Work on New Medium Helicopter is progressing and early market engagement has commenced, according to the Ministry of Defence.

Jeremy Quin, Minister for Defence Procurement, said in a statement:

“Work on New Medium Helicopter is progressing and early market engagement has commenced. Initial provisioning and cost estimate work is part of this activity but will not be released prior to the expected competition and eventual contract award as this could undermine our commercial position.”

Last year, we reported that the New Medium Helicopter Programme will see four of the medium-sized helicopters currently in service across the armed forces replaced by one new helicopter.

It is understood that the helicopters will be operated jointly by the Army and RAF under Joint Helicopter Command.

According to a news release:

“The announcement was made in the Defence Command Paper. It will form part of the Army’s programme of transformation, Future Soldier, which will deliver an Army that is leaner, lighter, faster to respond, and more effectively matched to current and future threats.

The New Medium Helicopter Programme will see four of the medium-sized helicopters currently in service across Defence replaced by one new helicopter. This will include the Bell 212 that is used by the Army Air Corps in the jungle areas of Brunei.”

Work on the programme is at an early stage with effort primarily focused on developing and refining key user requirements.

Details in relation to the procurement strategy, basing locations, fleet size, delivery schedule and organisational structure are all being assessed, say the Army.

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eclipse
eclipse
7 days ago

I’m so confused. I thought it was replacing five helicopters??

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Puma (RAF)
Bell 212 (Army)
Bell 412 (RAF)
Dauphin (SF)

I think Gazelle will be replaced by something smaller.

Last edited 7 days ago by James William Fennell
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago

Yep.

geoff
geoff
7 days ago

Good Afternoon Daniele-two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time here. I tried to return your greeting on the thread re the Stealth bomber accident per the CMS notification but it appears the thread has split in two neither of which showed your post !?1 Also when I call up the article from the CMS notification it won’t let me reply on that page for some reason. Technology is too much with us-me in particular! Have enjoyed your detailed posts on various subjects recently-you have an excellent and broad knowledge squire, along with others on this site, sometimes difficult for a… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by geoff
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  geoff

Hello my friend! Mid day in Sunny, yes SUNNY, Surrey.

To be fair I’m not far of your level with tech mate!

Klonkie
Klonkie
6 days ago

good old Surrey. My missus is from Godalming.
Stunning hot sunny day in Auckland.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Klonkie

Just up the road from me! I know it it well mate.

Klonkie
Klonkie
6 days ago

Excellent- stay safe Mate!

David
David
6 days ago

Hi Daniele,

I have to agree with Geoff – I do enjoy reading your posts and also like Geoff, I have learned a great deal. Keep up the good work my friend!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  David

Morning David, cheers.

Klonkie
Klonkie
6 days ago

Hi D

I’m guessing Gazelle will end up not being replaced (pretty small numbers -20 or so)? To be fair, much of their original tasking is done by watchkeeper.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Klonkie

Mate. There is a programme to replace the few Gazelle remaining.

Klonkie
Klonkie
6 days ago

that is really good news!.

Johan
Johan
7 days ago

Gazelle is no longer classed as an operational type, due to lightweight armour, Wildcat took over battlefield Recon.

Klonkie
Klonkie
6 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Hi Johan. I did think the same as you, however Daniele reckons there is a plan to replace them , so potentially good news.

David Howard
David Howard
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

There is discussion that the medium lift helicopter will also replace the army wildcat too and there wildcat will be used by the navy

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

five is probably the number of Helicopters that will end up being purchased😀

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
5 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

The only AC that it could possibly replace would be the Merlin. However Merlin is a much larger bit of kit and much more capable than anything they are lying to buy. Plus it is well engineered for deck landings.

Pacman27
Pacman27
7 days ago

silly Question this probably but why don’t we just buy more Merlin and standardise our fleet, if we are not going down a tilt rotor path Chinook – heavy Merlin – medium wildcat – Light Apache – Attack the Merlin has had a shed load of investment and I believe new purchases come in around £20m, plus we have all the spares and knowledge this would also buy us some time until the next family of helicopters come out. not sure why we need to spend loads of time and money on this if the capability isn’t substantially different to… Read more »

Paul T
Paul T
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I totally agree, Merlin would be a good fit until the next generation of rotary assets come out of the American competition. The UK could then have a common asset with our closest military partner.

Pacman27
Pacman27
7 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

from what I can see – the new US FVL helicopter are looking good and from a lament point of view I think it will be a tough call, as they are very different proposals, but I also think we will need to align with whatever the US choose and that is going to be in the next 5 years I would assume, so why don’t we wait and align.

either way – I think this is a stupid waste of time and money when we have far better things to do.

