Chinook for CSAR-X (HH-67 PaveNook?)

Nobody’s First Choice by Michael Goldfarb in the The Weekly Standard:

The Air Force chose the most expensive solution–nothing unusual about that. The Air Force is typically willing to pay a huge premium to bring its warfighters the best available technology. But it’s far from clear that the Chinook, which first saw action more than 40 years ago in the Vietnam War, is the best available technology. Further, it’s not clear that the Chinook met the most basic requirements of the RFP.

I’ve been wondering about this. I am relieved that the V-22 Osprey was eliminated as a candidate for CSAR-X, and the CH-47 is a proven workhorse. There’s something to be said for going with something you know works and you know is tough. But this still seems like a bit of a reach. More than a bit.

If the US Air Force’s major procurement situation were any worse, it would be the US Navy.

UPDATE: More at Op-For and Blackfive.

UPDATE 2: Incidentally, does this mean it will be the Pave Hook? Pave Nook?


  1. Here is an article regarding the age of USAF aircraft. It’s funny how they don’t talk about the fact the costs and schedules spiralling out of control is what has really put the brakes on buying new aircraft. Heck, even this competition they could have bought a new helicopter, but that wasn’t even a consideration after the Comanche and V-22 fiascos. I remember when we rolled out a new fighter every couple of years. The Air Force was continuously getting new airplanes and retiring old ones. Now it takes 25 years to develop a new fighter. I guess that’s progress. That’s exactly what you’d expect the impact of the digital age to have on the production of new airplanes, right? It is if you’ve been living in a cave for the last 30 years.

  2. I think the wheels started to come off this latest helicopter purchase when the presidential helicopter was selected. Instead of taking an off-the-shelf chopper in service with the armed forces, they choose a completely new design, the EH-101 (I mean US-101 (see it’s American :). This in my opinion was foolish. When the USAF choose the HH-47, I was surprised. I figured they would have to go with the EH-101, to help defray developmental costs. They did not, but not the powers that be have gotten them to cancel the Boeing contract and are pushing the USAF towards the EH-101. In my opinion, the HH-47 would fit the bill. As Murdoc said it is a proven workhorse and although it first over 40 years ago, the new builds are modern. The Army uses a special ops variant, MH-47, which should perform similar functions to the the CSAR version. However, in reading about the existing aircraft the USAF is replacing, the HH-60, I have only read that it is ‘ageing’ and thus needs replacing. No one has stated that it is not capable, only that it is 25 years old. If this just means that the airframes are that old, then why don’t they just buy new ones? I mean the black hawk and its derivatives are in full scale production. You would think that the USAF could get a good deal buying them since the production costs are spread out over several models. In fact, I wish the USMC would be forced to shitcan the MV-22 and buy black hawks instead. At 80 million per copy, the Osprey is too expensive. We could really save money and create supply chain efficiencies for maintenance, spares and training.

  3. In what would be a dramatic change, the Pentagon may propose building all of the new VH-71 presidential helicopters overseas, dropping plans to build of most of them in the United States, but the idea is meeting fierce opposition on Capitol Hill. first reported the potential shift in production plans March 22, as House lawmakers were conducting a military aviation hearing. Rep. Joe Wilson asked a Navy witness about the issue, citing’s reporting. A heated discussion ensued in which Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Rep. Gene Taylor, Wilson and other lawmakers repeatedly warned the Navy that Congress would not tolerate shifting VH-71 production overseas. A team comprised of Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter Textron won the VH-71 contract in 2005, besting Connecticut-based Sikorsky, the incumbent maker of presidential helicopters. The VH-71 has been described as a U.S. version of the EH-101, which AgustaWestland builds in the United Kingdom and Italy. Lockheed has touted the VH-71 as ‘American-built.’ But internal Navy documents reviewed by indicate officials are planning to move the production work overseas to ‘reduce risk’ in the program’s cost and schedule. The program includes five helicopters that are due to be ready by October 2009 (which are being built in Yeovil, England) and a second batch of 18 more-capable helicopters that would be delivered years later. ———————- Rumor has it that Lockmart is screwing up the presidential helicopter program so badly they took themselves out of the CSAR competition. Their genius CEO who makes more in a day than I make in a year decided any division could make modifications to aircraft, even if they’d never done that kind of work before. Oops. Of course it will have the usual result, engineers will get laid off, and his annual bonus will increase exponentially. Anyway, the only way the Navy figures they can get out of the bind they’re in is to have the subcontractor who actually builds aircraft do more of the work overseas.

