Heavy transport helicopter would combine USMC upgrade with composite fuselage

Sikorsky is trying to interest the European rotorcraft industry in the development of a heavy transport helicopter (HTH) derivative of the CH-53E for the proposed European rapid reaction force. The design would leverage off the US Marine Corps' planned modernisation of the CH-53E's avionics, powerplant and dynamic components (Flight International, 2-8 July).

The company has studied several options to meet Europe's requirements, including upgrading the German army's smaller CH-53Gs or developing a new helicopter. The most cost-effective solution to improving payload/range performance is combining the USMC's upgrade with an enlarged composite fuselage and fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls, says Sikorsky.

Developing an all-new helicopter will cost $4-5 billion compared to the USMC's $800 million modernisation, and around $1 billion to develop the HTH's composite airframe and FBW system. "There appears to be natural synergies with the USMC needing more lift over 200nm [370km] while retaining a shipboard capability, versus Europe's need to carry a slightly smaller internal load, but over more range," says Chris Van Buiten, Sikorsky manager advanced development.

The HTH would trade reduced weight from an all-composite airframe for an extended 300-600km radius. Sikorsky has outlined cabin sizes from 10 x 2.5 x 2.5m (33 x 8 x 8ft) up to 12 x 3.2 x 3.0m, depending on payload size. "We think 10 x 2.8 x 2.6m is about right," says Van Buiten, based on accommodating European 10t-class armoured vehicles while allowing the HTH to be airlifted by the Airbus/SATICA300-600ST Beluga transporter.

Sikorsky sees a potential market of 200 HTHs, based on the present European forces' CH-53G and Boeing CH-47C/D fleets. The next step is expected to be the award of multiple study contracts. Boeing is similarly looking at an enlarged CH-47.

Source: Flight International