US Coast Guard idea to extend service lives of existing aircraft attacked in Congress

A rebaselined Deepwater re-equipment programme presented to Congress by the US Coast Guard has the US helicopter industry worried because it proposes extending the service lives of the existing Eurocopter HH-65H and Sikorsky HH-60J and abandons plans for a new helicopter.

Sources say plans for a recovery and surveillance helicopter dubbed the VRS have been dropped, and instead the USCG plans to retain and upgrade the HH-65 and HH-60. Deepwater prime contractor Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman team, had identified the Bell/Agusta Aerospace AB139 as its "notional" VRS.

The AB139 had fallen out of favour for the VRS requirement because it could not match the range of the HH-60J. Instead, Bell/Agusta had begun angling the aircraft towards the companion Multi-mission Cutter Helicopter (MCH) requirement. But under the Deepwater plan the HH-65 will be upgraded to meet the MCH requirement, while the HH-60 will receive avionics and other upgrades and continue in service.

Critics of the revised modernisation plan argue it is a step backwards to thinking built around legacy assets, rather than the overall system-of-systems performance specification on which the Deepwater programme is based. Industry is concerned because the HH-65 would evolve into the MCH – and essentially become a Eurocopter EC155 – without there being a competition.

Describing the revised plan as "inadequate", critics in Congress have attacked the rebaseline because it "appears to propose continued spending on legacy assets at the expense of new assets".


Source: Flight International