David Barry
David Barry
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

We’ve increased head shed count from 700 to circa 750… while decreasing the actual teeth arms; the head shed need something to do, smell the coffee!

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  Paul T

I think FVL will be part of the equation for the Merlin / Chinook replacement conundrum which will be early 2030s.

Steve
Steve
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I read that Merlin’s performed badly in afgan/Iraq, although I don’t know how many of the issues have now been resolved.

Daveyb
Daveyb
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve

See above.

David Barry
David Barry
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve

I was told Merlins performed badly in the Baltics…

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Apparently this was because the composites in the fuselage took longer to fix than the simple patches etc. that could have been done on a metal-skinned aircraft like Chinook.
The issue with this for me is that anything newer than Chinook is going to have composites in them, including those FVL fancy units the Americans are developing. We need to get the capabilities and skills into the AAC and RAF to be able to fix them in the field, or accept that future warfare is going to come with a lot more downtime.

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

3d printing?

Joe16
Joe16
5 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

Potentially, I honestly don’t know how it all works- I just know we need to make it work!

Clive Scott
Clive Scott
6 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Could the composites be repaired with Teroson(Plastic Padding) products that are used on battlefield repairs for the army. In the industrial side of Loctite, there are products for the repair of plastics such as epoxies, polyurethanes. Though I would appreciate that the repair products would need to be certified for aircraft.

Joe16
Joe16
5 days ago
Reply to  Clive Scott

Honestly, I’ve no idea- but something along those lines needs to be developed going forward.

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Its not a silly question at all. The obvious solution is to just buy more Merlins and get some economies of scale etc. However, following the most recent, savage cuts the Army now has a surfeit of career senior officer types who need something to do to justify their existence before they reach retirement age. you can expect them to conclude that we do not need so many medium helicopters and so the fleet will be cut, perhaps by as much as 50%

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  David Lloyd

Doubt it.

24 Puma, 2 squadrons.
Handful of Bell 212, 1 Squadron.
Handful of Bell 412, 1 Squadron.
6 Dauphin. 1 Squadron.

A reduction of 50 % would leave the acquisition meaningless with that force structure, considering 84 Sqn and 667 AAC have but a handful of cabs anyway.

Around 30 to 40 will be ordered in my opinion. We need more, but there you go.

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
7 days ago

12 Bell 212 were bought secondhand from Bristows (ex- oilfield support helos) when Wessex was retired from Hong Kong and Cyprus to provide support to the training facilities in Canada and Brunei, they are operated by the AAC. They have since also been deployed to Kenya and Belize in same role. The RAF bought Bell Canada Griffins (412s) to replace Wessex for training in UK and SAR at Akrotiri at the same time – there are only 3 left in service. The Dauphins operated by the SAS from Hereford are secondhand commercial airframes. They all need replacing, and the Army… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by James William Fennell
David Barry
David Barry
7 days ago
Reply to  David Lloyd

You beat me to it 🙁

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Because Merlin is incredibly expensive to operate and complicated and too big for medium lift. I think your £20m is well shy of the current cost (the Mk 3s cost £19 million each when new in the early 2000s).The Army/RAF never wanted them anyway – too big and complex for most utility tasks, and not big enough for heavy-lift for which they have Chinook. Better that Merlin is the Navy’s platform for which they are suited (and designed). A smaller cheaper to operate utility helicopter is needed that can be bought in numbers to do medium lift, SAR and SF… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by James William Fennell
Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago

Yes, a lot of people just don’t realise how big Merlin actually is compared to your average medium rotor, it’s sort of not quite heavy lift but a lot bigger that any battlefield taxi types like the AW149 or black hawk.

Merlin is brilliant at what it is which is a very high end large maritime rotor, where that extra engine and range pays off. but cheap meduim size battle field taxi it will never be.

Last edited 6 days ago by Jonathan
Ambivalent Lurker
Ambivalent Lurker
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

For RAF/Army its currently : Apache-Attack, Wildcat-Battlefield Utility/Recce, Puma, Bell 212, Bell412, Dauphin-Medium lift and SAR (for the 212 and 412), Chinook: Heavy. Pretty obvius that all of the Mediium heliopters should be rationalised into one fleet but why would anyone seriously consider replacing a Puma, Dauphin or Huey with a Merlin? It’s twice the size of these… This is standardising the fleet. Remember that Merlin is used now only by the RN (and RM for the Junglies that are former RAF HC3’s with tail fold added) so you’d just be introducing another variant into the mix thats actually far… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Ambivalent Lurker
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

I understand Merlin is a good, even peerless, sub hunter. It is not so good in the SH role.

