Norwegians Test Vertical Take Off UAS for SAR in the Arctic

Schiebel’s Camcopter S-100 will start tests with the Norwegian Coast Guard in fall 2019. Schiebel

Seapower Magazine is reporting that the Norwegian Coast Guard is to begin a second set of tests to confirm the usefulness of a vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Air System (UAS) for SAR in the Arctic environment.

The UAS, the Schiebel Camcopter S-100, has a max takeoff weight of 200 kg (441 lb), a length of 3.11 m (10 ft 2 in), and a main rotor diameter of 3.4 m (11 ft 2 in). The system is widely used, including operation by the German, Italian, and Chinese Navies and the Russian Coast Guard. (More here). It is much more compact than even the smaller MQ-8B version of Fire Scout which has a max. takeoff weight: of 3,150 lb (1,430 kg), a length of 23.95 ft (7.3 m), and a main rotor diameter of 27.5 ft (8.4 m)

We might want to ask if we could send an observer or at least get the results of their evaluation.

Army is Pushing Future Vertical Lift Forward

Bell’s V-280 prototype

A recent DefenseNews post reports that the Army has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (read it here) for a Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) to be fielded by FY2030. This would be a replacement for their H-60 Blackhawks.

There are some details of what they expect.

Price: “… roughly $43 million per unit.”

“FLRAA — at a minimum — to have a 95% maximum rated power to perform a 500 feet per minute vertical rate of climb from a hover-out-of-ground effect. The helicopter should be able to fly at 6,000 feet in 95 degree heat with 12 passengers.objective requirements for the aircraft to maintain 100% maximum continuous power in a 500 feet per minute vertical climb.”

Range: Threshold 1,725 nautical miles one way without refueling. Objective 2,449.

Speed: Threshold 250 knots, objective cruise speed goal of 280 knots.

There could be a “competitive down select by FY2022.”

New Sensors for Fire Scout

170327-N-VS214-002
SAN DIEGO (March 27, 2017) A MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter sits in the hangar bay of the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released)

US Naval Institute News Service is reporting that the Navy is looking at providing better sensors, in particular a better radar, on the MQ-8C Fire Scout (the larger version).

“What’s important to us right now is making sure we have the right sensors, a good multi-function radar, some kind of passive targeting capability and the right networks to push that information to the right people at the right times.”

When the Navy finally gets around to deploying LCS to the drug transit zones, these could be very useful.

Reportedly they will provide, “…a circle of influence and sea control out to about 300 miles” although probability of detection almost certainly depends on target size and characteristics. 

The radar of choice is reportedly the Leonardo Osprey 30 active electronically scanned-array (AESA) radar. This radar has no moving parts.

Leonardo’s Osprey AESA radar. The two panel configuration allows 240 degree coverage. A three panel configuration allows 360 degree coverage as on Norway’s AW101 SAR helicopters. Configurations of up to four panels are possible (Photo by Leonardo)

Aviation Week reports:

“Each antenna contains 256 Transmit and Receive Modules (TRM) – 25% more than that the single array on the Seaspray 7500E radar fitted to U.S. Coast Guard HC-130J Hercules search aircraft (also a Leonardo product–Chuck). The antennas, which can be used in several different modes including surface search, air-to-air and synthetic aperture radar and moving target indication, are controlled through a single processing unit which collects the data and displays it as presenting a single radar picture.”

They claim:

  • Class-leading maritime surveillance capability
  • AESA-enabled small target mode (STM)
  • Very high resolution, wide swath SAR Mapping
  • Small radar cross section (RCS), low minimum detectable velocity (MDV), multi-channel moving target indication (MTI)
  • Air-to-Air surveillance, track and intercept
  • Instantaneous multiple mode interleaving
  • Difficult target detection from high altitude

Ultimately as more of the “C” models are built, we might see them on Coast Guard cutters. There is also the possibility that as more of the larger “C” models come on line, the Coast Guard may be able to get some of the smaller “B” models. The “B” model did operate for Bertholf for two weeks.

The larger C model, with its higher speed, greater payload, better sensors, and 11+ hour endurance, would certainly be an improvement over the ScanEagle currently planned for the National Security Cutters. Whether the “B” model‘s presumably better sensors but shorter range/endurance would allow a greater effective search area compared to the ScanEagle I could only speculate, but I suspect it would also be an improvement, using perhaps two flights per day.

The National Security Cutters could certainly support both an H-65 and an MQ-8C, since they can support two H-65s. It is less clear if the OPC could support both. They reportedly can support an MH-60 or an H-65 and a UAS, but what size UAS?

