The US Army National Guard has initiated the long-awaited programme to re-engine 131 ageing Bell Helicopter UH-1 light utility helicopters with Light Helicopter Turbine Engine (LHTEC) T800 turboshafts.

The initial engine certification work, which covers the installation of LHTEC CTS800-54 engines in two UH-1s, will be paid for with $10 million that the US Congress earmarked for a UH-1 Huey service-life-extension-programme in fiscal year 1996. On 14 October, LHTEC was awarded $5.3 million for their part in the engine certification/installation work and flight- test evaluation. The Army reserve organisation will have to come up with at least $100 million in the future to re-engine 131 UH-1s destined for three existing National Guard Light Utility Helicopter Battalions. About 800 Hueys are operated by the National Guard, and a larger re-engining programme is possible.

The project will eventually yield engines for the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, and it helps the US Army and LHTEC bridge a potential three-year engine production gap. The US Army will reclaim the engines for Comanche when the UH-1Hs are retired.

The engine differs from the Comanche configuration in the fuel control and the requirement for having a control system and an integral reduction gearbox. These modifications will be removed when the engines are transferred to the AH-66. LHTEC says that the Huey qualification programme will last for about 30 months. The US Border Patrol had successfully operated a handful of T800-powered UH-1Hs, but concluded they were too expensive for its needs.

The first of eight Colombian air force OH-1As upgraded to the Bell Huey II configuration has had its maiden flight. The project results from a deal between Bell and Corporacion de la Industria Aeronautica of Bogota.

Source: Flight International