Next-Level Vertical Lift

big-mission-critical

From Armor & Mobility May/June 2017 Issue

U.S. SOCOM is putting emphasis on efforts to complete modifications to its proven next-generation rotary wing workhorse.

By Christian Sheehy, A&M Managing Editor

The MH-47G program has two critical and concurrent efforts that will maintain U.S. Special Operations Command’s heavy-assault rotary wing lift capability. These two main efforts are the Block 2.3 upgrade and the Renew programs. The Block 2.3 upgrade program procures, integrates, and installs new and improved capabilities including electrical systems improvements and improved operator seats. This upgrade also restores payload by optimizing the currently fielded airframe and mission equipment. The Renew program, in close collaboration with the U.S. Army’s CH-47F Block II effort, replaces our MH-47G legacy airframes with newly built machined airframes incorporating emerging technologies to maintain readiness and sustain the heavy-assault rotary wing capability for the next 20-30 years. The first Renew aircraft are projected for delivery in FY20.

Program Executive Office Rotary Wing (PEO RW) is presently supporting two important MH-47 programs involving improved communications and navigation: Mission Processor Upgrades and Airborne Mission Networking,. The Mission Processor Upgrades program replaces older avionics and improves software to keep pace with evolving Global Air Traffic Management requirements and SOF mission requirements; and addresses component obsolescence. The Airborne Mission Networking program provides supported operators and aircrews with the ability to send and receive mission critical data to tactical and operational nodes in the battlespace. “We continue to look at smaller, lighter and more reliable communication systems that provide greater capability to maintain our comparative advantage in the current and future combat environment,” said Mr. Donald (Don) Reedy, Deputy PEO, Program Executive Office Rotary Wing (PEO RW), HQ U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

Tackling Adverse Condition Challenges

”We have several on-going programs that will enhance aircraft survivability, avionics, navigation, and sensors systems,” remarked Reedy. Two of these programs are the Degraded Visual Environment (DVE) and Silent Knight Radar (SKR) programs. The DVE program fuses information from aircraft sensors with terrain elevation data to display real-time reference points, obstacles, and landing zone information to the aviator for safe and reliable situational awareness all the way to the ground. “The DVE solution will provide MH-47 and MH-60 aircrews with visual cues for obstacle avoidance during all phases of flight and significantly increase crew and passenger survivability, “noted Mr. Donald (Don) Reedy, Deputy PEO, PEO RW, HQ U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). “The DVE program is currently in the development and qualification phase with production starting in FY18. “The SKR program provides SOF with common Terrain Following / Terrain Avoidance radar,” added Reedy. The SKR program is scheduled to finish flight test and qualification this year with full rate production planned in FY18.

Protection Level

In terms of protection packaging, the MH-47G benefits from a fielded, advanced lightweight armor protection system. “The Aircraft Occupant Ballistic Protection System meets current protection requirements,” remarked Reedy. “However, we are always looking at ways we can reduce weight while maintaining the same level of protection with emerging technologies.

Integration and Sustainment

The MH-47G Renew program, in collaboration with the Army’s CH-47F Block II effort, will replace the majority of MH-47G legacy airframes with newly built machined airframes incorporating emerging technologies to maintain mission effectiveness. These new machined airframes will yield lower sustainment costs versus the aging legacy sheet metal airframes. “Along with lower costs, we anticipate reduced aircraft maintenance repair time and project higher operational availability rates for the Renewed MH-47G fleet,” added Reedy.

Challenges Moving Forward

“Currently, our greatest challenge is starting the Renew program this fiscal year (FY17) without an approved President’s Budget (PB),” noted Reedy. “The MH-47G Renew program is a new start program, and under a government continued resolution (CR), we are not able to initiate this effort or obligate funds without an approved FY17 PB. Any further delay past the current CR could potentially delay initial aircraft deliveries scheduled to start in FY20.”