currently exists to add to the Army Air Corp’s fleet of Apache attack helicopters. The Ministry of Defence is engaged in the concept phase of a Capability Sustainment Programme to address our future attack helicopter capability requirement and how it will be sustained to 2040.

As part of the Concept Phase, informal discussions are taking place with potential contractors to inform the range of options which will be taken forward into the Assessment Phase. The Project Team have had initial meetings with representatives of AgustaWestland, who have been encouraged to continue to work with the MOD to help develop our analysis.

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the wet assembly for the Apache helicopter; what estimate he has made of the associated costs; and if he will make a statement.

Answer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)

The current Apache AH Mk1 aircraft are based on the US Army Apache AH64D. In common with those aircraft, the Apache AH MK1 airframes were dry-built. There is currently no engineering solution available, and therefore no cost information, for undertaking a retro-wet assembly of the in-service aircraft airframes. They have, however, been treated with a two stage protection process to reduce the effects of corrosion and maintain the airworthiness of the aircraft in the maritime operating environment.

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the number of operational Apache helicopters; and if he will make a statement.

Answer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)

The Army Air Corps operates a fleet of 66 Apache helicopters, which meets the current operational requirement for Attack Helicopters.

Apache, which is currently supporting operations in Afghanistan, has been in service with the Army since 2001 and is due to undergo a capability sustainment programme in the near future. This upgrade will ensure the capability remains in service out to 2040. The number of aircraft to be upgraded as part of this programme will be based on an assessment of the future operational requirement and will be decided at the main investment decision point, which is currently planned for 2014.

One aircraft was recently removed from the fleet having been assessed as beyond repair as a result of damage sustained following a heavy landing on operations in 2008. The damage was not caused as a result of enemy action and neither pilot was injured in the incident.

 

Question

Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the Statement of 14 May 2012, Official Report, columns 261-4, on defence budget and transformation, what helicopter capabilities are part of the Core Equipment Programme.

Answer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)
The helicopter capabilities in the Core Equipment Programme consist of current in-service capabilities plus the following equipment programmes and their support and training costs:

  • Chinook Mk6 New Buy
  • Apache Capability Sustainment Programme
  • Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme
  • Puma Life Extension Programme
  • Falkland Island Search and Rescue and Support Helicopter
  • Wildcat—Army and Navy variants

 

Question

Lee Scott (Ilford North, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he is giving to the procurement of an alternative model of attack helicopter if the Apache AH-64D cannot be upgraded at an acceptable price.

Abswer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)
The Attack Helicopter Capability Sustainment Programme is currently in its concept phase. All viable options are being investigated to maintain operational attack helicopter capability and no decisions have been made.

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effects on air worthiness of the Apache helicopters flown from HMS Ocean during Operation Ellamy.
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 23 October 2012, c809W)

Answer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)

The Apache helicopters used on Operational Ellamy were modified and cleared to support maritime operations prior to their deployment on HMS Ocean. The modifications made were to improve their resistance to corrosion and to include a solution to disperse sea spray in the windscreen wiper system. They underwent pre-deployment maintenance and inspections and, on return to the UK, usual post embarkation maintenance was conducted as well as an additional aircraft condition survey. Any corrosion experienced was within normal tolerance levels and the aircraft remained fully airworthy; this corrosion has now been treated. Deployed aircraft will continue to be monitored during routine maintenance activities.

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence

(1) when he plans that the Apache helicopter will be upgraded to utilise the Brimstone missile system;

(2) what plans he has to marinise the Apache helicopter;

(3) what the total number of Apaches in use is; and how many are earmarked for upgrade.

Answer
Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

The Army Air Corps currently operates a fleet of 67 Apache helicopters. The number of aircraft to be upgraded through the Capability Sustainment Programme will be decided at the main investment decision, which is currently planned for 2014.

While not originally designed as a maritime helicopter, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has modified and cleared the Apache to support operations from the maritime environment as demonstrated from HMS Ocean on Operation Ellamy. The modifications included wet-sealing the aircraft to resist corrosion and modifying the windscreen wipers to include a solution to disperse sea spray. We are also currently in an assessment phase to fit flotation equipment to increase safety when operating over water.

The Apache is currently armed with variants of the Hellfire missile which are due to go out of service in 2021-22. The MOD will look at various options as a replacement to this capability. The successor to Brimstone, the 50kg class Spear Capability 2 Block 3 missile, will be one of the options considered as a replacement.

 

Question

Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Apache helicopter will be able to be moved by lift below deck on the Queen Elizabeth class carrier without the need to manually fold its rotor blades.

Answer

Philip Dunne (Ludlow, Conservative)
The Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers will be able to transport an Apache helicopter with its rotors fully spread from the flight deck to the hangar and vice-versa using the aircraft lifts. Depending on the number of aircraft embarked, the rotor blades of Apache helicopters may be manually folded prior to entering the hangar to maximise storage space.

 

 

This post isn’t to replay the decision taken many years but to consider these issues

  1. Apache costs a great deal to run, the quoted flying cost of £46k per hour as we know, includes all sorts of costs but in comparison with other types of fixed and rotary aircraft, it is still near the top. Gazelle is £2k and Tornado £25k using the same quoted tables.
  2. Anecdotaly, it is maintenance heavy
  3. It has been battered from many years of continuous use
  4. It’s avionics are not to the latest standards and will need an expensive upgrade
  5. Maintenance costs of the upgraded version are not clear because it will be a UK specific upgrade
  6. It will need additional and costly modifications to improve utility at sea

It doesn’t matter how much it cost, it doesn’t matter whether it was the correct decision or not and it doesn’t matter how undoubtedly awesome it is or what the Taleban call it.

We need to think about the future, an expensive one if we go down the upgrade and sustain route.

It might be heresy to question the value for money of the Apache upgrade but am going to ask it anyway.

Playing devils advocate for a moment, and don’t take this as a proposal as such, what would we lose, what disadvantages would we suffer, if we;

  • Withdrew all Apache
  • Increased the purchase number of Wildcat
  • On the Army version, where the Navy versions radar is, inserted the Nexter THL-20mm cannon
  • Integrated Brimstone, CRV-7 and LMM

As a starter for ten, the situational awareness of the tandem seating position, Longbow and armour but think of the cost savings of withdrawing completely an aircraft type (think back to Harrier v Tornado, you only save big time by withdrawing a fleet) and what that would get you in terms of airframe numbers and weapons integration.

It should be obvious that like for like, it would be a big step down but given the kinds of operations most likely and the big impacts on the budget of upgrading and sustaining the current fleet of Apache AH1, surely it is worth asking that heretical question.

We might even ask if it needs to be rotary at all, combinations of unmanned systems, precision ground launched weapons and even fixed wing might offer a better and/or cheaper alternative.

It is a question we need to ask, even if the answer is Apache

Thoughts?

 

 

 

[Google the Romanian IAR 330 SOCAT]

 

 

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Chris
Chris

I seem to recall many years ago the competition for UK Attack Helo was between Hughes Apache, Bell Cobra, Eurocopter Tiger and Denel Rooivalk. I am pretty sure MOD selected the most expensive option (although Tiger was probably quite expensive too). If that was the case, and MOD-PE then put in the usual tranche of UK specific requirements for comms, engines, weapon systems and and and, then the most expensive option would have become *really* expensive. You have to wonder why there is any surprise that upgrading a really expensive aircraft with really expensive UK-only mods turns out to be really expensive?

Opinion3
Opinion3

The Viper might be the better choice if one was choosing again. A marinised ‘copter should be a key requirement but we have a start point and that is the Apache and changing this is just so unrealistic I shouldn’t even be mentioning it.

Do we need attack helicopters?

Absolutely needed for land and amph ops, not sure the money should have been spent on the wildcat and puma the apache is as core as a chinook and merlin in my book. Are we getting too excited about UAVs – they are currently a very useful tool for some very specific environments, the apache has operational abilities in many more circumstances, and is a complimentary weapon at that.

Alex
Alex

Do we get all the stuff we cut because aviation would do it back? No? Just a fart, then.

Opinion3
Opinion3

@Chris

some of the mods like folding blades, more powerful engines, longbow radar have clearly stood the test of time and proven to be absolutely the right decision at the right time.

common engines with the Merlins must have saved money too.

Your point of course is still spot on and no doubt the ‘surprises’ will surprise us all

Rocket Banana

I’m not so sure the Apache was ever the right thing for us, although I love them to bits.

I know it may seem a little bit of schoolboy question but how many Hellfire and FF rockets have we actually fired from Apache? I’d guess not many. That tends to suggest it is a little overkill for our requirements.

I still believe that AH Lynx is all we really need on the battlefield. It has the utility of CASEVAC as an added bonus – even if you have to climb over people to move around. Perhaps Wildcat with LMM will be the preferred option in the future? Perhaps Apache does not need an upgrade?

That first video is embarrasing. Surely the target should have been painted by the guys on the ground. Surely then any nearby aircraft (or ship, or vehicle) could launch a laser homing missile or round?

Tom

In many ways Apache is like Challenger and Warrior – a cold war warrior in a expeditionary age. Expensive and designed to do one or two things very well. They’ve perfomred admirably in recent operations but they wouldn’t of been designed/purchased today.

That being said, of the 4 choices from the UK attack helo, we probably picked the right one expect for one (significant) issue.

The Tiger is a European project that we probably would only just of gotten into service. Rooivalk just has too small a user base to generate a long term sustainable product.