These systems suggest that at some point, at least on our largest cutters, we may be able to relieve shipboard manned helicopters the routine search function.

FY2019 PC&I Appropriations

I have not been able to find a complete FY2019 Coast Guard budget as it was signed into law, but we do have at least a partial list of Procurement, Construction, and Improvement appropriations for ships and aircraft based on two Congressional Research Service reports (Coast Guard Polar Security Cutter (Polar Icebreaker) Program: Background and Issues for Congress” and “Coast Guard Cutter Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress “) and a Homeland Security Today report.

$1,507.6M For Ships (LLTI refers to Long Lead Time Material):

  • $675M   for the first Polar Security Cutter and LLTM for the second
  • $400M   for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter and LLTM for the third
  • $340M   for six Fast Response Cutters
  • $72.6M  for the National Security Cutter program
  • $15M     for life extension work on Polar Star
  • $5M       for initial work on procuring an additional Great Lakes Icebreaker

Coast Guard C-130J

$208M For Aircraft:

  • $105 for the HC-130J program (I think that is one aircraft)
  • $95M for MH-60T recapitalization (reworking existing aircraft I believe)
  • $8M for upgrades to the MH-65s

That is $1,715M for the items above. This, hopefully, is not all. I don’t have a figure for the Waterways Commerce Cutter (a small figure at this point), no information on unmanned systems, and there should also be money to address the backlog of shoreside improvements, but this does seem to show a recognition of the real needs of the Coast Guard for recapitalization. Looks like the $2+B annually for PC&I the Coast Guard has been saying they need is within reach.

 

 

“In Budget Squeeze, Coast Guard Set to Extend Life of Dolphin Helicopter Fleet”–USNI

180710-G-ZV557-1313 PACIFIC OCEAN (July 10, 2018) Crewmembers aboard the USCGC Bertholf (WMSL 750) check the flight deck July 10, 2018, alongside the flight crew of the a U.S. Navy HSC-4 Black Knight MH-60 helicopter 15 miles south of Oahu, Hawaii, while in support of RIMPAC 2018. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David Weydert

We previously discussed the fact that the Coast Guard is working on life extension programs for both the MH-65s and the MH-60s, but a recent post from the Naval Institute News Service brought up an interesting possibility that might offer increased capability.

We would like to enlarge the MH-65 fleet, but, because that now appears impossible, we will be obtaining and rejuvenating some Navy H-60 airframes.

“Part of the Coast Guard’s strategy includes refurbishing used Navy MH-60 Seahawks and keep them flying for about 20,000 more hours.”

Presumably these airframes will bring along their folding rotor blades and tails that would permit them to be hangered on most of our larger ships.

I’m wondering if we will retain the ability to take these helicopters to sea. It could substantially improve shipboard helicopter range, endurance, and weight carrying ability.. Perhaps the helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) in Jacksonville  should get some of these aircraft. (They currently have ten MH-65Ds. They will probably need to retain some H-65s as long as we are using 210s for drug interdiction.)

2018 Aviation Order of Battle–USNI

Would like to point to a nice summary of aviation assets that is available on line from the US Naval Institute (USNI, unfortunately behind the pay wall–see late addition below). It is the work of a friend, Jim Dolbow, who many years ago encouraged me to blog. He now works for the USNI and is responsible for the two latest editions of the Coast Guardsman’s Manual.

Included are aircraft of the Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations, and NOAA as of 31 July, 2018

Navy and Marine units list aircraft type, squadron, and base but don’t actually list numbers of aircraft.

Coast Guard aircraft numbers, by type, are listed below, but the article goes on to identify number and type at each CG air station. It also notes there are 160 civilian CG Aux. aircraft.

Coast Guard aviation as of 31 July 2018 consisted of 7 different types of aircraft representing 207 airframes based at 27 different locations, including:

(17)     HC-130H Hercules

(9)       HC-130J Super Hercules long range surveillance aircraft

(18)     HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance aircraft

(14)     HC-27J Spartan medium range surveillance aircraft

(2)       C-37A Gulfstream V

(45)     MH-60T Jayhawk medium range recovery helicopter

(102)   MH-65D/E Dolphin short range recovery helicopter

I was a bit surprised to find the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations had more aircraft than the Coast Guard, 97 fixed wing and 128 helicopters (vs 60 fixed wing and 147 helos for the CG). Numbers of each type is provided but no information on basing.

NOAA has nine manned fixed wing aircraft, identified by number and type, all operated out of NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, FL.


