Two CSAR-X competitors make opposite pitches
Aerospace Daily & Defense Report 09/15/2005
Two competitors for the U.S. Air Force's Combat Search and Rescue-X (CSAR-X) program squared off at dueling press briefings Sept. 14, with the Bell-Boeing CV-22 team emphasizing the leap-ahead nature of its tiltrotor technology and the Boeing HH-47 team stressing the combat experience of its helicopter.
The CV-22 can travel twice as fast as a helicopter, providing more time to decide whether and where to deploy the aircraft, Bell-Boeing's Bob Carrese told reporters at the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference in Washington.
Although the CSAR-X requirement is for 141 aircraft, the Bell-Boeing team believes the Air Force would need fewer CV-22s to fulfill the CSAR-X mission, allowing "less people, smaller organizations," Carrese said. And unlike helicopters, the CV-22 could be refueled in flight by KC-10 and KC-135 tanker planes.
"This is more than just a new car smell," Carrese said. "This is a new way of doing business."
The CV-22 is being developed for the Air Force to transport special operations forces. It is based on the Marine Corps' MV-22 Osprey, which recently completed its operational evaluation and is due to achieve an initial operational capability in 2007.
The HH-47 team told reporters at the AFA conference that a key asset for its aircraft is it heritage. The HH-47 is based on the MH-47G, which is flown by Army special operations forces, and comes from a CH-47 Chinook family that has recorded millions of flight hours and has survived being shot at many times in combat, Boeing's Bob Sobey said.
"When I present charts to the Air Force on my logistics costs, on my ability to perform, I have real data," Sobey said.
For Block 0, the initial version of CSAR-X, the features required to turn the MH-47G into the HH-47 already exist on other aircraft, "so technical risk is very low," Sobey said. For the subsequent Block 10, Boeing anticipates having to make only modest changes, including adding a new rotor blade, which needs to be designed, and a low-maintenance rotor hub, which is already under development and begins flight-tests next summer.
The two teams differed in other comments as well. Carrese suggested that a mixed fleet of CV-22s and helicopters might meet the Air Force's needs while costing less than an all-CV-22 fleet. Sobey said he has received no indication that the Air Force wants a mixed fleet.
While the Bell-Boeing team declined to say when it expects the Air Force to release its final request for proposals, Sobey said he believes the document will be unveiled later this month.
The number of expected bidders for CSAR-X stands at four. Besides the CV-22 and HH-47, the Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland-Bell Helicopter Textron US101 helicopter and Sikorsky's HH-92 helicopter (DAILY, Sept. 14) are expected to compete.