Viper is a old base design which well reach the end of its useful design life before the Apache would of done, especially as the US Army has hundreds of them and well continue to upgrade them till the middle of the century at least. BUT the Viper is designed for shipboard operations, which given the importance of the Carriers to the future of the military (all three services) measn it might of been a better choice.
Hughes Apache, Bell Cobra, Eurocopter Tiger and Denel Rooivalk

wf
wf

@TD: I’d worry about Tiger, given that it’s record for even entering service has been dire. The figure for Apache is extraordinarily high, given the USAF is on record for HH60 costs of around 25K USD (an aircraft with FLIR and navigation radar though no weapons). I suspect the MOD figure includes depreciation at the insane prices we bought them for, rather than the more normal figures other international customers paid.

a
a

I do wonder if as a concept, the attack helicopter is all it is cracked up to be, a throwback to another era and for a given and finite future budget, whether we could get more for less elsewhere?
Elsewhere does not necessarily mean another attack helicopter or even helicopter at all by the way, focus on capabilities, guns, rockets, missiles and eyes on.

As I’ve mentioned before, a couple of things that need remembering about AH:

1. The US Army loves AH, and is willing to pay through the nose for great AH. But the US Army, we should always remember, is _legally prohibited_ from operating fixed-wing ground attack, and has been since the 1950s. Much of the state of the art in AH is due to this fact.

2. Helicopters are maintenance queens. You quote £46,000 per flying hour; that’s more than twice the cost per flying hour of, say, an F-16. Fixed wing aircraft can go further, faster, carrying more payload, have better availability, are better able to withstand AAA, and have lower maintenance costs than helicopters.

Which means that, when you’re talking about an effect, the first question should be: does this absolutely, definitely have to be delivered by something that can hover and land vertically?
Sometimes it does, no question. Medevac. Troop transport. Shipboard ASW. CSAR. That sort of thing.

But other times maybe it doesn’t; and we might want to think about whether a fixed-wing CTOL or STOL solution would be possible, because it would certainly be cheaper and more available. If you took the weapons and sensor fit from an Apache, along with a bit of cockpit and engine armour, and put it on a twin-turbo STOL airframe, you’d have something rather interesting – a kind of modern Beaufighter, which could lift off from any three-hundred-yard stretch of straight road or beach, stay in the air for hours, and deliver a far wider variety of weapons than Apache, over a far greater radius, with a much quicker reaction time.

Rocket Banana

Having given this a little more thought. I don’t think we bought Apache, what we really bought was Hellfire.

That’s the thing we needed. I know Hellfire is now integrated into many platforms now but what about in 1995?

Nowadays we’d probably look at Predator or Reaper as the predominantly anti-armour system with a spattering of Viper or Wildcat for expeditionary use from Naval assets.

Perhaps the UK should be designing a rotary UAV that can carry a couple of Brimstone and can sit inside the rear of a truck along with the command/control module. This would provide “over the hill” visibility, precision anti-armour and anti-personnel capabilities?

wf
wf

I reckon the best use of Apache is probably close air support. Compared to a fighter aircraft, it will have a shorter transit time and more time on station, as well as the ability to stop and watch at low level in high threat environments, although I’m sure it’s maintenance costs will be higher. Deep strike is not it’s forte, but that’s just fine, it’s CAS where it’s very valuable

Rocket Banana

Of course, there’s the Super Tucano too ;-)

ajay
ajay

I reckon the best use of Apache is probably close air support. Compared to a fighter aircraft, it will have a shorter transit time and more time on station

Eh? Transit time: Apache does 160 knots. A fighter does four times that.
Time on station: Apache has flight endurance of three hours. Fighters can easily beat that – and if you have a tanker on station, or another aircraft with a buddy kit, they can stay up until the pilot gets hungry.

It’s maybe also worth thinking about this from an effects point of view. If the desired effect is “see that building/compound/tank? Big lump of explosive on that now, plsthx”, then maybe that can be achieved more cheaply and reliably than with a great big airframe. Maybe a UAV plus a truck with a few pallets of NetFires might be a rather better solution…

Brian Black
Brian Black

The Russian thingamabob was also an early contender for the UK’s attack helicopter, though that would have required the MoD to cross quite a substantial mental barrier at the time.
Viper came to late for us, but I suspect that could have pipped Apache by being cheaper while still giving the Army a notable capability improvement. The Marine Corps future of Cobra at the time was uncertain, and I reckon the risk ruled out that option as a realistic contender.

I think we do need a light attack aircraft, and a helicopter gives us options that a fixed-wing aircraft wouldn’t. Though a substantial chunk of that £46,000 p/h could probably be lopped off by using a fixed-wing aircraft mounting much the same sensors and weapons. However, with just 66 aircraft, I’m not sure a two-type fleet would be any cheaper.

Would adopting a cheaper fixed-wing light attack aircraft to replace Apache, and relying on Wildcat for the ship-borne role, be something we could live with?

The 66 aircraft figure has to survive the capability sustainment programme investment decision, the 2015 defence review, and possibly a change of government. If you don’t want to swap expensive Apache for another aircraft type at the moment, how great a reduction in numbers would you be prepared to see before changing your mind?

topman
topman

@wf not always, apache is several hundred knots slower, it cant aar refuel. it can stay longer on a fuel load but only by a small amount. thats not to say its poor at what it does its not. but its not without its weaknesses.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

Simon – a bit of gary googling brings up an FoI request for weapons usage on Herrick alone.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/149764/response/370712/attach/3/20130318%20FOI%20Mills%20111233%20001%20FINAL%20U.pdf

which indicates that the half-dozen Apaches in theatre have shot off 700 or so Hellfire since 2008. There are no figures for CRV7 for the WAH, but given that our cabs have often run with a mixed load of Hellfire + CRV7 it would seem likely that they’ve probably expended several times that number (the Harrier force seem to have used about 6000 in four years). I’m not sure I’d describe that as “not many”!!

The marinisation elements are a combination of minimum cost change and operational procedure to mitigate the effects of salt water. The best you’re going to get for a land-based design.

I’d look carefully at the support construct for that £46k pfh. The way these things tend to be calculated is to add up the total manpower and materials bill and divide by the number of flying hours. It’s often instructive to look at what is in those bills and determine whether it’s actually required to support the cab or the unit or whether it’s an overhead that goes with the method of support. In which case you can have the deabte as to whether you can do without it.

As for alternatives, UAS have yet to be proven in any sort of threat (and importantly, all weather) environment (which is after all why we bought Apache), f/w and other (non-AH) rotary types are almost certainly more vulnerable to AAA/Manpads.

I suspect this is another case of something being used in an environment below what it was designed for and hence appearing to be overkill (see T45 and pirates for lurid detail). That doesn’t mean that the requirement to operate in the designed environment has gone away.

Challenger
Challenger

I think Apache was the right choice out of the possible contenders at the time, although setting up a separate production line for a UK variant at Westland was a ridiculous decision that massively inflated the costs (same old procurement mess really) so I definitely would have just bought them off the shelf and made do with the American systems instead of trying to take of foreign product and tailor it to specific British requirements.

I think the idea of it being a ‘Cold War warrior’ has some merit. I love the things, and they have more than proven themselves in Afghanistan and Libya. But maybe TD is onto something when he brings up how expensive it is to keep such a niche and high-end platform running. Plus they have been seriously pushed to the limit with constant activity over the last few years and are in need of an undoubtedly pricey overhaul.

I’m not sure…. the idea of more Wildcat with bits of Apache capability bolted on sounds OK to me, I mean it wouldn’t be the same level of capability, but it may well be enough and has the obvious benefit that TD mentioned of removing a fleet from service and making a substantial saving.

I think id need to be persuaded that more/modified Wildcats would be a cost effective and capable (or capable enough) solution before id seriously consider getting rid of Apache.

Rocket Banana

NaB,

Thanks for your googling services. 700 is enough for me to admit I’m wrong. I did however change tack on a subsequent post realising that it was probably Hellfire that we actually needed not necessarily Apache.

Excellent FOI response!

Interesting how the Reaper figures crept up even with just 10 of them.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“Fixed wing aircraft can go further, faster, carrying more payload, have better availability, are better able to withstand AAA, and have lower maintenance costs than helicopters”

Most of that is true, but I’d have a serious think as to whether f/w withstand AAA better than a dedicated AH. IIRC Apache was designed to survive at least 14.5 DShK rounds. In general, you can usually station your AH closer to the battle area than f/w which will make up some of the speed/endurance differential.

“Eh? Transit time: Apache does 160 knots. A fighter does four times that.” Not if he wants a decent fuel margin at the other end he doesn’t! The speed differential is still mainly on the f/w side though.

One other thing that is worth considering. With the RoE in force, there are some seriously restrictive targetting procedures in place. In some cases, the cabs are allegedly having to target individuals, which tends to mean using 30mm. I doubt that you could do that with f/w in any sort of populated environment. You certainly couldn’t use UAS for that, unless you had a very controllable trainable gun system.

The thing about Apache is that it will do pretty much anything across the whole spectrum from all-out all-weather anti-armour, to highly restrictive scenarios with the ability to apply weapons in a very selective fashion. That equals flexibility, which you won’t easily get from any other system (or combination thereof).

Tubby
Tubby

I am wondering if the Army needs all of it Wildcats – could we not agree that the upgrade the Apache’s to the same standard as the US version, without any attempt to make them fit to operate at sea, and divert a squadron’s worth of Wildcats to the Navy, and fit pretty much as TD says (though I think I would go with GAMA turret)? That should be fairly cost neutral and if we can squeeze in cockpit armour and fuel passivation system, along with the weapon pylons and a 20mm turret of choice, then the Wildcat AH option looks fairly reasonable, doesn’t it?

a
a

I’d have a serious think as to whether f/w withstand AAA better than a dedicated AH. IIRC Apache was designed to survive at least 14.5 DShK rounds.