Late addition:

Just realized the USNI post is only available to USNI members (You really should be a member). Hopefully they will forgive me if I copy and paste a good chunk of the CG portion below.

Current Asset Laydown of USCG Aircraft:

USCG Air Station Cape Cod, MA

(3) HC-144A

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Atlantic City, NJ

(11) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Washington, DC

(2) C-37A

USCG Air Station Elizabeth City, NC

(6) HC-130J

(3) MH-60T

(5) HC-27J

USCG Aviation Logistics Center, Elizabeth City, NC

Aircraft undergoing depot maintenance/support:

(4) HC-130H

(3) HC-130J

(3) HC-144

(2) HC-27J

(6) MH-60T

(10) MH-65D

(2) MH-65E

USCG Air Station Savannah, GA

(5) MH-65D

USCG Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville, FL

(10) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Miami, FL

(5) MH-65D

(5) HC-144A

USCG Air Station Clearwater, FL

(4) HC-130H

(10) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Borinquen, PR

(4) MH-65D

USCG Aviation Training Center Mobile, AL

(3) HC-144A

(4) MH-60T

(9) MH-65D/E

USCG Air Station New Orleans, LA

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Houston, TX

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Corpus Christi, TX

(3) HC-144A

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station San Diego, CA

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station San Francisco, CA

(7) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Humboldt Bay, CA

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Sacramento, CA

(6) HC-27J

USCG Air Station North Bend, OR

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Astoria, OR

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Port Angeles, WA

(3) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Detroit, MI

(5) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Traverse City, MI

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Sitka, AK

(3) MH-60T

USCG Air Station Kodiak, AK

(5) HC-130H

(6) MH-60T

(4) MH-65D

USCG Air Station Barbers Point, HI

(4) HC-130H

(3) MH-65D


Canadian SAR Helos

RCAF EHI CH-149 Cormorant. Photo by John Davies

The Canadian Coast Guard does not operate SAR aircraft the way the USCG does. Canadian SAR aircraft are operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). They have a fleet of 14 AgustaWestland AW101 (formerly EH101) helicopters. According to Wikipedia,

In June 2011, several US VH-71s, which are also based on the AW101, were purchased by Canada to be used as spare parts for the CH-149 fleet.

In 2017, the Liberal government announced funding for the mid-life upgrade of the fleet, to be led by ‘Team Cormorant’, a team composed of Leonardo Helicopters and IMP Aerospace and Defense. Estimated at around C$1.5bn, the programmes will offer a common fleet featuring latest avionic and mission systems, advanced radars and sensors, vision enhancement and tracking systems as well as a new 3,000 horsepower (2,200 kW) GE CT7-8E engine. On May 10, 2017, a report by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence recommended the government move forward with a proposal to expand the Cormorant fleet by upgrading the 14 CH-149 aircraft and converting seven VH-71 airframes currently in storage to the same operational capability. This would expand the Cormorant fleet to 21 aircraft, and keep them operational until 2040. All of the upgraded helicopters are expected to be delivered by 2024.

But now Defense News reports that Sikorsky will be offering the civilian version of their S-92 (known as the CH-148 in Canada) claiming to be “more affordable at acquisition and thoughout the entirety of the lifecycle.”

These helicopters are larger than the USCG MH-60 Jayhawks (empty weight 14,500 lb (6,580 kg)/max take-off weight  21,884 lb (9,926 kg))

  • Sikorsky S-92 (empty weight 15,500 lb (7,030 kg)/max take-off weight 27,700 lb (12,568 kg))
  • CH-149 (empty weight 23,149 lb (10,500 kg)/max take-off weight 32,187 lb (14,600 kg))

The RCAF has already begun operating the CH-148 as a replacement for 50 year old SeaKing (H-3) helicopters. Navy Recognition reports a navalized ASW variant of the S-92, has recently completed a series of test with the Canadian Navy, operating day and night from Canadian frigates HMCS Montréal and HMCS Halifax (12% larger than the National Security Cutter) in up to and including Sea State Six seas.

Key among the design features for the Cyclone, Sikorsky engineered:

a retractable probe on the belly of the aircraft to more securely cinch the 29,300-lb. Cyclone to the ship’s flight deck in high sea states;
a ground support tool with an articulating arm that, with the Recovery, Assist, Secure and Traverse (RAST) system, allows the deck crew to remotely align the aircraft’s nose prior to guiding the helicopter into the hangar.

This program was plagued by developmental delays and may have left a bad taste in the mouths of Canadian procurement personnel, but there would be undoubted advantages in operating a common type of helicopter.

A decision is expected soon.