We need something smaller, cheaper, and more numerous.

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
7 days ago

Exactly

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
7 days ago

Is the Merlin as we know it still built? I thought it was an Italianised copter with an Italian name and US engines now. Either way even if it was built here it would be a short term option that would likely compromise the longer term future of Yeovil than would a new Leonardo derived design with a modern production line. And of course very expensive too so just not worth any consideration.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I have no idea.

Mark
Mark
7 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

The Merlin was a joint Westland and Agusta design and yes it’s made at Yeovil. The UK primarily needed an advanced long range sub hunter and specified RR Turbomeca RTM322, the Italians wanted the GE option. I think we are nearing the end of production to provide the Norwegien’s with 16 S&R versions although I read somewhere they were thinking of taking up the 4 options.

Johan
Johan
6 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

Currently, as we have NO, new merlins assembled @ Yeovil using Italian and Polish parts. no longer fully manufactured in the UK. assembled yes, bit like a mini.

John Clark
John Clark
7 days ago

Cough, cough, Blackhawk, cough …. I know, I’ll get my coat…..

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Exactly!

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus
7 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Proven design, liked by aircrew/troops, reliable, delivered on time and within budget, sufficient numbers, no delays.

Or ….

10 airframes, unproven design, years late, over budget, gold plated avionics, never works., local MP becomes consultant for manufacturer

Last edited 7 days ago by Posse Comitatus
John Clark
John Clark
7 days ago

Site it will be option B!

Johan
Johan
6 days ago

You Know it

Johan
Johan
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Its the preferred Option, Over the other Millionaires shown ponies but won’t be built in the UK. and that’s its weakness

Daveyb
Daveyb
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

That would definitely be going down the wrong route for the following reasons: To big! It has nearly the same footprint as a Chinook. This means it has to land in similar sized space. The beauty with the Puma was that it could land in smaller spaces such as mud brick compound enclosures that are found all over the developing World. The upper fuselage is made from composites. Although these are great for weight saving. For a battlefield taxi, that is expected to attract small arms damage. It is a nightmare to repair when compared to a metal alloy. There… Read more »

Andrew Deacon
Andrew Deacon
7 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Would all of the new designs have the composite material issue ?

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Deacon

Yes, all but the Blackhawk.The Blackhawk is predominantly an all metal construction, it does use composites for access panels, rotor blades etc. Going through as much Leonardo blurb as possible, the only thing they mention about the airframe is that it is ruggedized. Leonardo use one of their subsidiary companies PZL-Świdnik, to build a lot of their helicopter airframes. Looking at their website photos of an AW189 in construction. This is a predominantly composite structure. The AW149 is based on the AW189, so it probably uses the same construction. Looking at the photos and vshow and tell vidos of the… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

That was really interesting thankyou for taking the time to post Davey

AlexS
AlexS
5 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Incorrect. AW 149 is not based on AW 189, it is the inverse. AW 189 is based on AW 149

DaveyB
DaveyB
4 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

How about that, I stand corrected. The AW149 first flew in 2009 and the AW189 in 2011 go figure. You would have thought it would have been the other way round?

Pacman27
Pacman27
7 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

If we can get one of the above for £10m a copy then we should order 100 and be done with it, any less and the cost will probably go up and

surely we can afford £1bn for such an important capability.

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Are new examples really that cheap?! I’m really surprised, in a good way! I imagine that the running costs may be higher than a smaller airframe like an AW149 (my current favourite for the competition), and it may be that the Merlin is legitimately too big for some of the tasks. But introducing a new type into service normally comes with higher running costs while everyone gets used to it, so that may actually still be a plus point for Merlin! Personally, I’d strip all Wildcat out and give them to the RN only, then let the AAC and RAF… Read more »

Pacman27
Pacman27
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

my cost estimate is from memory of an article on STRN.

even if it’s £25m per unit we have all the parts training simulators etc. and it gives us time to wait on the US FVL decision

i really just don’t get why so much effort into what is essentially such a small order

Johan
Johan
6 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Replacing 4 different types with 1 offers a huge reduction in the spares/service/operation costs. AW149 Millionaires show pony painted Green, lot of Plexi panels and composite. maybe a good vip transport but shite battlefield platform.

