Maybe the VH-3D isn’t so bad

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President Barack Obama kidded yesterday that he didn’t realize he was so deprived by the VH-3D that he needed a new helicopter. It was a great line. Even presidential rival Senator John McCain laughed heartily. But was Obama’s comment, in fact, untrue? Is he deprived by his executive helicopter?

The first Sikorsky VH-3D was delivered in December 1974, making the oldest helicotper in the HMX-1 fleet slightly more than 34 years old. But despite a three-year-old program to develop a replacement, the US Navy has quietly launched a wide-ranging upgrade program for the VH-3Ds. Maybe there’s some more life in the old fleet after all. Consider this list of known, funded upgrades:

  1. Lift Improvement Program, including newly designed composite main rotor blades
  2. Communication Suite Upgrade, which adds satcom and high frequency links
  3. Fuel System Upgrade, to improve reliability and crash survivability
  4. Cushier VIP seats
  5. My favorite: EMP-Hardened acrylic windows

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9 Responses to Maybe the VH-3D isn’t so bad

  1. Dave 24 February, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    I think the VH-3D is probably going to hapen. I can’t see them continuing with the VH-71- especially since it’s pretty much the poster child of what’s wrong with the procurement system. I remember a couple months back Loren Thompson telling me the last completely successful new US military helicopter program was the original Blackhawk.

  2. Stephen Trimble 24 February, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    That depends on whether you want to count the UH-72 Lakota, which is technically a civilian helicopter with a military designation. But I agree with Loren Thompson’s assessment.

  3. solomon 25 February, 2009 at 1:17 am #

    i think the real question is…what does the new helicopter bring to the table that the old one doesn’t? and if it does bring something new is it worth the cost?

  4. Stephen Trimble 25 February, 2009 at 1:20 am #

    What do you think?

  5. Royce 25 February, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    This is crazy. The simplest solution is to reduce the requirements for the VH-71. Strip out anything that isn’t already in the VH-3 and you get new helicopters in a executive configuration at an affordable price with no increase or decrease in capability.

  6. Stephen Trimble 25 February, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    I agree with you from a technical perspective. But this is all about politics now. Just like tankers. Seriously, can anyone see the US president buying himself a new executive helicopter right now?

  7. Royce 25 February, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    I’d say it depends. The H-3s are old, and despite some attempts in the press to tie bizjet use by bankers and autoexecs to Obama’s use of AF-1, I’d say most people recognize a difference between a corporate CEO and the president. If Obama was able to alter the program to make it cheaper by cutting requirements he might actually win some political points, particularly since the new helicopters will presumably be cheaper to maintain. Then he’d be in a position of saying, “I inherited this bloated program from my predecessor, and cut the cost of each chopper by 75% and lowered the expected budget of the WH flight service.”

  8. EG 25 February, 2009 at 4:27 pm #

    Royce,
    I’m not sure about the costs. There are tons of H-3 components and airframes out there. I suspect net overhaul costs are going to be way cheaper in the long run then new parts.

  9. Mike Metal 29 September, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Nintendo merely continues moving along at its own pace. We all thought they’d speed up the release of the Nintendo 3DS unit but they have maintained the release date as March, 2011.

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