Thursday, August 28, 2008

Amarillo Built NEW UH-1Y Helicopter Okayed To Take To Skies

Marines will soon fly in the first newly engineered Huey helicopter the Corps has introduced in more than 35 years.

Known as the UH-1Y, the helicopter can fly faster, farther and ferry more troops and gear than older models, offering commanders more options when planning operations, according to program manager Col. Keith Burkholz. It will enhance the Corps’ ability to perform reconnaissance, provide secure escorts, scramble quick-reaction teams and place troops in hostile territory.

“You can carry eight combat troops with 250 pounds of gear each plus a crew of four, a full load of gas and suppressive weapons,” Burkholz said. “If you loaded that configuration into a Huey today, it would not physically be able to take off.”

The $20 million UH-1Y gained initial operating capability Aug. 8 after more than a year of testing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The helicopter is built by Amarillo Texas-based Bell Helicopter-Textron, which also manufactures the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey.

The new Huey was designed alongside a new Marine attack helicopter: the AH-1Z, also known as the Super Cobra.

They were designed with roughly 84 percent interoperability, meaning many of the primary parts and components can be swapped between the two aircraft. That will yield savings in maintenance and logistics.

Both new aircraft boast modern avionics systems, but the Huey has better range and lift capability.

“The Yankee [Huey] can take twice the payload, twice the range, and the Zulu [Cobra] can either travel twice the range with the same payload or carry twice the payload with the same range,” compared with current models, Burkholz said.

Across the fleet, there are 12 new Hueys being tested, trained on or preparing for deployment. A contingent is in Southern California preparing for a January deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the amphibious assault ship Boxer.

Burkholz could not specify where the MEU would deploy. But “we routinely have MEUs supporting operations in Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.

While the Osprey is expected to remain the Corps’ workhorse for the next 30 years, the Huey will serve as a utility helicopter designed to maneuver around tighter spaces and land on smaller ships at sea, Burkholz said.

And though it’s not designed for special operations, it will be rated for those missions, he said.

The Corps is expected to acquire 123 Huey helicopters over the next eight years.

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