Joe16
Joe16
6 days ago
Reply to  Johan

I think you may be getting mixed up: The AW149 ws developed from the ground up as a military transport- the civilian AW189 was derived from it, not the other way around. Pretty much all modern helicopters, military included, include a lot of composites in their design. As will the FVL models that the US are developing at the moment. This was apprently the primary cause of Merlin’s lower availability in Afghanistan; we didn’t have the skills and materials to be able to patch damaged composites like we could more traditional material types. We’re going to need those in future… Read more »

Fedaykin
Fedaykin
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

It isn’t a silly question and it has been asked before but the short answer is no the Merlin wouldn’t be a suitable type for the Medium Helicopter replacement…it actually would be a pretty terrible choice to shoehorn it into that role. Before I give the more complex answer I want emphasise that I am not a “Merlin hater” but I am realistic about the type and its capabilities. The simple reality is the Merlin is not a Medium helicopter, it is too large, too complex and too expensive to run for the role. Merlin has a landing footprint that… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Fedaykin

Good post. Good detail, thanks.

Airborne
Airborne
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Merlin is a little delicate, and in an ideal world standardising fleets is the way forward, I don’t think the RAF would want any of them back.

AlexS
AlexS
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Merlin is a 3 engine helicopter very expensive to buy and operate. Plus it is bbbb…BIG!

The Leonardo AW 139, AW 149 , AW 169 are the best option.

Johan
Johan
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Only if you leave or work in Yeovil

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago
Reply to  Johan

Only if you want our nation to have a sovereign capability to build rotors. There is a lot more to defence than buying the kit, every bit of erosion of sovereignty capability erodes our nations future ability to defend itself and define its own future. Battles are won and lost by the army fighting it, wars and geopolitical independence are won by a nations total set of capabilities. The nation that depends on another for its defence, be that through armed forces, nuclear deterrent or lack of capacity to equip its own military has already potentially lost a future war.

JohninMK
JohninMK
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Good comment. I would add that often the nation loses the ability to take its own decisions, our nuclear deterrent being a prime example, basically a subsidiary fleet of the USN.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 days ago
Reply to  JohninMK

Yes this is why that although cross decking F35Bs from other nations is both great for training and shared operations, reducing the load on our own airframes ect. We much not see it as a replacement for being able to generate our own full air wings for the carriers if needed. we do need to be able to use these strategic assets on our own as we will have some areas of defence that even now we would be essentially on our own. The classic example is the BAT, if the Antarctic treaty failed ( and it will because America… Read more »

JohninMK
JohninMK
6 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

The BAT is rarely thought about.

Johan
Johan
7 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Because and you answered your own Question Merlin is a Heavy, and also the fleet end of life is 2030. Why RAF transferred Merlin to the Navy. Wildcat is not a Medium Lift.

Merlin is Assembled in the UK now from Italian and polish made parts.

Andy ardron
Andy ardron
6 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Except having mates that work on merlin it’s very capable but way too complex, spends way more time in pieces than in air

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
6 days ago
Reply to  Pacman27

Well said, I totally agree.

Henry Lamb
Henry Lamb
7 days ago

I’m sorry, what? Replacing 4 with 1? Well let’s hope 1 size fits all….

Challenger
Challenger
7 days ago

Whatever the selection the pressure will be on to go with something manufactured locally with a high level of UK content.

Surely it’s between the AW149 and the Airbus option.

Bob
Bob
7 days ago

Pity we didn’t replace the Puma with Blackhawks years ago. The Blackhawk has superior performance in almost every criteria.

Andrew Crisp
Andrew Crisp
7 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Can’t carry as many troops though – which I’d I recall was reason we didn’t buy it years ago -can’t carry 16 ie a platoon – it’s interesting therefore we don’t seem to have that need now

Andrew Crisp
Andrew Crisp
7 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

Just to add Puma can do 16 troops or 12 fully equipped so might not be an argument in reality

Bob
Bob
7 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Crisp

Yes, cabin volume is the one advantage the Puma has.
The Blackhawk carries 11 fully equipped troops.

Pacman27
Pacman27
5 days ago
Reply to  Bob

I think 11 is large enough in the newly sized army – as long as we get more helicopters.

with so few people I don’t think its a good idea to pack them into any vehicle and have a preference for 4 man fire teams going forward that should enable us to purchase smaller land vehicles.

whilst I accept we need more for the air due to costs – 11 sounds about right.

PragmaticScot
PragmaticScot
7 days ago

Is this just a race to see who can make a better offer than the Black Hawk?

Sjb1968
Sjb1968
7 days ago

I am sure the Army’s Boxer procurement team need a new challenge.
I am looking forward to the results given their inability to procure something that actually works on the ground, that this thing must fly could well lead to an interesting outcome.

PRJ
PRJ
7 days ago
Reply to  Sjb1968

The self serving gravy train of Business Analysts, Project Managers, Change consultants and Scrum masters all on £500 a day would love an endless project!

