THE FEASIBILITY OF using commercially operated helicopters for vertical replenishment (Vertrep) of warships is to be further evaluated during a follow-on at-sea cargo-movement demonstration scheduled by the US Navy for later this year.

In January, the US Military Sealift Command (MSC) issued a request, for proposals for a second demonstration of commercially provided Vertrep services. The competition is open to rotorcraft manufacturers and commercial-helicopter operators providing off-the-shelf helicopters.

The demonstration tentatively scheduled to run, between 14 April and 2 June is intended to determine whether commercial helicopters can replace aging Boeing CH-46s in conducting Vertrep and other operational missions, over long periods in remote areas. If successful, the test could be followed by a two-year evaluation.

In 1995, Kaman Aerospace demonstrated the ability of two K-MAX helicopters to re-supply USN combatants under a $690,000 MSC contract.

Kaman, a US commercial operator, and Sikorsky Aircraft are likely to submit bids, based on the K-MAX and the Eurocopter Super Puma and UH-60 Black Hawk, respectively.

McDonnell Douglas could offer the EH Industries EH101. McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems (MDHS) has an agreement with the Agusta/Westland joint venture to market the EH101 (as the MD101) to the US military.

In addition to performing day/night Vertrep missions, between two ships while under way, the winning helicopter will be required to demonstrate its capability to conduct search-and-rescue (SAR) operations, as well as providing medical evacuation services.

The evaluation, to be conducted from the USN Niagara Falls, will also examine flight-deck-compatibility issues.

Source: Flight International