And the A-10 Warthog was designed to survive anything up to direct hits from 23mm. The cockpit armour is supposed to keep you alive against anything up to a 57mm. I know which one I’d rather be sitting in… not to mention that greater speed gives you another advantage in survival, because you’ll spend less time within range.

Targetting individuals from the air with fixed-wing cannon would be difficult, I grant you. I’d say that’s where UAVs with small precision munitions come in. (And if we’re in a high-threat environment, we’re warfighting, so we probably won’t be targetting individuals anyway…)

wf
wf

@ajay, @Topman: AH’s can be based a lot closer to the FLOT than can most fighters, with far less infrastructure required, like those 1500m runways with those hairy takeoffs under hot and high weather. Can we add the cost of AAR into the Tornado flight hours figures then?

I suspect Netfires + UAV’s and the like will indeed replace much of the artillery and AH role. The same would go for fighters of course. But they are not there yet, although the potential to replace fighters with Tomahawk is there already. I believe the INF treaty forbade the Yanks from even conventional cruise, but knocking out our own ground launched missile might well be worth it. After all, BAE has been selling Terprom for fighters for two decades…

By 2020 I suspect we’ll be thinking about a small UAV for the intimate brigade/battalion CAS role, something that can carry a good sensor array and maybe 4 Brimstone/SPEAR for time critical targets, with everything else coming out of tubes held on the ground.

Chris
Chris

Sorry this relates to an early post but I’ve been doing other stuff…

@Opinion3 – “common engines with the Merlins must have saved money too” – well. I haven’t been in the loop for a few years now, but I worked on Merlin HM1 at the time the Apache was in build. Yes they both have RTM322 engines, but the unofficial techno-gossip was that the mounting arrangements were so different they were essentially two types of engines with common bits inside them. At some level that might save some costs, but it meant there were two types of engines to be kept in MOD stores, not one.

But then again Merlin HM1 is RN, Merlin HC3 is RAF and Apache is AAC so they’ll probably run very separate stores anyway.

Martin
Martin

Interesting question TD. Suppose the devil is in the detail of how much they will actually cost to upgrade. Howerver I recon the Lynx Wildcat armed with Brimstone could give us most of what we need. if scrapping apache is a significant fiancial gain then we should do it for SDSR 2015. There are probably more important capabilities which require investment and one has to wonder how much of keeping apache is trouser length comparison with the US Army.

aging Viper would also be good but likley too expensive to operate in the small numbers required.

steve taylor
steve taylor

What am I missing about that Romanian Puma?

If it is a game of buy the foreign cheap helicopter I see your Puma and raise you a PZL W-3 Sokół.

If it is a game of buy the foreign cheap helicopter it is the wrong game. The game we should be playing is Apache as broad spectrum (COIN to high end warfare) asset verses Tornado (its performance in the Sandbox whether it should be replaced and the cost of that programme and how it interfaces into CVF) verses PGM artillery (whether from a tube or UAV.)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“I’d say that’s where UAVs with small precision munitions come in. (And if we’re in a high-threat environment, we’re warfighting, so we probably won’t be targetting individuals anyway…)”

High-threat to a non-AH is an RPK / GMPG equivalent. Plenty of that around where you’d still be after individuals.

Fair point on the Hog, although everyone aprt from the US & SK would be using unarmoured f/w.

“At some level that might save some costs, but it meant there were two types of engines to be kept in MOD stores, not one. But then again Merlin HM1 is RN, Merlin HC3 is RAF and Apache is AAC so they’ll probably run very separate stores anyway.”

But it does mean one overarching support contract between MoD and RR, as opposed to one with Rollys and one with someone else. I’m pretty sure HM1/2 and HC3/3a are both depth-supported out of Culdrose using a single facility, so probably less “separate” stores than you’d think. Interesting point re the mounting (possibly related to armour?) on WAH though.

topman
topman

@ wf on paper yes, but im not aware of them being used so. id bet them needing more support than first thought. in the case of afghan retasking is often required during a sortie to another part of the country, so its basing location isnt as important as at first look. its slow speed and lack of range is an issue.

topman
topman

re rtm322 support, yes theres one engine bay joint manned at culdrose that supports both types of merlin.

Rocket Banana

Apache alone is all that is needed (other than utility/lift) in an environment that does not have any direct air threat. However, it’s not the greatest surveillance asset. So the SAM and Apache combo certainly delivers a major capability to the battlefield if partnered with other ISTAR assets.

Questions:

Is a F35 and Wildcat combo better and/or cheaper?

What is the most efficient way we can make use of Reaper? It is a good surveillance and anti-armour asset, but the problem I see with Reaper is the same problem I see with all fixed-wing CAS – not accurate enough for small targets (humans). This means either land forces or a gunship. I appreciate that a rotary wing UAV/UAS would be a sitting duck, but so are most copters. Their best asset is stealth. So, I still believe that something like the MQ-8C Fire-X is required… preferably smaller. Oddly when you start looking at the Bell 407 on which the MQ-8C is based, you quickly move through the Augusta 109 to the Bell 222 and onto Airwolf.

Observer
Observer

Regarding AHs and Fixed Wing CAS, the way they approach their attack is also different. A fixed wing does a firing run with cannons, rockets and bombs through the enemy position, an AH hides behind a hill, pops up for a shot, then ducks behind the hill again or hovers out of small arms range and hammers the target with hydras and the chin gun.

This means that both the f/w and AHs have different advantages and flaws, neither of them is the “perfect” CAS system. For f/w, they are faster, covers more area, and are incredible morale breakers, but they pay for it in fuel consumption and the fact that they have to tear THROUGH the target area.

Something people don’t usually know is that after a bombing run, planes tend to afterburn away from the target to get more favourable flying conditions fast. In aircraft, you have to think in terms of “energy state”, the total sum of your usable “energy”. A plane flying high and fast has a very good energy state, Planes flying high and slow have the option of converting potential energy to speed by diving. On the other hand, planes travelling low but fast have the option of climbing to trade their kinetic energy for potential energy.

After a bombing run however, planes are in their worst possible energy state, slow (to increase aiming/firing time) and low, so they tend to hit the gas to climb out. AHs don’t have that kind of problem, their performance profile is much more stable as their tactics are slow stalking using terrain to conceal themselves or to park at standoff distances and pound, not tear through in a hurry.

CUAVs… uh. The jury is still out on that one. Most ops UAVs have been on are ones with overwhelming firepower and presence on their side. On a peer to peer slug out, I’m not really sure they can survive that well, being fairly similar in strategic utility to a prop-driven plane. Easy meat for any helo, f/w or any stabilised medium gun. Using a 120mm on a UAV might be overkill. :)

steve taylor
steve taylor

Has anybody suggested yet pouring Wildcat into a slim body a la Cobra?

Also are we really saying that given the costs of a Brit Ah-64 verses a Boeing one that engine commonality is really that big of saving? Really? The Army’s Apache fleet is bigger than some countries’ air arms.

And off on a tangent, but the Puma rebuild LEP, how long is supposed to keep them in service for?

Observer
Observer

“What is the most efficient way we can make use of Reaper? It is a good surveillance and anti-armour asset,”

I disagree on this, the original UAV concept was cheap, disposable eyes, all the rockets and bombs are an example of capability creep, to the point where it is no longer cheap or disposable, a case where people got too greedy. Most times, MQs travel light, their job is usually surveillance, and all those fireworks off the wings eats into the fuel, and 2 Hellfires are hardly enough to consider it a dedicated anti-armour vehicle. If it were to go all out, yes it can act as short range tank killers, but most of the time, they are just eyes in the sky.

topman
topman

@ simon fixed wing can hit people without any great accuracy worries. ive seen a moving person be strafed successfully strafed with 27 mm rounds. and thats the least accurate weapon.

Observer
Observer

top, think he was worried what else might be in the target area other than the primary target. You know, the things media call civilians and the military call collateral damage?. :P

Just teasing about the collateral damage BTW, before some regular military takes offence.

Militaries are much better at reducing collateral damage in MOUT/FISH nowadays. My day, tactics for FIBUA started with a frag grenade through a door/window and went downhill from there. “Oops, sorry bout the grenade ma’am…”

Rocket Banana

Observer,

The original UAV concept might have been cheap disposable eyes, but once you’re high you have the edge as you pointed out with the PE/KE trade. You may was well carry a few Hellfire or Brimstone. In addition, is there any such thing as cheap “eyes” – most sensors worth their salt are relatively expensive?

Rocket Banana

Topman,

As Observer stated. We only want to kill the baddies ;-)

Jeremy M H

It is an interesting question to be sure. A few thoughts.

1. I think the idea of replacing attack helicopters with UAV’s is pretty premature. It is just nowhere near the same level of capability in most environments.

2. I find the notion of arming Wildcat with Brimstone DM to be kind of funny from a cost savings approach. Someone pointed out that Apache fired 700 Hellfires in Afghanistan in the last 5 years and that is not a particularly brisk pace of use really. But the cost difference of those 700 missiles if changed to Brimstone is something around $70 million USD. There is really no reason to switch to Brimstone unless you have to because it does not buy you a lot of capability on a helicopter. I don’t see any reason why one would go down that path until forced to unless you just want to light money on fire. Brimstone is a great weapon for where it was intended (employment from supersonic aircraft against an armored concentration) but is a bit pricey for more generalist use, particularly from a helicopter.

3. I am not 100% sold on the missile in a box solution to everything. It will all work well enough in theory where they are unbreakable data links, instant communication, solid GPS signals and no counter-battery fire. Add those thing in a more opposed environment and your cost are going to start to rise very quickly.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“Also are we really saying that given the costs of a Brit Ah-64 verses a Boeing one that engine commonality is really that big of saving?”

