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thedrifter
11-01-05, 04:20 PM
Upgraded birds set to begin final exams

By John Hoellwarth
Times staff writer

The Marine Corps accepted delivery Oct. 15 of two new-model light-attack helicopters that will soon begin their "final exam before graduation."

If both helicopters perform well during their "operational evaluation" over the next six months, Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 303 at Camp Pendleton's air station will become the first fleet unit to begin flying the new AH-1Z Super Cobra and the UH-1Y Huey, according to John Milliman, a spokesman for Naval Air Systems Command.

During operational evaluation, pilots fly the aircraft through the same kind of missions they can be expected to perform in the field. Bell Helicopter's delivery of the new Hueys and Super Cobras marks the end of the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the aircrafts' development.

If the new Hueys perform as expected, 100 aircraft will be built and delivered to the Corps' operating forces one squadron at a time following the operational evaluation, and the UH-1N model will be gradually phased out until the final Y model is delivered to the fleet in 2012.

If the next-generation Super Cobra is blessed by its evaluators, the Corps will remanufacture 180 W models into Z models by putting them through a retooling process that requires a full two years in the shop for each of the Cobras currently operating in the fleet, Milliman said.

The upgrades to both aircraft, which serve side by side in the Corps' light-attack helicopter squadrons, double the Huey's payload and range and allow the new Super Cobra to double either one or the other.

Bell has engineered the new models to be 84 percent common with each other. Only the shape of each bird's airframe will mask the commonality in engines, rotor blades, drive trains, hydraulics and electrical distribution systems, according to an Oct. 25 Bell press release.

"You can take the skids off one aircraft, walk them over, and attach them to the other," Milliman said.

The use of common components greatly eases the logistics support process for the two helicopters, which will more easily operate from ships because they'll need fewer spare parts and support equipment, Milliman said.

Gunnery Sgt. William Potts, one of the few aircraft mechanics who has gotten some wrench time on the new model helicopters, said the birds' common components will mean better close-air support for junior Marines on the ground and less maintenance for junior Marines in the hangar bay.

"In the early days of [light-attack helicopter] squadrons, they maintained the UH-1N and the AH-1J, which were almost identical, mechanically and electrically speaking," Potts said. "Then the AH-1J was replaced by the AH-1T, which still had some similarity to the UH-1N."

The AH-1T, he said, was also similar to the Huey, but by the time the AH-1W came along, Hueys and Cobras were nothing like each other.

"So, needless to say, the maintainers had to put in twice the effort in order learn and maintain the aircraft … to support our groundside brethren."

Since the new Huey and Super Cobra are so similar apart from their weapons systems, Potts said "the Marine maintainers should be as excited to get these new 'toys' as the pilots who get to fly them, if not more so."

If most of the parts are identical, he said, then most of the needed test equipment is identical and most, if not all, of the tools required to maintain the birds will be the same.

"What this means to a maintainer is that there should be fewer items that they will be required to deploy with, thus making life a little easier," Potts said.

yellowwing
11-01-05, 04:43 PM
Dang! Someone in screwed up and are actually giving us Air Wingers a break :banana: