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Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 15, 2014 8:53 am

Not entirely sure what you’re trying to say TD.

Based on the graphic, those are total fleet numbers in 2004 and if you leave out the LUH Lynx & Gazelle (which were inflated to a degree by the Lynx AH-role) you’ve got 116 SH (of which 31 are Chinook) plus an indeterminate number of Apache AH1 (67 frames bought).

Fast forward to FF2020 and it should look like 107-ish SH (of which 60-ish will be Chinook, 25 HC4/4A, 22 PumaHC2) and whatever the number of AH remaining is (standfast the debate on AH64E). Given the scale of cuts since 2004, I’d say that’s not a unreasonable result.

It is (of course) subject to the shenanigans with “forward fleet” numbers which are less than the total numbers of frames, but not sure it’s as bleak as you imply.

April 15, 2014 8:56 am

“Rather depressing”

How exactly? Ok the AAC numbers are down, but how many more UAVs to we have in service now?

Gazelles were great wee helis, but a bit limited for what we need. UAVs are (generally) far better scout/recce platforms.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 15, 2014 9:08 am

Don’t forget that a lot of those Lynx & Gazelle were badged as recce/AH combos which the Apache was to replace. Whether Watchkeeper and some of the other UAVs will compensate for the residual recce/scout capability is still up for debate I suspect.

The real gap is likely to be in availability of cabs for “utility” roles, essentially able to short notice hops around the battlefield carrying “pax and stuff” without necessarily disturbing the SH flypro. The RN have a similar issue (coming to a head soon) as the SK5/6 fleet is retired without replacement. Always useful to have a couple of utility frames in a group, particularly if your dippers are running ASW lines (as we will hopefully be remembering how to do!).

Rocket Banana
April 15, 2014 9:39 am

A better way to look at the above is to sum them up:

31+34+18+33 = 116 utility/lift
110+6 = 116 attack (Lynx)
105+8 = 113 scout (Gazelle)

Notice the balance.

Without wishing to open up old wounds the question is then: was 67 Apache better than 116 Lynx and 113 Gazelle?

I’d suggest the remaining 60 Apache simply need to be paired up with 60 Chinook to rebalance the fleet leaving the 34 Army Wildcat to balance the steadily decreasing stocks of Merlin and Puma.

I nice hi-lo mix… the only problem being not enough Merlin (long term).

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
April 15, 2014 10:16 am

Loss of Gazelle is mitigated somewhat by Watchkeeper.

The issues are lack of Wildcat numbers, or a better, cheaper alternative! And the Merlins being shoved to the FAA to replace HC4’s because nice Gordon bloody Brown cut the rotary wing budget scrapping the Future Maritime Rotorcraft ( or something like that ) program.

30 odd new helis to replace Sea King, the Merlins staying with the RAF, and more of a better Lynx replacement instead of the expensive, jobs for the boys Wildcat, and we would be in better shape.

On the plus side, we now have the extra 8 Chinook ” Hanger Queens” and 14 additional Chinook.

April 15, 2014 3:21 pm

Not sure I agree with you old boy, IMHO the situation isn’t nearly as bad as the raw numbers would suggest.

1. In terms of lifting capacity, the situation is at worst essentially static. In 2004 there were 116 helicopters which primarily lifted men and equipment, in the FF2020 there will be 109 (60 Chinook, 25 Merlin, 24 Puma). Those helicopters will all be able to operate in hot and high environments, lift more cargo further, and overall the fleet will actually be able to lift more troops and all of them in crash-worthy seating (in 2004 theoretically 2787 combat ready troops could be lifted by all platforms combined, in 2020 that number would be 2868).

2. In 2004 the Lynx filled two roles: attack helicopter and utility transport. In the future that role will be divided between the Apache fleet (66 of them at the moment, for argument’s sake 48-60 by 2020) and the Wildcat/Lynx AH.A fleet (34-38 Wildcat [30 Army variant, 4-8 Light Assault] and the rump of the AH9A fleet). The total numbers aren’t actually vastly different (82-98 depending upon final orders compared to 116). In terms of attack the fleet is vastly more capable, and in terms of utility, there are still plenty of cabs available for a joy-ride as necessary.

3. Although there were large numbers of Gazelle in use in 2004, their utility was at best pretty marginal. You could nominally get three guys in the back, but you could only do that in a temperate environment and provided that none of those blokes had either brought a pack with him or eaten an especially large lunch. You also wouldn’t be wanting to fly it against anyone armed with anything much more dangerous than a sharpened stick.
The operational roles of the Gazelle therefore was to act as a limited utility cab, or to act as an aerial scout. The loss of the Gazelle in later role is at leas partly offset by the Apache. Also offsetting the loss of the Gazelle is the addition of 54 Watchkeeper and 200+ Desert Hawk. Unlike the Gazelle, all of these are highly survivable in a modern battlefield.

So, to summarise, with the exception of the loss of the Gazelle, numbers aren’t actually vastly dissimilar. And overall capability is up pretty much across the board. All in all actually not a bad outcome.

April 15, 2014 3:56 pm

TD – I think so in this case. ;)

The 9As will be going as I understand it.

Re PPS – Do you mean Mali?

April 15, 2014 6:09 pm

The other point is the loss of a relatively cheap to operate utility type to do all of the non operational roles required by the army/JHC.

Such as the role played as heli-tele in NI supporting the PSNI (for which I understand the Gazelle is being kept on for a while as well).

Or simple stuff like the daytime flying of low level night vision routes for helicopters that has to be done every so often to check for new obstructions before it can be used at night. This used to be one of the roles for the TA AAC Gazelle squadron that has been re roled into Apache ground crew.