I think the point is that we don’t actually know what the cost diff twixt AH64D Longbow and WAH64 is or was. We do know that it cost £3.2Bn to get 67 WAH and that this included a significant chunk of CLS and engineering support to get the thing established.

What we don’t know is what an AH64D and equivalent support package would have cost. There are batch figures floating about for USA ones, but they don’t inlcude the logistics and CLS set-up, so we’re not like with like. Some of the FMS figures are out there, but the scope of supply is wildly different.

All we do know is that WAH64 cost more than AH64D, but we really don’t know whether it works out at £500k per airframe or £5M per airframe. We just don’t know.

I think it’s probably a reasonable bet that doing an AH1/UH1 analogy to the Wildcat is unlikely to end well, or at least cheaply.

AFAIK Puma HC2 will have an OSD of 2028.

One point re Predator / Reaper and all the other UAS. Those who have been on Herrick will hopefully correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the the weather systems are largely CAVU. That makes having these UAS bimbling around at sufficient height to do surveillance / targetting while avoiding detection and attack relatively easy. What happens to them when we get weather? Stay above cloud and be (I assume) relatively ineffective, or come down below the clag and becaome vulnerable (and with much reduced FoV? Lots of things we haven’t worked out yet I suspect…….

Topman – I’m sure 27mm off a FJ can hit people, but is that in the open or in proximity to non-combatants?

One more thing re Brimstone – as I’ve posted before, that puppy ain’t going to sea, courtesy of a procurement spec that didn’t consider operating in a naval EM environment.

Rocket Banana

I thought the SAR on Reaper was capable of penetrating foliage never mind about clouds?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

I suppose I’m guilty of applying our Herrick RoE to what you might use a SAR-targetted MQ for against a different target set. Not sure you could use SAR for every type of target ID though..

Observer
Observer

NaB, CAVU? That’s one that I havn’t heard before.

Simon, fly that high in a hostile environment, expect a visitor soon, or a SAM with the UAV’s name on it. None of the MQ-1s or -9s are particularly stealthy, the propellor is a rather big giveaway. And yes, going up gives you lots of PE. Now lug an arsenal up there and see how long you can last.

Compare the IAI Heron vs the Reaper, costs 50% less, 500% more endurance, performance profile fairly similar, with the exception that the MQ is a sprinter, and the Heron is a marathon runner. Reaper is 50% faster, but Heron can stay up for days.

And the 50% price difference means you can get a 3 for 2 swap, though that comes at the expense of weapons.

Edit: I’m showing my age. My first thought on SAR was “Search and Rescue” not “Synthetic Appeture Radar”

topman
topman

re 27mm i suppose how it depends how close you consider close :) my point was regarding accuracy on fj and lack of issues.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

This thread is moving fast!

RE wf June 18, 2013 at 10:03 am
@TD: I’d worry about Tiger, given that it’s record for even entering service has been dire.
– yes, ask the Australians… and if anyone should have bought the Viper, they should have, as it has 80% parts commonality with another chopper in service
– the snag: none are made new, all (?) are re-manufactured from what the USMC already has

kernowboy
kernowboy

A British Army version of the T-129 / AW729 could be an interesting option.

LHTEC engines used in the Wildcat

Able to fire the full range of Apache weapons

Already used by the Italians for amphibious warfare.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

RE “By 2020 I suspect we’ll be thinking about a small UAV for the intimate brigade/battalion CAS role”
– I seem to have put my today’s Viper Strike comment on a wrong thread
– yes, exactly that

Rocket Banana

Cripes! I forgot about the Mangusta and it’s derivatives. If ever there is a Lynx poured into a slimline body it’s a T129… nearly ;-)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

RE “Cripes! I forgot about the Mangusta”

Isn’t it the “real” Mangusta that the Turks are producing, for themselves, at numbers well above our 5+ dozen?

Chris.B
Chris.B

What would we lose?

– A heavily armoured scout,
– An anti-tank platform,
– A fire support platform for operations like Afghanistan,
– Generally a fast, flexible platform, that can massively enhance the capabilities of a ground force,

So not much then ;)

A single Apache can carry 16 hellfire, so that’s 32 between a pair. The ability to forward base Attack helicopters very close to the front line has already been demonstrated in conditions of war. The ability to hover in concealed/semi-concealed environments while lining up targets shouldn’t be discounted as a major benefit, as opposed to a fast jet that has to make several attack runs, losing sight of the target as it passes over and escapes the danger zone.

The speed of reaction and adaptability to a variety of roles is unlike anything any ground commander has in his arsenal.

Rocket Banana

At £60m a shot, they should be pretty good.

But what can three Reapers and Wildcat do for around the same amount?

42 Hellfire, faster and further.
24-7 battlefield surveillance rather than just a localised scout (‘cos I’ve got three MQ9 for the same price)
A faster, more agile, localised scout too (Wildcat) with fire support from a couple of .50 cal.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

What is the cost parity, though, between weapon (AH… I know, it is a weapon system) and counter?

With the AFVs we have accustomed to bush war -like situations with RPG7s on the other side. They are obsolete.

Similarly, the shoulder-launched SAMs out there have been pretty tame (with the exception of Stinger, that the CIA is rumoured to have mainly bought back… they do still turn up in the wide stretch across Africa, and where next?) in any of the theatres where Apaches or the like have been deployed.

What about the next-gen? The Apaches that stumbled on top of a whole Iraqi armoured Guards Division did give a pretty good show, with minimal losses. But they had been designed to be taking the heavy AA MG flak, exactly from that weapon that is on top of every other Soviet produced AFV.
– not so any more/ going forward, but the mention of Active Defences Suite, I think, was in the leading-in article

Rocket Banana

plus CASEVAC and light utility lift thrown in for free :-)

Monty

The Apache is an excellent anti-tank helicopter. When we acquired it, it undoubtedly provided an ability to counter massed tank formations. Fast forward to a very different type of attack helicopter role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it still provides much valued ground support.

We bought the Apache because we felt it would be an equaliser in anti-tank engagements. In one sense, it was seen as a tank substitute – IIRC, there was even talk of re-roling cavalry regiments as attack helicopter regiments. Although the Cold War has thawed and the threat of massive tank thrusts has receded, we still retain tanks. Intuitively, if we still need tanks, then we still need anti-tank helicopters?

The point about cheap and cheerful fixed wing strike aircraft is well made. Long loiter time. Good range. Good payload. Four or five squadrons of ground attack Tucano’s would be an excellent additional resource. But before we relegate the Apache and its ilk to museum piece status, it is important to remember one thing that the Apache can do better than most fixed wing aircraft: it can hover statically almost beyond the enemy’s field of visibility and observe targets. I know UAVs can do this too, but having a Mk 1 eyeball making a judgement call (and realising that a target is emerging next to a wedding party or children playing) is preferable to a UAV pilot relying on the situational awareness afforded by a low resolution TV camera when he’s sat thousands of miles away. There are also many instances where a helicopter can manoeuvre to take advantage of natural cover offered by trees and small land features. It can also land to take a direct brief from the commanders on the ground.

Of course, many Apache advantages could also be provided by Wildcat, with the added benefit of being able to accommodate several soldiers in the back. No doubt that the Wildcat has become a much improved machine and its multi-role capabilities provide more bang for the buck, but I’m not convinced it is the best choice.

When it comes to replacing the current helicopter fleet, the question is whether we can afford to have five different platforms: Chinook (Heavy lift), Apache(Attack / Anti-tank) Puma, (Medium lift) Lynx (Utility / GP) and Gazelle (Recce/ Liaison)? Clearly, we need the heavy lift capability provided by Chinook, but it may be allow us to acquire more helicopters in total and reduce the cost of maintaining them if we select a single additional type. Ideally, that should be whatever replaces the UH-60 Blackhawks and we should use them for every role we need including anti-tank / attack, medium lift, casevac, utility, liaison and recce. In one sense, the Wildcat is a UK Blackhawk, but is too small.

If the budget allowed for a third helicopter, My choice would be an Apache replacement with two additional seats for recce and liaison.

Alastair
Alastair

Doesn’t it all come down to money and bang for the pound?
It appears the AH CSP upgrade will only be done to 50 AH reducing the fleet by 2 squadrons and will extend service life to 2040.

How much for the upgrade – somewhere between £10m-£20m so lets say £15m. Cost for 50 would be £750m
The alternative is retire Apache and buy more Wildcat (suitably configured for Army). At approx £30m each that would mean getting 1 Wildcat per 2 AH upgrades or an extra 25.
This gives a single Wildcat fleet for Army & Navy increasing the planned size from 66 (30 Army, 8SF, 28Navy) to a total of 91. Army Wildcats could then operate from the amphibs when required.

I like the AH, but after withdrawal from Afghan and army reductions, perhaps the politicians will allow the forces time to recover and regenerate from 2015 to 2020 so the need for the AH will diminish and the Wildcat could provide a reasonable capability?

For the money which is a more realistic option?

Jeremy M H

@Observer

“Compare the IAI Heron vs the Reaper, costs 50% less, 500% more endurance, performance profile fairly similar, with the exception that the MQ is a sprinter, and the Heron is a marathon runner. Reaper is 50% faster, but Heron can stay up for days.”

The problem with the Heron is that it does not carry that useful of a payload. That is really the reason that the Reaper is not just faster but also about 4-5 times bigger and carries a payload that is 4-6 times bigger than the Heron.

With UAV’s there is really no free lunch as they are all pretty aerodynamically similar (at least the prop driven MALE’s). You have a big, thin wing designed to allow them to cruise for a long time. You can then divide up your weight in some fashion between payload, fuel, sensors and comm. equipment. They are pretty simple vehicles in that respect.

