Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
Public Affairs Department
Code 750000D, Stop 1014
China Lake, CA 93555-6100
Phone 760-939-8404 : Fax 760-939-2056
AH-1Z/UH-1Y complete developmental
News Release Number: E200603011
By John Milliman, H-1 Program Public Affairs
NAVAIR PATUXENT RIVER, MD – The H-1 Upgrades Program, which
is replacing aging Marine Corps UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft with upgraded
and 84 percent identical UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft, completed developmental
testing Feb. 17.
Currently, the program is preparing to enter Operational Evaluation
as well as to start a third Low-Rate Initial Production lot.
Two of the five developmental test aircraft have already been transferred
to the operational test squadron and are being used to train the Marines
who will conduct the operational evaluation. Two aircraft are in final
preparation to be transferred to the operational test squadron.
The first H-1 to fly in the upgraded configuration, AH-1Z-1, is currently
preparing for live-fire testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China
Bell Helicopter, the manufacturer of the aircraft, has 16 aircraft
on two firm fixed price Low-Rate Initial production contracts worth
$185.6 million and $111.4 million respectively. Seven aircraft are
already in assembly in Amarillo, Texas.
Since the first AH-1Z made its maiden flight Dec. 7, 2000, the five
aircraft assigned to the H-1 Upgrades program here, tallied a total
of 3,324 flight test hours and 3,048 test sorties in the development
test and qualification of the AH-1Z and UH-1Y. The aircraft also have
fired more than 2,000 2.75-inch rockets, 13,662 rounds of machine gun
and automatic cannon ammunition, 11 Hellfire anti-armor missiles and
three AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.
To date, the H-1 Operational Test Team has put a total of 156.6 flight
hours on the aircraft in 92 sorties.
The AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom are slated to replace the current
fleet of AH-1W and UH-1N aircraft which have been operating at sea
with the Marine Corps for many years. The H-1 program provides over
80 percent parts commonality for the two aircraft.
A change to the program that will build UH-1Ys completely new, rather
than remanufacturing them from aging UH-1N’s, was approved by
the Defense Department’s acquisition chief in April 2005. The
first new build UH-1Ys will start production in 2006 as part of the
third lot of low-rate initial production aircraft. First deliveries
of the new aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2008.
“The program has changed significantly since its inception to
significantly enhance the performance and operational effectiveness
of the aircraft beyond the original requirement,” said Col. Keith
Birkholz, the H-1 program manager. “The original program approved
by Undersecretary of Defense Kaminski in 1996 provided for upgrades
to the aging UH-1N (Huey) and AH-1W (Super Cobra) rotor, transmission,
and tail systems, along with an AH-1W cockpit upgrade (the AH-1W suffers
from having a very high pilot workload).
“The current program provides for a common cockpit upgrade for
both aircraft,” he added, “significantly improved reliability,
maintainability, and supportability, training systems compatible with
the USMC training vision, along with significant improvements to performance/payload/warfighting
well beyond original expectations.”
The resulting systems provide more capability and lower lifecycle
costs than was expected from the program at its inception in FY96.
“Developing and incorporating these new technologies will ultimately
provide the Marines with a more capable, survivable and lethal system
that’s a vast leap in capability beyond the aging platforms they
currently operate, and with greatly reduced total lifecycle costs,” said
Among the new technologies adding capability to the aircraft is the
Thales-supplied Helmet Mounted Sight and Display system.
“The helmet mounted sight and display is cutting edge technology
in the rotary wing environment and we are the first to attempt full
integration of it into an attack platform,” Birkholz explained. “The
Top Owl was an
‘off-the-shelf” option chosen by every pilot who participated in
the comparison testing/trade study in 2001. We plan to optimize the Top Owl
display module system to meet unique requirements of Marine Corps missions
and employment without any changes to the aircraft interfaces, helmet tracker
Thales recently received a contract to optimize Top Owl optics and
displays for the USMC mission, according to Birkholz. Program officials
expect to be ready to field the optimized Top Owl concurrent with the
UH-1Y fleet introduction scheduled for FY08.
“Modifications we are making to the helmet will incorporate
alternative night vision concepts based on existing and proven technology
while retaining the extensive integration of the Top Owl system already
completed,” Birkholz added.
PMA-276 and the H-1 Integrated Test Team now have more Top Owl time
than any other user.
By 2018, the Marine Corps will have procured 100 UH-1Y Venoms and
180 AH-1Z Vipers.
[Return to 2006 News Releases]