Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taiwan: UH-1H Crash Prompts Fleet Changes



Taiwan: UH-1H Crash Prompts Fleet Changes


The Taiwan Army may upgrade some of its Bell UH-1H helicopters to make them safer, cheaper to operate and keep them flying until new utility helicopters can be procured.

The military is studying such a program in the wake of the sensational April 3 crash of a UH-1H in a mountainous region of Kaohsiung County. Eight members of Taiwan’s elite Aviation and Special Forces Command’s 601st Aviation Helicopter Brigade, including Colonel Chen Ming-tung, the brigade’s commander, and Colonel Lin Kuo-jin, deputy commander, were killed.

“Recently, the Taiwan Army contacted Bell Helicopter, Air Asia and Honeywell to get information to support adding Huey II to a cost-and-operational-effectiveness analysis,” said Brit McDermett, who runs Asia-Pacific marketing for Bell Helicopter. “They are now driving toward a combined Huey II and new UH fleet.

“Upgrades to the UH-1H fleet can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time compared to purchasing new helicopters. The planned fleet upgrade can be accomplished in only three years.”

If approved, Huey IIs will get a new tail boom, new tail rotor system, and upgrades to the transmission and engine.

“The performance upgrade increases engine power by 28 percent and useful load by over 600 pounds,” McDermett said. “The Taiwan Army is also planning on adding modern avionics that improve situational awareness such as GPS, moving map, Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, and Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System.”

Taiwan assembled 118 UH-1H helicopters in a co-build program between Bell Helicopter and Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. in Taichung, and still flies an estimated 80 of them.

Taiwan needs 90 utility helicopters to replace the UH-1Hs bought in the 1970s. The Army is considering the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk, Bell UH-1Y Huey and Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The Army hopes to begin buying them in 2012.

There is also a requirement for 30 attack helicopters to supplement its 30 AH-1W Super Cobras. Candidates include the Sikorsky AH-60 Battlehawk, Bell AH-1Z Cobra and the current frontrunner, the Boeing AH-64 Apache. But the final decision has been delayed while officials consider Bell’s subsequent offer to co-assemble its aircraft in Taiwan, creating jobs.

All 120 helicopters would cost an estimated $7 billion, but the Army has had little luck over the past five years of getting a budget approved by the Ministry of National Defense, thanks in part to pressure from Washington to approve a long-delayed budget for submarines, P-3 Orion aircraft and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile batteries.