I agree with you though. Male UAV’s are really only fire support solutions when there is no threat or only really a MANPADS IR threat around. Sending them in against even an old Soviet style SA-6 operation is asking to get them swatted out of the sky like clay pigeons. You can’t really make a prop stealthy.

Chris.B
Chris.B

@ Simon,

Assuming you could get all that for the cost of an Apache (and bearing in mind the Apache has already been purchased) the Reaper needs to fly all the way to the battlezone first. The Apache can be parked much, much closer to the action. Reaper is a high altitude camera in essence, and UAV’s have an appalling record of losses in combat environments.

Wildcat is not a patch on a Apache. It has no radar, no hellfire, and the .50 is nothing when laid against a 30mm cannon.

Jeremy M H

@Simon

I think it is important to realize what Apache is supposed to be. A scout it is not. It was designed and deployed by the US Army as a heavy strike asset really designed to give the division and corps commanders the ability to conduct a “deeper” battle against Soviet Forces. That role has evolved somewhat as the threat has changed but if the Apache is not a scout helicopter. It can do the role but that is not what it was designed for.

Reapers are great so long as the same threat is basically zero. Apache can survive pretty well against SAM’s. Both Reaper and Apache are screwed if you don’t control the air against fighters. Apache is about providing a direct fire capability in a moderate air defense environment. Reaper really can’t do that. And the Tucano would be equally as screwed in an opposed air environment.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

As Chris says, the losses are appalling… but very few are combat losses, mind you

Monty says ” In one sense, it was seen as a tank substitute – IIRC, there was even talk of re-roling cavalry regiments as attack helicopter regiments.”
– the Dutch have done away with their tanks, but kept the flying tanks
– the ExPed force would be some combination of 3 Marine bns and 3 army Cdo bns
– don’t know if their sizeable CV mounted force is called cavalry, or if it is meant to be left behind, as a NATO assigned contingent of AI (does the Belgian-Dutch Div. still exist?)

Rocket Banana

Chris,

“Wildcat is not a patch on a Apache. It has no radar, no hellfire, and the .50 is nothing when laid against a 30mm cannon.”

I didn’t pitch Wildcat against Apache, I pitched 3 Reaper plus 1 Wildcat. Which negates your point about radar and Hellfire – that was very much my point. I’ll sit here and accept your point about the chain gun though ;-)

Jeremy,

Apache was used as a scout in Desert Storm more than it was for anti-armour or fire support. 34 attack missions verses 36 armed reconnaissance. Okay, not a big difference, but all the same considering it was its big debut.

Which is better, a high altitude UAV out of MANPADS range or a tougher copter easily taken out by a Stinger? Obviously the UAV has to come in at Mach 0.4 at some point but only to the same range as Apache launches it’s Hellfire from.

I’m not sold on UAVs. I’m not sold on Wildcat, but I think things are changing and they’ll probably make AH obsolete. Just look at the prevalance of man portable missiles.

Peter Elliott

If we are talking about ruthless commonality and leveraging existing assets how about a high/low mix:

Trade in our 66 Apache for 2 extra squadrons of Reaper plus 2 extra squadrons of F35B.

The UAS for dropping the odd rocket on riff raff in technicals. The Fixed Wing for killing tanks (and other things).

We would then have 5 squadrons of F35B in service by 2020: 2 FAA squadrons routinely embarked, two RAF squadrons for CAS, and a swing role squadron doing a bit of both.

And for maximum cost saving brownie points those extra Predators could also do a bit of spotting for the gunners thus enabling us to can Watchkeeper at the same time.

What’s not to like?

Mark
Mark

Apaches is a useful way to bring significant degrees of fire power across a signifcant range of operations compared to warrior or challenger or as90. You could quite easily have seen apache in serria leone, falkland, Bosnia, Kosovo, the gulf the same cannot be said for armour and in that case I think it should be the priority for upgrade for the army it won’t mind cause they love there tanks.

Fast jets can with today’s pods, rover and precision weapons sit well above aaa and manpads to deliver cas an attack helicopter can’t that the benefit the fj brings in higher threat areas. They are complimentary capability.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Financially the question is not what you can get for the cost of the upgrade. This was priced earlier by Alistair as costing approx 15 million an airframe. Given that S Korea ordered 36 AH64E in April for approx £32 million each this seems a realistic price. So in my opinion if.
1. The answer to providing the capability remains a manned rotary wing platform.
2. The upgrade is somewhere in region of 15 mill a pop and it extends service life to 2040.
Then yes keeping and upgrading Apache is the correct option.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Mark

How often do we hear arguments to scrap this or that? Or this is better etc when your last line sums up the truth so often :)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“Just look at the prevalance of man portable missiles”

One of the reasons AH64 is armoured and has those hoofing great suppressors in way of the engines (among other things) is that it was designed to work in a manpads threat environment and elements of it are designed to survive meeting Mr Shilka.

Despite its own suppressors, I doubt the Wildcat is going to be anything like as survivable and making it so will be far from cheap.

Until the actual cost of CSP is clear, we’re all just wildly speculating. But we should be clear. The choice is between no AH, or a tbd number of WAH.

Some sort of third way where a different cab (be it Mangusta, Wildcat or Tiger) is procured or modified to meet the requirement is highly unlikely to be cheaper to acquire or support. Given that there are less than 150 Tiger/Mangusta in service or on order vs over 350 AH64 in exports alone, never mind the hundreds in the US Army, I know where my money would be for an affordable solution.

Rocket Banana

You can also keep the current Apache (no upgrade) and complement it with other things. It’s still a tank-killing thug.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

I think the upgrade is less about capability increase and more about supportability, In other words how long Boeing will continue to support the “legacy” configured Blocks of aircraft at component and software level. That’s why the CSP is in the programme, just the same as the CSP (Merlin HM1 to HM2) and almost certainly, just as Typhoon and F35 “blocks” will require supporting in the future.

Rocket Banana

Well that puts the cost of each Apache at about the £75m mark (current prices).

Doesn’t look good value to me, not that I think they were at the £47m purchase price if Boeing could just “pull the plug” when it suited them?

Opinion3
Opinion3

UAVs are sort of a snatch landrover of the sky. Hard to criticise in a permissive environment but really pretty pointless when the going gets tough. They aren’t even allowable in our airspace.

I am not suggesting that UAVs are useless, but in Iraq the enemy was watching the feeds, in Iran the enemy was landing the damn thing at their airfields and as we all know most current UAVs grumble at carrying a pint of milk so you can forget armoured tubs……

The Apache upgrade should enable control and interaction with UAVs, the terror of the sound of an apache is going to make the enemy seek cover …. or get the manpad out. I am sure the wildcat is not a bad chopper but I fail to see it as an Apache replacement.

@NAB

pretty much agree with your posts

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Agree with Mark here ” Fast jets can with today’s pods, rover and precision weapons sit well above aaa and manpads to deliver cas an attack helicopter can’t that the benefit the fj brings in higher threat areas. They are complimentary capability.”

But as for Paveway IV, I saw an incredibly late ISD posted somewhere, anyone know about that one?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

I was hoping somebody would look at what happens if we do nothing.
SImon you should not think of the cost per airframe but rather by capability. If we need to spend this money to extend the capability to 2040 then is it the cheapest and best way to do so?
Looking at it per airframe and adding on capability upgrades would see some staggeringly expensive F15s flying :)

Observer
Observer

NaB, agree it is more a service and compatability upgrade than a peformance upgrade.

BTW Simon, MQ-9s tend to only carry 2-4 Hellfires, not the full load, so it is only approx. 6-12 air to ground for the force of 3. They do it as anything heavier cuts into the endurance.

As for America’s lost Stingers, you can safely rule them out. Those things have a battery designed to KO after a decade. I’d be more worried about how many Iglas and Grails the Russians have exported. Those things can last for a while.

Keep the Apache, it is still too useful to let go.

Rocket Banana

APATS,

You’re right of course about my costing per airframe. It’s not really the final cost it’s the poor decision making that lead to a disparity between Boeing’s plans and Westland’s.

Seems we pay forever more to re-learn the same old lessons.

Observer,

Regarding the Hellfire on MQ-9… ;-) But 16 Hellfire on Apache gives a pretty poor radius of action in comparrison. Much, much better to put 12 on it and carry a bag of fuel (40% more efficient in terms of deployable air power).

Ahh, I give up. Apache is great. There’s no denying it. Shame we tend to pay through the nose for things though!

Ali
Ali

@Monty

Would following a similar development path of the EC 725 that the South Koreans have (the KUH-1 Surion) that have several variants that include maritime and an attack helicopter be the future for the UK’s rotary fleet?

Opinion3
Opinion3

Wasn’t the Comanche also put forward originally? Not relevant now but just improving accuracy.. :-)

Mark
Mark

Apas

Very true.

Acc

Paveway IV I assume you mean on fast jets I believe it will be available on typhoon this year and its already on tornado.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb

There’s been a lot of emphasis on the number of HELLFIRE and CRV-7 shot off. However, in combat, our WAH-64s have also used their guns a lot. That gun, coupled to the impressive stabilised optics and HMS make for a highly discriminating, persistant and lethal combination that no other platform in our service can currently match – an M3P door gun on a Wildcat simply doesn’t cut it I’m afraid. If we take the sensible approach and adopt a laser guided 70mm rocket system rather than LMM, we’d have an airframe that could pack no fewer than 76 guided missiles and up to 1200 30mm rounds. The Apache may be expensive, but it’s a truly versatile, responsive, survivable and effective weapon system. and one I’d be loathed to give up.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Thanks Mark, ” its already on tornado.”

