Marine Corps Aims for 2033 to Begin Replacement of H-1 Helicopters
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps is planning on leveraging the Army-led Future Vertical Lift (FVL) program to field the rotary-wing aircraft expected to replace its UH-1Y Venom utility helicopter and AH-1Z Viper helicopter gunship in the early 2030s, a Marine Corps requirements official said.
Speaking Dec. 9 during a panel discussion on FVL at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, Marine Col. John Barranco, head of Rotorcraft Requirements for Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, said the service expects to start replacing the oldest UH-1Ys in 2033 and the oldest AH-1Zs in 2035.
Barranco said the service plans on building in more capability in the replacement, noting that with the replacement of the CH-46 helicopter by the MV-22B Osprey, the AH-1Z is not able to keep up and provide assault support.
Under the FVL, the Capability Set 3 — the medium-lift category that the UH-60 currently represents to the Army — would be used to develop the replacement for the Marine Corps’ H-1 fleet.
“The greatest joint need is a Capability Set 3 system,” said Army Col. Erskine Bentley, director, FVL capability manager for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, who also spoke on the panel. He listed speed, range, payload, sustainment and survivability as the major attributes, along with open-architecture systems, as well as the use of manned-unmanned teaming and the possibility of being optionally crewed.
“With the exception of the Osprey, we haven’t really seen any large technological advances since the second or third generation [of rotary-wing aviation] — not since Vietnam,” Barranco said.
Barranco said there also is a threat-reduction aspect to the characteristics desired for the next rotorcraft, noting that increased range and speed would reduce the number of forward air refueling points needed to support rotary-wing aircraft in a battle zone, and therefore reduce the vulnerability of those points and the helicopters themselves.
He said that an all-networked aircraft can easily share data and situational awareness with a data system such as Link 16.
“The ability to share information and situational awareness is a form of threat reduction,” Barranco said. “The ability to have this open architecture and have all of our aircraft linked, sharing threats, sharing friendly locations, enemy locations, mission data, etc., real-time, simultaneously on the battlefield — that is one of the greatest survivability pieces we could possibly do. And that’s not to say we’re not going to continue to invest in directed-energy systems or counter-IR [infrared] missiles, counter-radar systems. We are. But I can think of no better way to reduce the threat in the modern environment than have everyone be linked and be a network node sharing networked information.
“That kind of digital interoperability is probably our greatest overmatch right now against our potential opponents,” he said. “Some of our potential competitors make good hardware — [tactical] jets and rotary-wing aircraft. But can they network them and share information real time on the battlefield that we have the potential to do? I’d argue, now, they can’t. That’s where we have our greatest advantage and we need to exploit that. We need to exploit that.
“From the [Capability Set 3] to the whole family of systems, some of it back-fitted to legacy systems, that’s going to benefit all aircraft across the joint force,” he said.
Barranco also noted that the Corps would want a new rotorcraft to be teamed with a Group 5 unmanned aerial vehicle being developed for the service.