Out-Stalking the Night Stalkers with CSAR-X?

Weekly Standard blogger Michael Goldfarb, who has a keen eye for aerospace and defense industry issues and technology, also seems to have good connections.

Goldfarb has posted an email from an anonymous "friend" who conducted some of the trade studies in the CSAR-X competition, who writes:

"My analysis showed it coming in a poor third behind the Sikorsky S-92 and the EH-101. The only thing it had going for it was range and payload, both of which were excessive for the mission. From a survivability perspective, it is not a good choice, being large, slow and unmaneuverable. Its landing footprint is so large that many extraction points available to the other two candidates would be foreclosed to the Chinook, meaning that aircrew would have to be extracted by cable hoist–a slower and more dangerous proposition, since while the aircrew are being winched up, the helo must hover for an extended time.

Boeing kept its costs down by using remanufactured CH-47D airframes (as if the Army has enough!) to MH-47F standards, which would include a new glass cockpit, new digital engine controls, enlarged sponsons with increased fuel capacity, uprated transmissions, a new mission avionics suite (common to all three candidates, so the cost there was a wash), and additional armor around the crew stations and flight control system.How it won, I don’t know. My suspicion is two factors were at work. First, the Air Force wanted to ensure that this was an "interim" solution that would not, in the long term, endanger procurement of the MH-22 Osprey as the "objective" system–though it is not clear to me that the Osprey is really ideal for CSAR except from the perspective of speed and transit time. Second, the MH-47F would add a significant special operations capability to the USAF inventory, which would make it more of a player in the SOCOM community, and pose a challenge to the Night Stalkers of the 160th SOAR. After all, the 160th has only a small number of MH -47Es, so the addition of sixty or so birds with equivalent or superior night flying capabilities, each with the capacity to carry 40+ fully equipped troops or a light vehicle, would give the Air Force a lot of credibility."

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One Response to Out-Stalking the Night Stalkers with CSAR-X?

  1. Airpower 23 April, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    The idea that the Chinook decision is a great big USAF ‘land grab’ is intriguing – it’s certainly a happy co-incidence that the HH-47 is a substantial expansion for the USAF in terms of fleet size and notional capability.

    The suggestion here that the HH-47 is the perfect stepping stone to the V-22 should not be dismissed. I mean, you can’t make a good argument for going (eventually) from an S-92 to a V-22 in terms of size/cost/capability…but Chinook to Osprey, well that seems to make some sense – and cue Dollar signs in eyes.

    The CSAR-X decision is certainly jarring for Army Aviation – the USAF has parked its Chinooks on the 160th SOAR’s lawn, so to speak.

    So all-in-all one starts to wonder just what kind of decision making process was really influencing the HH-47′s selection?

    A correction is needed to some of Goldfarb’s criticisms of the Chinook – it is neither slow nor unmanoeuvrable. The Chinook has a cruise spped and a max speed in line with its two CSAR-X competitors and anyone who has flown with a SF pilot at the controls knows that it’s no brick.

    What it is is very, very, very large – and noisey – and large. It can’t go places, it can’t land places – and that is going to limit ops to a dangerous extent when the rescuing starts.

    Size isn’t always bad. You’ll certainly need something as big as a Chinook to rescue the crew from the first one you sent in to be shot down over the LZ in the initial recovrey attempt. But perhaps you should avoid getting into that situation to begin with.

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