Paveway IV (as a diverging investment path for the same weapon between the US and UK ) was a great success story in Libya… Just that some one here lumped it together with the 2017 ISD for Meteor (now a fact) and AESA on Typhoon (don’t know for that, but isn’t it enough to prove that it works on whatever batch of Typhoons, and then , if need be, they can all be upgraded plenty quick?).

Rocket Banana

Chris Werb,

Do you actually put 1200 rounds in it? I thought that was what made it jam up?

Craig
Craig

The strongest argument for retaining Apache is surely preventing someone, somewhere coming out with a cunning plan to spend trillions and decades trying to get Wildcat to deliver a hundredth of the capability!

Opinion3
Opinion3

Craig certainly has a point!!!!

Chris.B
Chris.B

@ Simon,

Well Reaper lacks radar, so that’s one down for a start.

I don’t think we can really over state the value of having a platform that will hover in a semi-concealed position, assessing the target, and engage multiple targets from that position. And that’s one part of its role. The flexibility offered by the choice of missiles, rockets or guns gives Apache a massive advantage over something like Reaper.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

RE “The flexibility offered by the choice of missiles, rockets or guns gives Apache a massive advantage over something like Reaper.”
– imagine one side having reapers and the other apaches… no contest

Now: both sides having AHs, then they would make it the first priority to hunt each other down, before doing all the stuff they are there for (Apaches having Stingers, don’t know what the equivalent is on the choppers supplied from the East (Russia/ China).
– as a curiosity, the Turkish competition was entered into by a Russian airframe with all Western avionics and all Israeli weapon systems… the Italians only won, because the technology transfer was maximised thereby

Mark
Mark

Apache has flexibility in basing and the benefit of not requiring a satellite system and can be sent were ever we wamt it but I’m less sure about some of the other criticism. From the raf

“The Reaper baseline system has a robust sensor suite for targeting. Imagery is provided by an infrared (IR) sensor, a colour/monochrome daylight electro-optical (EO) TV and an image-intensified TV. The video from each of the imaging sensors can be viewed as separate video streams or fused with the IR sensor video. The laser rangefinder/designator provides the capability to precisely designate targets for laser-guided munitions. Reaper also has Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) to provide an all weather capability”

It standoff ability to assessing targets is not exactly poor and it does use hellfire and bombs with a signifcant loiter time and faster speed.

Brian Black
Brian Black

What if we replaced both Apache and F35b? The savings would be enormous!

Hmmm… I wonder what that would look like [queue the harp, and shimmer fade to jpeg].

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/OV-10_Broncos_of_VMO-1_on_USS_Saipan_%28LHA-2%29_1987.JPEG

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

ACC

Yes Turkey was only interested in something they could licence produce a variant of. They had run a previous competition won by the AH1Z Viper but could not agree tech transfer. I had heard though that the Israeli industries Hokum version was eliminated on cost grounds early in the competition.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

Yes ” heard though that the Israeli industries Hokum version was eliminated on cost grounds early in the competition.”

But it does not stop there: at the time of the Peace Armada, Turkish UAVs were flown by the Israelis… so that stopped right there and then

But they were also heling to design/build the Turkish UAV, Anka, That stopped there and then as well.

The Phantoms are only the mainstay of the air force, because they were cleverly updated in Israel… I wonder, if they installed an extra “off” switch somewhere there

steve taylor
steve taylor

There’s too much agreement in this thread. TOO MUCH! :)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

 “The Bronco was a Tri-service development, and in fact has something to offer every service.        Let’s recap some of the things a Bronco can do :- It has a speed of 305 knots -twice that of a helicopter and can carry 2400lb (more than a ton) ordinance. It’s tougher than a helicopter and can take off in just 345m (1,130ft). The turret configuration I propose for the Super Bronco allows fire equal in accuracy to that of a helicopter.         Roles that a Bronco can perform include :- observation, surveillance, patrol, FAC, artillery spotter, Casevac, personnel and cargo transport, helicopter escort, gunship and ground attack bomber.”

“The Super Bronco can also serve as a helicopter killer -because of the turreted weapons many of the helicopter’s usual defensive tactics against fixed wing aircraft simply won’t work. The Bronco doesn’t need to dive to keep its guns trained on a helicopter, or even fly towards the helicopter to fire on it.”

 http://www.angelfire.com/art/enchanter/bronco.html

Observer
Observer

“Apaches having Stingers, don’t know what the equivalent is on the choppers supplied from the East”

That would be Igla or Vympel (Gimlets and Archers for NATO accustomed guys) armed Havocs.

martin

Is there any way to keep the apache with out the upgrade. I see a lot of nations like Sngapore still operating far older versions than we are operating now yet we are lead to believe our aircraft that are just over a decade old are ready for the scrap head with out a near £1 billion upgrade. unite simply we can’t afford this upgrade and their are far more vital capabilities requiring the money. I really can’t believe Boeing will pull the plug on the version we are using. They are still supporting RC135 built in the 1960’s. We should keep these helicopters for as long as we can with out the upgrade then replace them when they can’t be flown any more. we should take the same view with a lot of our other kit as well like Typhoon tranche 1, challenger 2 and warrior.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

It’s not a matter of supporting them today, it’s to do with supporting them in 10 years time, so the current age of Singapore’s aircraft is not relevant.

No-one actually knows the cost of an upgrade in any case, that’s what the Assessment Phase is trying to work out.

It’s not a case of Boeing pulling the plug, it’s more a case of what they charge to provide that support. Someone, somewhere has to acquire the component level spares and consumables to keep the birds airworthy and support any software components of them and that will cost money too. The trade-off is whether that amount is more or less than the upgrade and subsequent support.

RC135 is a 50s design. But it’s airframe and components are (I believe) mostly analogue and mechanical, so provided they are within “life”, no dramas. Vulcan to the Sky are the same with XH558, but that isn’t cheap and is only possible because there is next to no software-driven kit on the aircraft. It’s where you get software involved, particularly in safety-critical systems like flight control that age of components becomes a big issue. RC135 is far from cheap to support (it’s just the US are or have been prepared to pay that price) and the mission system is upgraded every ten years or so as well.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy

I take it that it is not an urban legend that the early UK Chinooks received the advanced radar warning sets from the Vulcans?
Re “there is next to no software-driven kit on the aircraft.”

Common sense, but most of the time technological advances are such that “recycling” hardly ever applies

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

Don’t know abour RWR on the Wokka. Point is there’s no need for one on XH558, so VTST don’t have to get it certified for airworthiness.

Alex
Alex

Getting rid in favour of some sort of sort-of-maybe thing with one or two rockets on a drone sounds very much like concentrating on “Afghan stuff” with a year or so to go before final drawdown.

steve taylor
steve taylor

Another angle are 18 Puma worth more than upgrading all Apache?

mickp
mickp

@swimming trunks

just wondered if the bronco needs a 1130ft take off run, how did it work on USS Saipan?

Rocket Banana

just wondered if the bronco needs a 1130ft take off run, how did it work on USS Saipan?

Probably didn’t operate fully loaded.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“Another angle are 18 Puma worth more than upgrading all Apache?”

Never in a million years! (Unless you work for one particular organisation…..)

“just wondered if the bronco needs a 1130ft take off run, how did it work on USS Saipan?

Probably didn’t operate fully loaded.”

Don’t forget, the runway can move at 20kts, plus whatever natural wind is available……

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ship/LHA4.JPG

Performance(A: OV-10A/C/E/F; B: OV-10B; C: OV-10B; D: OV-10D, with internal 20 mm ammunition only):

Takeoff Run:A, at normal weight: 740 ft (226 m)
B, at 12,000 lb (5,443 kg): 1,130 ft (344 m)
C, at 12,000 lb (5,443 kg): 550 ft (168 m)
D, at 13,284 lb (6,025 kg): 1,110 ft (338 m)

Landing Run:
A, at normal weight: 740 ft (226m)
A, at overload weight: 1,250 ft (381 m)
D, at landing weight: 800 ft (244 m)

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Rockwell_OV-10_Bronco

paul g

if you search you tube for ov-10 rough landing trials then up pops a rather good vid i may attach it to the end of this. My contacts with the apache are thinning out (better life outside the wire it would seem) however it seems the block 3 is better engines (not needed by wah) gearbox, and composite blades, then internally one of the main features is the ability to control a UAV from the helo, do we really need that? Also better data links to other friendlies ie sending target aqs to ground forces

An idea that came to me in “pauls world” (you should visit it’s fun) would be Mr apache hiding 3-4kms from the nasties collecting all the info on the longbow and then something like the bronco (ie rough strip STOL) being beamed that data as they come past and then whacking the nasties followed up by the slower apache to finish off. Obviously the main drawback would be the bunfight about who flies the bronco type aircraft! edit the vid is fun from0.50 onwards

Rocket Banana

NaB,

“Don’t forget, the runway can move at 20kts, plus whatever natural wind is available”

Too true. With a 30 knot headwind you’ll probably be in the air without even starting the engines :-)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
Tom

@Nab and x re Puma upgrade – my understanding that retaining Puma is really to do maintaining helo numbers and maintaining a platform that is suitable to lift a Patrol sized unit + kit into spot too large for a Chinook/Merlin.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

” platform that is suitable to lift a Patrol sized unit + kit into spot too large for a Chinook/Merlin.”

Errr? Don’t worry, know what you meant!