For this reason alone take the off the shelf Blackhawk! Time to go back to basics and buy the best out there. It’s great in all theatres, and having flown in them, 412s, Merlin and Puma2s there’s no contest for this requirement

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
7 days ago

So perhaps the real question is should temporary helicopters be acquired perhaps even second hand, to fill a gap until a superior US hybrid becomes available or go for a new copter asap and forget about early adoption of a hybrid probably till they themselves get to or close to end of life? I would guess the timeline is a major significant factor here most pertinently when such a hybrid would become available, not sure as and when the winner is expected to enter service, seems to be some way off from memory, even if there aren’t delays (others can… Read more »

Jay R
Jay R
7 days ago

The MOD needs to quickly sort this and order Blackhawk in it’s latest off the shelf variant, and in substantial numbers (120). And to be wholly operated by the AAC. The Army needs rapid mobility and a flexible helicopter that Blackhawk delivers. The UK no longer has a helicopter industry, and the remnants that are left are European owned. We should turn to the US for military equipment, it always works well, on time and in budget (Chinook, Poseidon for example).

John Clark
John Clark
7 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Not always, but absolutely in this case, Blackhawk works and is available, I’m sure if we signed a contract for 50 machines, we could start deliveries next year….

But instead, let’s turn this into a European love in, to give the RAF and Army a fragile, difficult to repair in the field, expensive to operate and unproven helicopter, that’s delivered 5 years later than needed and massively over budget.

I think that’s the standard approach with these things guys.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

This seems to fit the bill. Could we manufacture these here as part of a large order? “The S-70i helicopter can be configured according to customer-specific missions, including troop transport and air assault, command and control, border patrol, search and rescue, cargo lift, and VIP transport. The first helicopter successfully made its maiden flight in July 2010.” The S-70i Black Hawk helicopter has a maximum gross weight of 9,979kg and can carry two crew members and up to 13 troops. The reliable crash-worthy airframe design of the S-70i integrates a machined cabin structure and a single-piece cockpit assembly. The structure… Read more »

Image-1-S-70i-Black-Hawk-Helicopter.jpg
Last edited 6 days ago by Nigel Collins
Tams
Tams
7 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

120

The armchair procurement officer strikes again.

Jay R
Jay R
7 days ago
Reply to  Tams

Sofa actually. And yes 120. We have 60 Chinooks. 50 Apaches. 120 would be a great enabler.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

50, let’s be realistic!

That would maintain force levels and increase slightly.

I’m not sure if it would suit the Dauphin role though.

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 days ago

I would like to introduce to you. One of the US Army’s 160th SOAR MH60M Blackhawks – see attached picture. This is what the guys from Hereford want to replace the Puma for operations around the World. The Dauphin is predominantly used for UK based anti-terrorism. It has a much lower public profile as it looks like a civilian helicopter.

MH60M Blackhawk.jpg
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Which is exactly the reason why I suggested Blackhawk would not suit!

Yes, Dauphin is primarily UK ops in civvies. Blue Thunder, as someone calls them, for the on duty Sqn in CRW Wing.

Now THAT Blackhawk for overseas, yes please!

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

The SAS want American ! Never.

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

They have also wanted the MH6 Littlebird for years, but want doesn’t always get.

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Basically to my point of view they are groupies hanging round their US counterparts and desperate to be them. I have a feeling we won’t agree. My problem is that I read too much about what’s going on in US politics if I could stop I wouldn’t be so furious.

Daveyb
Daveyb
6 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

The UK SF community wanted to recreate a UK version of 160th SOAR. Hence why there is the Joint Special Forces Air Wing (JSFAW), that incorporated elements from both the Army Air Corps and the RAF. The organisational aspect worked okay. The mixing of enabling personnel didn’t i.e. mixing AAC and RAF engineers. The concept however is valid. The new Chinooks the RAF are getting will be pretty much the same as the 160th operate. There was even talk of cooperative crewing. As whenever the SF are operating abroad they inevitably will be working with US operators. I know the… Read more »

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

I said we wouldn’t agree ! I wonder when they’re wearing US uniforms and US helmets and US weapons and US helicopters and US aircraft and working under US command whether they’re doing so in US interests not ours.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Pity they then go and dismember it getting rid of 657!

JSFAW is needed. DSF should have dedicated aviation IMO and it is getting gradually dismembered.

Deep32
Deep32
7 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Don’t think the F35 fits into the on time and in budget bit!!!

Jay R
Jay R
6 days ago
Reply to  Deep32

No because the bloody UK was involved. Rivet Joint another example.

