USAF Tweaks High-Hot Specs for New Rescue Bird

An Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk CSAR helicopter lands

The Air Force introduced a flurry of changes recently to its request for information on what types of choppers industry can provide to replace the current crop of 112 overworked HH-60 Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters.

Most obvious is a change made on Oct. 27 requiring proposed aircraft to be "capable of sustaining 125 knots true air speed" while flying at 4,000 feet in 80 degree temperatures and loaded with 2,000 pounds of cargo along with enough gas "to meet [a]  maximum Combat Radius" of 195 nautical miles.

The original "sources sought" notice, published on March 23, lists a sustained speed of 130 knots at 4,000 feet altitude in 95 degree heat carrying more than 2,500 pounds of cargo with radius of 220 nautical miles.

The other major alteration made this week is that the service has extended its deadline to respond to the notice to 4:00 PM on Nov. 2. The  deadline listed in March was April 13, 2010, a date that has been adjusted all year as the service tweaks its requirements.

One question comes to mind; will this aircraft be able to perform adequately in hot climates?  The Army is looking at a high-hot requirement of 6,000 feet at 95 degrees for its armed aerial scout program. (Granted, that chopper will probably carry a lot  less than any CSAR bird.)

The Air Force wants to replace its CSAR helos with 112 of a new helo that is already in production rather than a new design.  Hopefully the new effort will be in sharp contrast to the CSAR-X contest of the last decade that was mired in protests and delays.

HH-60-maker Sikorsky plans to team with Lockheed Martin to offer a CSAR version of the UH-60M for the effort. Meanwhile, Lockheed's former partner in the CSAR-X contest, AgustaWestland, plans to bid with its AW101, the same bird it offered during the last go 'round.

Check out the notice here

-- John Reed

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