All of this will cost a lot of money if flown by Wildcat and arguably we don’t have the numbers for it either.

Likewise the loss of the armed escort (for chinook in Afghanistan to free up Apache hours for other work) and light utility role in general for the army.

April 15, 2014 6:24 pm

Reference the AH9A:
On the original contract they’re supposed to fly until 2018, however over on Gabriele’s UK Armed Forces Commentary he references some documents which suggest that at least some of them will still be flying through till 2022.
For my own part I expect that the AAC will be very keen to keep them going. The procurement is now a sunk costs, and although the airframes weren’t overhauled at the AH9A upgrade, the dynamics where, which means that they ought to have a fair bit of life left in them. Similarly, they were upgraded with defensive countermeasure suits to the theatre entry standard for Afghanistan, so they ought to be survivable in a contested environment for a while yet.
And from the perspective of government, keeping the AH9A on strength is low hanging fruit.
And from JHCs perspective, if they can keep the AH9A running until 2024 or so, they can make a stronger case to government for a medium utility type to replace both the vestigial Lynx fleet and the Puma fleet in larger numbers than either type on it’s own .

April 15, 2014 11:51 pm

I agree the Army would almost certainly want to keep the Lynx 9HA fleet operational after 2018-2022. Why wouldn’t they when it’s a recently upgraded air-frame which seems pretty capable and now has a lot of commonality with Wildcat.

Crucially it would keep the numbers of light, scout, reconnaissance (whatever the bloody hell they are called) helo’s above a paltry 34 and buy time for perhaps a top up order of Wildcat or some other kind of replacement.

Guess as ever it comes down to manpower and money, if SDSR 2015 or any defence review further ahead gets as grim as 2010 then stuff like the Lynx AH9 will represent prime sacrificial fodder to preserve even more important capabilities.

April 16, 2014 5:05 am

RE “Crucially it would keep the numbers of light, scout, reconnaissance (whatever the bloody hell they are called) helo’s above a paltry 34 and buy time for perhaps a top up order of Wildcat or some other kind of replacement. ”

I agree. At least one of these went through the final assembly line last year, so there should be real footage around by now.
– Having them as the replacement would also balance the possible drawing down of the numbers of single-mission AHs in connection with their update (OK, they do recce, too, but as a broad principle). While plugging the yawning gap of no UHs in the inventory.

dave haine
dave haine
April 16, 2014 8:04 am

Another way of looking at it-

Roughly the same amount of lift capability, for proportionally less potential lift (smaller army post 2020)

Leaving aside the scout/ apache discussion we could still do with more light lift capability though….

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 9:07 am

Yes, S-97 prototype fuselage had been delivered last year:


Prototype scheduled to fly in Q3 2014.

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 9:47 am

Also for people to peruse, here’s the skinny on the Joint Multi-role Technical Demonstrator program which is the precursor to the Blackhawk and Apache replacement program (Future Vertical Lift) post 2030:


Tilt-rotors and compound coaxials primarily. Also worth noting lack of strong maritime requirements at present, though to be fair this is focussing on the phase one development of demonstrators to push the technology.

April 16, 2014 9:55 am

The US Army wanted to replace their aging fleet of OH-58 Kiowa by 2015( which have been their scouts since 1969). The Army ran a contest to find a replacement but ran out of money due to sequestration ($15 Billion + was needed to replace the Kiowas) for which the S97 Raider shown above was one of the contenders. Instead the US army is removing its AH-64 Apache’s from the US Army Reserve and the US Army National Guard Units to be deployed with active units in the scout role until the money becomes available .It seems like a desperate measure to use up these tank busting airframes in the scout role when they were meant as a strategic reserve in case the Reds came swarming over the Horizon (I’ll not say which end of Asia they will come from:-).
Each scout in the contest had to come in at under $15 Million to be replaced by aircraft that cost $20 Million when new and I would think be much more expensive to maintain and to retrain the Kiowa crew to fly the Apache’s . Desperate times , desperate measures .

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 10:25 am


Both AAS and JMR-TD/FVL are currently running on phased contracts with no guarantees beyond the current contract. This requires high investment on the manufacturers part which is a good thing. It’s shaken up the incumbents across the pond.

EADS (an Airbus Helicopters X3 based proposal) pulled out of JMR-TD citing the high costs and uncertain guarantees. They’re still invested in the AAS program as they can be considered one of the incumbents having won the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) contract. Their AAS entry is based on their UH-72 Lakota (EC145 heritage).

Sikorsky’s response to the high investment, high uncertainty issue is to invest heavily in their X2 technology. Not just for the JMR-TD/FVL programs but in general. Expect compound designs in the civilian sector too.

Bell’s approach is to continue refining their conventional and tiltrotor lines. V-280 Valor is credible.

AVX are the potential disruptor’s. Their ducted fan pusher designs allow for the kind of compartment size and layout that make decision-makers sit up and the actual people behind the company are well known in the industry. Everyone loves a rear ramp in addition to side-doors, right?

April 16, 2014 7:22 pm

“AVX are the potential disruptor’s. ”

BAE Systems is teaming up with AVX. The real advantage of their design: it scales from UAV to Ultra-heavy. It can also be retrofitted to existing airframes. The basic VTOL-backbone remains pretty much the same. It also has the smallest footprint, which is key for being adopted by USN and USMC.

I guess, the US Army will choose different designs for different weight classes as a hedge.

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 8:38 pm

I’m a big fan, looking forward to a prototype.