09 July 2007

CSAR-X Lessons Not Learned?

The winner of the contest to be the Air Force's next search and rescue helicopter was won by the a version of the HH-47 Chinook helicopter. But, moderate Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu isn't impressed with the choice for what seems on the surface, at least, like a very good reason:

In their desire to rescue as many citizens as possible off the rooftops in and around New Orleans, rescuers unknowingly put citizens at greater risk by simply using the CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Due to the downwash created by the Chinook’s twin rotors, these helicopters had to be removed from conducting rescue missions. Instead the CH-47 Chinooks were reassigned to conduct missions such as transporting survivors, food, medical support and sandbags to repair levees. In this capacity, the CH-47 Chinook performed well, but the downwash made them dangerous in direct rescue missions[.]

Meanwhile, moderate (on some issues anyway) Republican Senator John McCain had this to say about the choice:

It is my understanding that the HH-47 was awarded the contract largely on the basis of its advantage over the US101 and S92 in range and payload. That is to utterly miss the point of combat rescue. First, unrefueled range is a non-issue in the age of helicopter air-to-air refueling.

Second, above and beyond the ability to carry a basic crew, defensive armament, limited armor protection, and a reasonable number of survivors—which all three contenders can do—payload is not a critical issue for a CSAR helicopter and never has been. The HH-47's advantage in payload is a direct reflection of its size, and size is a liability not an advantage.

The Chinook also isn't very agile as a result of its size. Here is what I said about the Chinook at dkospedia:

The CH-47 Chinook, introduced in 1961, is the Army's tandem rotor heavy lift helicopter. It carries up to 44 troops (an Army platoon) or about 19,000 pounds of cargo. It has a speed of 136 miles per hour and a range of about 300 miles.

The current helicopter used for the purpose, the HH-60, has an 11 passenger capacity.

Since the CSAR-X is an Air Force program, the job basically often involves rescues in cases of downed aircraft, not stranded Army units.

While the Air Force may have made the right choice, the arguments made on a bipartisan basis against its choice sound very thoughtful and appropriate to me, so the Air Force certainly has some explaining to do beyond what it has offered so far.


Anonymous said...

First of All, You're buying into the Media and Political Sludge that is intended to "Buy" time for the losers. Look at ALL of the facts (not the Media coverage), do some ~actual~ research, and you'll see the USAF chose the right bird for the job.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

You could be right, but, if so, I'd welcome you to provide some of those facts, rather than simply name calling and relying on your personal authority (which when you post as "anonymous" isn't very authoritative).

Also please note that, rather than "buying into the Media and Political Sludge," I have very carefully simply noted that the arguments made by a couple of Senators sound reasonable to me on their face, and suggested that the Air Force defend its position with facts.

Anonymous said...

The comments attributed to McCain are NOT those of the Senator, but are taken from a letter sent TO the Senator by Dr. John F. Guilmartin, Jr...a former USAF helicopter rescue pilot who retired 20 years ago...

Sadly, Dr Guilmartin is misinformed as to the current requirements for the new CSAR helicopter, based upon lessons learned in large part from recent events, and changing battle field conditions levied more than 20 years since he retired.

True, USAF rescue helo's can be refueled in flight today, but there is a point where RISK to the tanker acft from enemy threats becomes unacceptable (if your tanker gets shot down...they you do NOT have the magical long range do you?), this is why the range requirement becomes a major issue for any of the CSAR helo candidates.

As to payload...Dr Guilmartin was NOT a member of the USAF's CSAR-X Source Selection team. He did NOT read any of the proposals tendered by the vendors, and therefore cannot speak from an informed position as to how "payload" has been measured by the USAF, nor can he evaluate how each contender's payload capability impacts mission performance.

In a nutshell...Dr Guilmartin uninformed comments based upon his outdated understanding of CSAR's concept of operations has done a disservice to his CSAR brethren and has helped to spread confusion providing a disservice to Sen McCain.

While I'm sure Sen McCain means well...he can't be blamed for poor oversight when his staff is feeding him information from poor sources.