Navy to Buy Commercial Helicopters for Rotary-Wing Training
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy is ready to move ahead with a replacement for its legacy TH-57 training helicopter by procuring a commercially available helicopter, rather than developing a new military training helicopter.
“To replace the 115 TH-57 helicopters, we’re taking a new approach,” Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, the Navy’s director of air warfare, said in March 6 testimony on aviation programs before the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee. “We’re going for a commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft that is going to be competed and then, after the competition, buy those aircraft. We’re going through the actual maintenance plan [and] certification plan. We’re not building a new military aircraft. We’re going to take a commercial aircraft and put it into that mission of training the next generation of rotary-wing pilots.”
The TH-57 Sea Ranger, a derivative of the Bell 206, has trained rotary-wing pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard since 1968. It is flown by three helicopter training squadrons at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Milton, Florida.The Navy plans to begin funding the helicopter beginning in 2020. It plans to procure 25 helicopters each in 2020, 2021 and 2022, and 10 in 2023, for a total of 85 over the years 2019-2025.