Deep32
Deep32
6 days ago
Reply to  Jay R

Ordinarily I would agree, but in this case, It’s all LMs fault, it’s their baby, they run it and they have dropped the ball so to speak.

Mr Mark Franks
Mr Mark Franks
7 days ago

The latest Blackhawk is surely the way to go. Commonality with the US and Australia, a proven design reliable with a good supply spares chain. It does what it says on the tin, 40 to 50 would be a good buy. The Merlin HC for the RAF also had design problems often ignored by the team who where trying to get it into service, it was found the rear ramp was too steep for Land rovers, the vehicles would ground out on the the rear ramp when boarding, It was as far as I know never solved with the answer… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
7 days ago
Reply to  Mr Mark Franks

The Merlin HC3 was a political ‘ jobs for the boys’ procurement, forced on the RAF…

It’s far better suited to its Royal Navy roll, RM support and resupply at sea etc.

It was found seriously wanting in Afghanistan, just like most modern composite types. They lack the necessary robust easy to patch construction among other things.

Mark franks
Mark franks
7 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Yes not easy to fix fist siezed bullet holes in a composite material.

Paul.P
Paul.P
7 days ago

Blackhawk would be cheapest and lowest risk. AW149 scores on political ‘levelling up’ agenda, UK jobs etc and would keep open a strategic a European option for the next generation. Yeovil is a Tory seat. Was a liberal democrat until 2010. Needs only a 13% swing to fall to the LD. Local elections coming up….AW149 is a dead cert 😂

John Clark
John Clark
7 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Absolutely Paul, it’s where my money would go, another ‘ jobs for the boys’ political procurement ….

Paul.P
Paul.P
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Speaking just as a taxpayer I can’t speak for the technical pros and cons of the shortlisted machines. Reading the experts it looks like the battle proven Blackhawk by half a length from AW149 with the Airbus trailing by several lengths. Its only probably only there to provide a comparison against Leonardo. The main thing is that we are not doing another Ajax or Warrior exercise. Both leading vendors know how to make decent helicopters. Phew!

Danny Deever
Danny Deever
6 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

The lowest risk is a aircraft that hasn’t been mentioned, Super Puma, proven record. Still in production. And the current RAF Puma fleet uses a lot of the Super Puma avionics suit. Very similar footprint to Puma, just with newer avionics, more powerful engines, slightly longer fuselage… The MoD missed a trick not upgrading when the Puma mid life update came along.

Paul
Paul
6 days ago
Reply to  Danny Deever

Well, as they say we are where we are. Super Puma is bigger than the medium sized machine the spec is looking for surely?
Airbus themselves have submitted the EC175. I notice on the Airbus web site they have a ‘pre-used’ helicopters tab. Maybe they are offering a trade-in deal….

Mr Bell
Mr Bell
7 days ago

Oh god. If the army are keading on this expect it to be 10 years late and £4 billion over budget.

John Hartley
John Hartley
6 days ago

Tin hat on. I know some think that the fewest platforms means the lowest cost, but when replacing 44, the danger is we pick something that is too big or too small for certain situations. Perhaps a split buy? Using AW as an example. Buy 30 of the bigger AW149 + 14 of the smaller AW169. That way you have the right size helicopter for the job.

John Clark
John Clark
6 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

The trouble is John, the government would turn a two helicopter solution into a three ring Circus! Both would require a raft of UK specific modifications and UK assembly lines, the net result would be a ferociously expensive procurement, late and supplying over complicated helicopters that would be very easy to break and a nightmare to fix in the field. The Army requires a robust and relatively simple (relative to other options) helicopter, of conventional construction to compliment the Chinook. That helicopter is the Blackhawk, in absolutely ‘stock’ US Army spec, possibly with flight deck tie down points added, assuming… Read more »

John Hartley
John Hartley
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

The only way the UK will but Blackhawk is if it is a mutual benefit swap deal with Poland i.e. UK buys Polish built Blackhawk & Poland buys UK built weapons to the same value.

John Hartley
John Hartley
3 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Philippines to buy 32 more Polish S-70i Blackhawks for $636 million.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago

Fascinating.

Last time this subject was on, it was 50_50 For against Blackhawk.

Today, the Blackhawks have it!

John Clark
John Clark
6 days ago

Absolutely mate, we almost have complete agreement, let’s hope someone in the MOD pay attention!

David Steeper
David Steeper
6 days ago

I think I have a solution that will please everyone. We buy Blackhawks and the US promises to block any UK defence export to the USA. To purchase and asset strip every UK tech company they can get their hands on. To target with punitive tariffs UK steel exports to the US introduced when we were still in the EU even though they’ve lifted them against the EU itself. All on principle until the UK pulls out of occupied Ireland. Up the RA.