  4. Dfens, thanks for the info on the presidential chopper. I know the post was on the new CSAR-X, but I do think there is some relation between the selection process for the presidential chopper and CSAR-X. Let’s hope for sure the EH-101 is not chosen for CSAR-X, especially if they need to build it overseas to keep costs down. Finally, to beat my previous point about the black hawk ad nauseam, why can’t the CSAR platform continue to be the HH-60, and the presidential chopper continue to be the VH-60, albeit new builds? I guess saving money is not high on the list.

  5. At some point I think you have to ask why you should have to rely on old technology when there is so much new technology available? Why should the new technology be confined to the private sector? I think it is completely unacceptable that we should not be able to develop military tech at a faster rate than we do. Certainly the presidential helicopter should not be vulnerable to 1970s threats like heat seeking missiles. I personally would have a hard time justifying why the president should fly around in a helicopter vulnerable to 1960s RPGs. The level of spending is there to buy the technology, but the system is too corrupt to allow it to be economically applied. It’s very frustrating.

  6. Dfens, I am not in the aviation industry, so I am blurting on this. But to me it seems the main new technology in aircraft from the 1970s to present is in the avionics and materials the aircraft are made of. Avionics, including countermeasures, should be able to be added to an existing airframe as the technology becomes available. Advances in materials like kevlar can be added to the production process. I think Boeing is now making parts for the 747 from composites that used to be made from metals thus saving weight. Advanced rotor blades, like the ones on the British Lynx, should be able to be adapted to existing helicopters. Finally, newer engines can be added similarly to the upgrade from the UH-60A to the UH-60L as power output increases. My analysis is simplistic, but I think aircraft today are platforms that have a lot of components added to them. The trick to me is to keep the cost of the platform down so you can afford to load it to the gills in new electronics.

  7. Well, Spacey, I’d say you have excellent observational skills, and you are correct, that is where most of the innovation is in today’s aircraft. In fact, I’d further what you’ve observed by saying we have actually gone backwards in areas such as aerodynamics, aircraft integration, and structures. I think we actuall do a worse job in those areas today than we did 30 years ago. The question is, does that seem a reasonable out come of our technology to you? Back in the ’70s we didn’t have computational fluid dynamics (CFD) or 3D computer aided design (CAD) software. Both of these should have made us much better at aircraft design now than we were then. Instead we have gotten worse. That’s my criticism. That is not a reasonable out come. The first step in fixing things is adjusting our expectations to that which is reasonable.

  8. Hi guy, Well, not easy to go to the grain..!! I gonna try. I am a French rotorcraft driver and historian. Looking into the data, the selection of the Chinok as CSAR vehicle is, better say was, a good choice. The reasons for this are, commonalty with other services, ability to do CSAR and Special Ops missions, and costs. Cost is not only price of the aircraft, but everything taht goes along, part (bunch of it are required), instruction manuals, instruction devices, training time for crew and maintenance grunts, etc. Selecting the Chinook, part were already on the shelves and inventory, only numbers changed, training devices are there, the Army has them and could receive USAF pilots, all manuals are existing and only models changes and crew transitions are required.. Now, we understand this, it i just necessary to add that the V-22, is exactly the opposite. The reason the Marine want the MV-22 at all costs are totally unclear to me. The USAF position on the CV-22 used only as Special Force long distance insertion/extraction make much more sense. I do not see the MV-22 (360 are planned for USMC) as a massive assault vehicle as pretended by USMC brass. As a historian, I am just willing to say ‘let see, history will give right and wrong’ In the meantime, I’ll be happy to read arguments pro MV-22. Fly safe all