X & I both know what the excuse is, we just question why the solution to that requirement isn’t retaining SK HC4. And the actual question was whether Apache upgrade or Puma upgrade was better vfm.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Tom

I am very familiar with the reasons for retaining Puma. I think the size issue is a bit of red herring. Though Merlin is a big aircraft you are talking only a difference of what 10 feet difference in rotar diameter? Are we really saying that our helicopter needs are so nuicanced we need to fill that niche? Not too big or not too small. Because really the difference between the two from a safety and operating space point of view is negligible when you come to consider LZs. You have to remember Merlin was designed to be flyable from frigate decks working in an urban environment (one of the supposed reasons) shouldn’t be a problem. And if it is a problem for Merlin then those problems would be there for Puma too. Further you could approach the argument the other way and say we could buy more Wildcat instead of Puma. We could for £600m buy 24 Wildcat that would have a much longer service life than 15 years. The problem there is who flies Wildcat and who supports Wildcat. Setting that against Apache that will be in use for at least 20 years approaching 30 years. Now as I have said somewhere above if Puma was being refurbed for a specific use, say to give CVF an organic vertrep / trooping capability, then it would be worth it. A specific use in support of a strategic defence project. Retaining Puma just so we can move a multiple if the aircraft is in theatre (perhaps maybe) isn’t worth it. And if it a question of helicopters numbers then as I have said buy 24 Wildcat. NaB is probably right. The argument is between the Army being able to inflict extreme violence on the HMtQ’s enemies for 30 years, or the RAF being able to keep 18 pilot slots open to move troops about for 15 years.

mikezeroone

x

Do remember that the Pumas has been operating in environments where other helicopters haven’t (SK could not operate as well in the Kenyan dusts as Puma did), or have not been sent due to pressure on other areas. Puma has had the thankless task of fulfilling the training and other smaller posts (such as NI and Kenya) whilst the more capable assets (SK, Merlin and Chinook) have been heavily in demand.

I cant seeing an extra few lynx filling its hole. Though I agree that new Merlins would have been better, keep the current as RAF and new build CHF, enabling a smoother navalisation rather than a ad-hoc modification… that or keep a smaller number (perhaps the ex-Danish) for a CSAR squadron like the US, French and Germans.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mile

I know what Puma can and can’t do. The question here is what is the better value Apache or Puma? What has the longer life? Can savings be made? If we can cover the cost of upgrading all of Apache and say increase slightly Widlcat numbers then it is a win. There is too much overlap from above and below to make Puma viable when the budget could be used in other ways. Let’s not forget who and whose stuff Puma moves around the most. I think there is niche for CH53 for CVF ; it won’t happen. There are lots of niches. We can’t fill them all. £600million would be what just over 12 new Merlins? Lots of choices. It’s not far off three quarters of the cost of CVF F35b air group.

What you have to remember at the end of the day is the RAF are getting 18 Puma. What we write here as no bearing on real life.

mikezeroone

Of course X :)

Just that I do feel the Puma is being bashed simply on its age and size, without people looking at the role its played whilst the bigger assets have been on higher profile operations. I am sure there had been similar arguments when the SK came up for an upgrade… Overlaps aren’t particularly a bad thing, especially when you look further into the operations of it – though of course its a double edged sword.

I do feel that Puma has a place, though my stance is that Apache certainly has a bigger place, and that if puma could have been sacrificed for it, then I see a case for that. But the green and light blue powers that be saw a reason to keep the old cab and upgrade it, and I don’t think the reason is solely the lazy “Evil RAF” fanboi excuse. I do feel we have the chance to develop them into a CSAR asset to fill a hole we have had for too long.

But I do agree with your logic, just that I feel there is more to it; totally agree with your final statement C:

WiseApe

Apaches. Broncoes. Pumas. I thought we were replacing everything with F35s :-)

Where there’s a niche there’s a sale. Blast, I should have copyrighted that!

http://www.defencetalk.com/south-korea-opens-bidding-on-7-3-bn-fighter-jet-deal-48154/

Haven’t we just sold them some Wildcats, or was that Singapore? I get confused east of Accrington. Anyway, Puma is RAF, Apache is army and as we all know, when it comes to budgets, never the twain shall meet. If you scrap Puma will one penny saved go to Apache?

Rocket Banana

How many Blackhawk would £600m buy us? 30?

Ditch Puma. Make do and mend Apache.

Transfer Chinook to the AAC.

Transfer all Wildcat to FAA.

Army = Chinook, Apache and Blackhawk
Navy = Merlin and Wildcat
RAF = no copters – they’re an air-force not a taxi service.

Challenger
Challenger

I agree with the idea that retaining the much younger Merlin’s in RAF service to fit the medium sized helo role in a complimentary fashion to the larger Chinook (doing training, special forces insertion etc) in favour of the Puma would have been a sensible choice and prevented the prolonged and tricky naval modification programme we are now seeing.

However…..obviously that raises the problem of what would have replaced the Commando Sea King’s. How much are new build Merlin’s these days? I know doing things that way wouldn’t have been cheaper, but does anyone have any idea how much say 30 new Merlin’s would have cost and how does it compare to what we could have saved on the Puma upgrade programme?

Challenger
Challenger

@Simon

I don’t necessarily disagree with you’re proposal (although I would ideally look to keep the number of aircraft types lower by purchasing more Merlin instead of Blackhawk) but the problem as I see it is that the money for the Puma upgrade must have surely already been spent?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

I thought the Puma upgrade contract was for £340 million not 600? The Puma actually has a smaller footprint than even a UH60 but seems roomier inside, to me anyway. Dont be surprised if we keep a few C130 in service after A400?comes in for the same users.

Rocket Banana

I suppose we’re looking at the total savings from not doing the Puma upgrade (which I think is already in progress) and not upgrading Apache.

It’s possible there’s in the order of £1b in that bucket. Enough for a proper fleet of Blackhawk. Or to reopen the SK production line. Or to buy a spattering of overpriced HN90s.

I think you’re right with the size thing though.

Mark
Mark

People on here have apparently nearly doubled the puma upgrade budget

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121114/DEFREG01/311140006/RAF-Delays-Timetable-Field-Upgrade-Puma-Helo

Still would have binned it mind.

Funny you mention retaining hercules apas

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130618/SHOWSCOUT02/306180019/Lockheed-Talks-3-Countries-Sell-Sea-Hercs-

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mike

“Just that I do feel the Puma is being bashed simply on its age and size, without people looking at the role its played whilst the bigger assets have been on higher profile operations. I am sure there had been similar arguments when the SK came up for an upgrade… Overlaps aren’t particularly a bad thing, especially when you look further into the operations of it – though of course its a double edged sword.”

£600million that could be spent on two platforms we are retaining beyond Puma’s OSD. Puma does fill lots of niches. Spent a lot of time reading about African bush wars. Puma/Oyrx is Africa’s helicopters; even have a copy of the book on the subject of helicopter war in the Dark Continent, Chopper Boys. Top heavy. Not perfect. But what is?

“I do feel that Puma has a place, though my stance is that Apache certainly has a bigger place, and that if puma could have been sacrificed for it, then I see a case for that. But the green and light blue powers that be saw a reason to keep the old cab and upgrade it, and I don’t think the reason is solely the lazy “Evil RAF” fanboi excuse. I do feel we have the chance to develop them into a CSAR asset to fill a hole we have had for too long.”

Decisions are rarely made purely for logical objective reasons, politics and tribalism play there part too. I wouldn’t trust the judgement of anybody who doesn’t understand that about human society. Organisations display human traits because they are composed of humans. You don’t get far by talking yourself out of work or by suggesting somebody else can do the job better.

As you know I don’t think there is much logic in the way the UK operate’s its battlefield helicopters. The French, Italians, Spanish, and US armies all operate large helicopters. As there is no Puma replacement in sight I wonder if it would be better for the RAF to jettison to the tactical end to the Army and just operate Chinook (as the in-theatre shuttle aircraft).

If CSAR is needed then again Puma wouldn’t be the way to go would it when we have a large Merlin force? Um. What is replacing SK in the FI for SAR?

“But I do agree with your logic, just that I feel there is more to it; totally agree with your final statement C:”

As our friend young Philip is fond to tell us there is no such thing as a budget for each service. That £600m being spent on Puma means we aren’t spending £600m on something else. What Puma does can easily be done by something else we have. What Apache does can also be done by something else; but not as easily and easily not as well.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

X.

Where has £600 million come from? Everything I van find indicates a price of about £340 million.

steve taylor
steve taylor

I shall go to check. I am sure it is £600m. If it is only £300m I shall only be only half as outraged. :)

Still a chunk of change…….

steve taylor
steve taylor

Yes £340 million.

But I have had to read PPRUNE so I will claim £240million in compensation.

I am worried that the UAE’s Puma LEP with Romanians was problematic. And then the Puma accident rate is a bit sobering.

Mark
Mark

x

You could alternatively have clicked the link 4 posts up.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ Mark

Sorry. :(

£340 million would still have bought 24 AW139. One less passenger but quicker, longer range, better climb rate, etc. and so on. Probably cheaper to run to boot.

Phil

Transfer Chinook to the AAC.

What on earth for? It makes zero sense to go through moving all those mountains and spending all that money to get what – exactly the same capability (actually probably severely reduced capability as the transition happens). Utterly pointless and nothing other than service squabbling over who gets what shiny toy. What is the case for this move other than to look good on an internet ORBAT list?

Phil

Still would have binned it mind.