Last edited 6 days ago by David Steeper
Paul
Paul
6 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Quite. The US and UK might be military allies but commercially we are rivals.

John Clark
John Clark
6 days ago
Reply to  Paul

We are already reliant on the US for our NATO security, nuclear security, heavy lift ( helo and fixed wing) F35, attack helicopter, MPA, and so on etc ….

Another medium Helicopter really makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things.

No point worrying about being in Uncle Sams pocket now, we have been for the last 80 years!

Paul.P
Paul.P
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Indeed; buts that’s no excise for making dependency a conscious strategy. Self sufficiency should be the default; failing that partnership with dependency a last resort. The French have the right idea; communautaire. Same applies to gas, nuclear energy, food, doctors….I think there must be a civil service department tasked with determining how best the UK can shoot itself in the foot…

Last edited 6 days ago by Paul.P
John Clark
John Clark
6 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Hi Paul, but that horse bolted nearly a century ago. I would say the opposite is actually true.

We have wasted enormous (staggeringly big) amounts of money on bespoke equipment for a small armed forces over the years.

Its the main reason we have a fairly healthy defence budget, but little to show for it and an Army with obsolete equipment.

We buy equipment from the US, it generally works well, as advertised, delivered on time and at a good price point.

The F35 is a side issue to be fair….

Paul.P
Paul.P
6 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Not arguing the quality of the US kit, or the fact that a lot of arms these days are commodities rather than circus acts. We seem to be good at circus acts and useless at commodities. 5G stealth stovl fighters and attack helicopters are a circus act, you buy on vendor. Medium utility helicopters are a commodity, you buy on price….or benefit to the economy or society. This last is what distinguishes the French approach.

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Fair point Paul.. I would say the French find themselves without key equipment, or sub standard equipment, designed by committee.. No heavy lift helicopters or aircraft (though A400 does have some heavy lift), very expensive Tiger and NH90 helicopters, that really aren’t that great…. NH90 is a troubled helicopter, being ditched by Australia and Belgium, based on the ferociously high operating costs and poor build quality. The Tiger is a typical, designed by committee euro mess.. The European committee tasked with drawing up the requirements for a pan European Attack Helicopter, were ‘advised’ to sensibly use the Augusta A109 as… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Interesting info on the euro helicopters and I take note of your general comment on French equipment. But when the French keep it within the family it works for them: Rafale, Aquitaine….They have a conscious industrial strategy of nurturing and/or acquiring strategic technologies. We all seem to hit understandable rivalry problems when we go european …the more so if the French are involved. That said I will stick my neck out and say that the Italians and us Brits are key peacekeeping ingredients in a europroject.

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Good points Paul…. Certainly nothing wrong with Rafael….

Our days of European (as in France and Germany) defence projects are over I feel.

In many ways it’s a sad state of affairs, but we are on different paths from each other now, that’s just the reality of it…

That said, I look forward to Tempest evolution over the next few years, free from Franco German intransigence!

Paul.P
Paul.P
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Yes, we are on different paths. I voted to remain in the EU but am not unhappy with the way things are turning out. Struggling projects like Ajax and Warrior are opportunities for character improvement and leapfrog in ideas. P8 is in service; 2 carriers, T26 and 31, Meteor, Brimstone, Spear 3, asea radar for Typhoon…lots to be optimistic about.
Important transitions are happening in Albion. Johnson might go down in history as the prime minister who united Ireland. Personally I blame it all on Richard III. If he had stayed buried Brexit wouldn’t have happened. 🙂

David Steeper
David Steeper
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Which Army is the better equipped the British or the French ? How much US kit do the French use ? They can do it why can’t we ?

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Covered by my reply to Paul above David….

David Steeper
David Steeper
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Should’ve gone to specsavers.

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

😂😂👍

David Steeper
David Steeper
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

👍

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
6 days ago

Just asking … why would we need another type of medium lift helicopter? What’s wrong with the Merlin?

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

Its simply not robust enough Tom, the Blackhawk is smaller, but it’s a tough bird, conventionally constructed and able to absorb punishment and get back into the fight with patch repairs.

Composite airframes really aren’t good at dealing with the harsh reality of modern battlefields. If they take damage it’s difficult to repair, or in some cases impossible and the airframe needs to shipped home…

Composite construction has its place, but what the Army want and need, is the equivalent of a builders Transit van, no thrills, just a tough reliable workhorse.

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

That’s cool, I see what your saying John. So the replacement will be something thats in use elsewhere, or do we look at new designs?

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

Well, many of us are hoping for Blackhawk Tom….

I don’t see any other options that really fit the bill.
That particular blend of rugged capability.

We could buy the ultimate rugged and simple medium helicopter I suppose, the Mi17!😂👍

Tom Keane
Tom Keane
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Blackhawk … really? I know it’s tried and tested, but isn’t it rather … old?

Paul.P
Paul.P
5 days ago
Reply to  Tom Keane

Over engineered for the requirement. Three engines, light composite designed as a flying frigate with long overwater endurance = expensive, oversized and too delicate for a battlefield.

Last edited 5 days ago by Paul.P
David Flandry
David Flandry
5 days ago

Future news: numbers cut, then decide to buy from US or France. Finally decide to refurbish old copters.

Tim
Tim
5 days ago

Keep it simple. Chinook MTOW is 22 tons, Merlin is 15, Wildcat is 6, and Gazelle is 2. I believe that is a good enough spread of capability without too many types to manage. So this project just needs to be a simple utillity version of Wildcat and a few more Merlins. There, job done.

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago
Reply to  Tim

Hi Tim, slight issue with Wildcat, it can only carry four passengers, so if you want the uplift of a fleet of medium helicopters, you will need to buy about 300🤣🤣.

Merlin is an exemplary Maritime Helicopter, absolutely superb …. The HC3 was forced on the RAF as part of the Merlin package….

Way too fragile…..

Same with Wildcat, ‘excellent’ Maritime Helicopter, forced on the Army, who struggle to know what to do with it, it’s a stripped out Maritime Helicopter that can’t carry anything, about as useless as a chocolate tea pot.

Typical political interference unfortunately….

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
5 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

“Jobs for the boys” springs to mind re Army Wildcat.

1 billion plus was it? For 34.

Blackhawks at 300 million.

John Clark
John Clark
5 days ago

Morning Daniele, spot on mate, Wildcat stands as a perfect shining example of how to piss away your defence budget!

It still makes me chuckle when people occasionally try to say its a ‘scout helicopter’, of course it is, you know when its spotted the enemy because its blasted out of the sky and the radio goes quiet!

Talk about the “glorious 20 minuters” of Black Adder goes forth fame!

John Hartley
John Hartley
3 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Shame the Wildcat did not get the foot longer cabin of the Lynx 3 prototype.

John Clark
John Clark
2 days ago
Reply to  John Hartley

It’s a really curious decision John isn’t it….

You design a new helicopter (with an Army utility roll in mind) that can only carry 4 people, massively limiting the sales prospects, you really couldn’t make it up!

The good old taxpayer footed the bill, so I guess that’s just fine……!

Russell freeman
Russell freeman
5 days ago

Black hawks all day

Louis
Louis
4 days ago

Just a thought, there are hundreds of medium sized helicopters of many different types in civilian service in UK most clumped together in large companies like Babcock or Bristow or CHC Scotia so AW189 that could easily be militarised could replace a lot in UK civilian service as it could provide an amazing war reserve, just like STUFT. I think the army should focus more on attack helicopters for this reason as in major conflicts there is a massive supply of medium helicopters and pilots and private companies already provide SAR that the RAF used to do. It just seems… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark
4 days ago
Reply to  Louis

Re my previous comments on Tiger and NH90 … This was in flight global today, years after entering service, reliability and availability are very poor.

No wonder Australia is already ditching both…..

” Airbus Helicopters are again the subject of stinging criticism for their poor operational availability, with their performance branded as “unsatisfactory”.

Detailing the issues in the defence ministry’s latest operational readiness report, Inspector General Eberhard Zorn says that the helicopters operated by the three branches of the armed forces collectively demonstrated a readiness level of just 40%”.

Last edited 4 days ago by John Clark
John Clark
John Clark
4 days ago
Reply to  Louis

An interesting idea Louis, unfortunately there’s a world of difference between civilian oil support work etc and military aviation.

A support helicopter will by its very definition, be in thick of it and on the proverbial ‘two way range’, you only had to view the patch repairs on some of our Helo fleet to see that, particularly in the first couple of years after Afghanistan operations…

Last edited 4 days ago by John Clark
Louis
Louis
4 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Although my point more was if you can fly a helicopter already you need much less training than someone else and these pilots may be less willing to fly attack helicopters as they are less likely to be able to hack actually killing people. Although I agree with you, I’m just trying to think of ways we can increase the number of attack helicopters. I don’t understand why the army doesn’t fit pylons with rockets or LMM or hellfire as the navy already has that capability.