So what is the official rationale for keeping it? All this bashing but seldom are the reasons for doing something analysed, it’s straight into the criticisms. I’m agnostic about it I don’t really care either way but it would be interesting to know from the horses mouth why we are spending money on it – clearly there must be some compelling reason. Now people might think the reason is garbage but what is it?! I imagine it has a lot of financial undertones and also the fact it requires a smaller HLS than a Chinook or Merlin – quite a bit smaller indeed.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

X

340 million May buy 24 AW139 but in a military configuration with the upgraded DAS, modern secure military comms and ballistic protection incorporated into HC2.
The Hc2 also sees an engine upgrade that talks about carrying twice the load three times as far due to improved efficiency/power and greater fuel capacity.
Add in the costs of pilot retraining, simulators and support contracts and how many operational military variant AW139 do you think you can really get for £30 million?

steve taylor
steve taylor

My other concern is we spend money on Puma and it turns into another Jaguar.

The latter was probably the best refit programme of its type. Pragmatic. Good value. And then it gets dumped.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Typo in my last post should have read 340 million not 30.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ APATS

It is just easier to share the amount by unit cost. Seeing as “we” are going with Puma it doesn’t matter does it? I could have said we could buy 18 leaving £88million for training. I should hope £88 million would cover pilot OCU for 24 pilots (say) seeing as these bods are all cleared for large multi-engined aircraft. And enough to train the core of the maintainers. And lets not forget I was on about scrapping the capability, so I would have saved £340 million any way.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@TD

Excuse me, I have been defending it!

@x

You are still going to get a less capable non military aircraft at that price.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“The puma upgrade is real value for money but because its RAF the dark blue see conspiracy behind everything. It is however a short term thing so you might argue long term there might have been better options”

I wonder how much “value” is actually added? You’re talking about 18 cabs (for which MAR has not yet been achieved btw) which are just about able to lift a section into a small HLS that will last until 2028.

Compare and contrast with (for example) running on SK HC4 with the Carson mod and keeping the SK IOS contract live until Crowsnest ISD (or indeed bringing Crowsnest forward). That doesn’t mean binning CHF at the end, because the requirement to provide sustained embarked air will still remain (unless of course you’ve a chip on your shoulder and think all air should be light blue!), but it gives more time to look at HC3 marinisation costs and alternatives.

I remain unconvinced by the HLS size argument. There’s about 4m diff in the rotor diameter, a bit less in the length rotors turning. You might get a little less scatter in a lighter more powerful cab, but it ain’t going to make much more than 5 or 6 m difference in HLS overall. If it’s good in Kenya, great, HTUFT it. It doesn’t need to be mil.

It is all academic of course. But it ain’t dark blue paranoia that makes it look a little less than best vfm…….

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

NAB

Eurocopter were awarded a contract to support 24 cabs 2 weeks ago. One of my neighbours was an RAF ex Puma Wcdr last year and he told me that the whole HLS thing was SF driven. They also like the height of the cab, unlike the pilots.
I really railed against the decision but almost every rotary wing “operator” I have spoken to has told me it was the best option.

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ APATS

Seeing as was also talking about more Merlin and Wildcat, modern miliatry aircraft, instead of getting Puma I think I grasp that. AW139M seems to roughly equate to Puma.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones

Four engined Bronco proposal; appears to be for ASW:

http://www.up-ship.com/drawndoc/adwg37ani.jpg

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@X

So how much is AW139M as nobody seems to have bought one? You quoted specific numbers based on a non comparable aircraft.

Observer
Observer

My opinion of the Puma is that it works ok, so why replace it with a new unfamiliar platform? With new things, you have to tear down the entire old logistics structure and rebuild a new parts inventory as well as train new staff to maintain the new platforms instead of using the knowledge built up by the “old guys” that can be taught hands on instead of “trained by manufacturer”.

There is always a risk getting new stuff, they might not work as planned. Is it worth increasing the risk that you might end up with nothing? Old is familiar, old is comforting, old is safe (logistics wise).

And yes TD, you may have a blade difference of 4m, 5m or x meters of your choice, but you don’t pack aircraft blade to blade, nasty things happen when you are that close, there is always a safety seperation of approx 100m regardless of if a bird is either a UH-1H or a Puma. Not sure if this is because of laziness though or if 125m(?) is much easier to remember than individual numbers for every specific platform type. Only the Chinook is different as that thing is much larger. And the 2 engines above the bay door throws out a hell lot of hot air.

And after a Chook, every other cab is “too small” :) To be fair though, we were squeezing the Puma’s max load of 16 men most of the time, it was quite uncomfortable. No place to stretch your legs. Guess that is going to be common with all helos that don’t have a cargo bay, so it is pretty much a common constant over all the models.

“The whole HLS thing was SF driven.” Tell them to toss a rope over and bring their rapelling gloves.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@obsv

How does the Chinook compare internally to a CH53? Remember getting quite comfortable operating Chinook from the LPD and being amazed how much bigger a CH53 looked from both the bridge wing as it approached and on deck.

How much weight can you rapelll or fast rope with? The HLS allows the team to be deployed into an urban area with all gear, sometimes out of site of the situation.
Perhaps some of these HLS sites may be pre designated near possible high value urban targets and have a known size? Maybe!!!

Red Trousers
Red Trousers

No one whose ever done a SPIE infiltration would ever complain about helicopters being too small inside. I did one exercise once in North Carolina at the USMC base there. Utterly fucking terrifying. I recall being hoisted with some of the boys to about 1500 feet and thinking that I was hanging there suspended by standard 58 pattern webbing, a climbing harness and a couple of Italian made karabiners sourced from the lowest possible bidder.

(I don’t recall that much checking of kit or safety as is shown on the video. Basically, turn up, get into the climbing harness, hook up and away you went)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven

There was a £408m upgrade being made to the Chinooks at about the same time the decision was made to upgrade the pumas, so the money to purchase a new helicopter in numbers was never there. The decision was also a political decision as much as a military one, at the time weren’t the Labour government being dragged over the coals by the media and opposition over helicopter numbers and availability in Afghanistan at a time when IED casualties were rising.

I’d take the Puma over Wildcat any day, the latter’s choice was wrong for the army, it has no real utility other than armed recce/escort. I think for the price we could have chosen cheaper with true utility such as the Lakota the US purchased. The question should really be is Wildcat worth it for the army?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@RT
Screw that :)

Have been winched up solo from a Hunt to a SK MK 5 to get me ashore after a sea ride but nothing like that.

Observer
Observer

“How does the Chinook compare internally to a CH53?”

No idea, never tried a Stallion. The central open space bay in the middle of the CH-47 is wonderful for stretching your legs though, so I’m guessing without it, you’re stuck with keeping your feet close to yourself.

As for the rappelling weight limit, no idea really. The operating principle is that your back will give out before the equipment does, so if you can lug it, you can rappel with it. Fast roping, maybe not, the heavy weight might pull you backwards and off the line, so if you got a load, use a carabine. Fast roping is best done with only basic loadout w/o a fullpack.

RT, that looks fun! Never had a problem with heights, just leg cramps and DVT induced numbness. To each his own I guess.

Chris
Chris

Obs, APATS – “How does the Chinook compare internally to a CH53?”

Basic dimensions (not accounting for lumps bumps & tapers) are the same for height & width, but CH-47 has 6 inches more quoted length. For the CH-47 this is defined as cargo floor length, and while the Sikorsky data I have doesn’t define it as such I’d guess the quoted 30ft is floor length too. Looks like these two aircraft might have been designed to meet the same requirement.

For quite a few years it seemed USAF and USMC/USN would select competing designs from DoD competitions; USAF select F-16 and USN F-18, USN select F-14 and USAF F-15. In this case it seems USAF picked CH-47 and USMC CH-53. This may be a false perception, but it does really look like it was the case.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin

“This may be a false perception, but it does really look like it was the case.”

The helos originate from the days before “joint” requirements – essentially the individual services could write their own and then procure kit against it. The US ARMY procured CH47 in the early 60s (yes it’s that old) and the USMC requirement for CH53 (Sea not Super) stallion dates from the same period.

AFAIK there were no “fly-off” competitions because they were different requirements – F14 and F15 originated from very different places and the F16 vs F18 were separated by a decade and a complete change of the YF17 to get to F18.

Mark 2
Mark 2

Haven’t posted a comment on this website for quite a long time…

I think that we should try to keep all 66 Apaches in service with the Army. Do they really need upgrading? Is it vital… No they can still do the job expected of them without being upgraded, this will save us quite a lot of money.

On the other hand if we do retire some Apaches I think with the money we save we should invest into a small fleet of 15-30 A-10 Thunderbolt’s. They will be cheap as the US is retiring some and they are getting quite old. The USAF is trying to keep the A-10’s in service until the 2040’s! The A-10 has proved itself in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’m certain that they will prove themselves in future conflicts. They will also take some workload off the F-35B’s that we will be getting.

Rocket Banana

Just my positive two-penneth about Puma…

It can do its job on one engine if necessary. I now suddenly realise why it makes so much sense for SF. Added to that a relatively low disc loading (bold, so that people know I don’t mean just get home).

However, can I point out that this “upgrade” (at £340m) is hardly an upgrade. That’s £14m per cab! That’s Blackhawk money… for a brand-spanking new one!

steve taylor
steve taylor

@ APATS

“Seeing as was also talking about more Merlin and Wildcat, modern military aircraft, instead of getting Puma I think I grasp that.”

This was a hypothetical discussion about how the Puma refurb money could have been spent. I speculated about the unit cost of a comparable new aircraft. I appreciate that there is more to buying anything than just the windshield price. Seeing as the cost for Puma is roughly the same cost as a new comparable aircraft I think it bares noting. It also worth noting when that £14m per unit is compared to aircraft we have in service. The programme is going ahead. I am just commenting on a defence blog that will have 0 impact on how decisions are made. I apologised for getting the cost wrong.

“AW139M seems to roughly equate to Puma.”

I meant in specifications I should have qualified that. Sorry again.

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