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Posted: 12/26/2003 2:52:43 AM EDT
11/17/03
USDA FOREST SERVICE UNVEILS NEW HELICOPTER TECHNOLOGY

Boise, Idaho --- The USDA Forest Service has nearly completed work on a new tool for firefighting. The new Firewatch helicopter is a redesigned AH-1 Army “Cobra” helicopter and is a prototype for a new aerial supervision platform for coordinating air resources over wildland fires.

In early 2003, the Forest Service acquired 25 Cobra helicopters from the Army excess property program as a part of a technology demonstration project to study ways of increasing the efficiency of air operations by leveraging emerging technologies.

A recommendation for using new technologies was included in the 2002 Blue Ribbon Panel on Aerial Firefighting study that explored the future of aviation safety and equipment in the wildland firefighting arena.

This aircraft is designed to perform three currently separated mission roles:
Air supervision module/leadplane.
Air attack (airborne command and control over fires).
Geo-referenced Infra-red and video mapping with real time downlink

It is anticipated that a combination of these roles could result in significant large fire cost savings as well as providing for enhanced firefighter and public safety through real time downlink of video and infrared information to the incident commander.

In altering the helicopter, the technology includes a ground module receiver vehicle and crewed by experienced fire fighting and incident command personnel equipped with state of the art multi-spectral imaging systems and communications equipment.

The Firewatch helicopter is not equipped with tanks for retardant or hooks for cargo; those missions will still be performed by private sector helicopters, and a private sector contract to maintain the Firewatch Cobra helicopter is in place. This project was taken up by the Forest Service because of the need to routinely modify both the helicopter and the technology during the operational evaluation. After the prototype tests, the concept would be adopted and expanded through private sector contracts.

After completing some final adjustments on the avionics and video technologies, the Firewatch Cobra will be assigned to the Forest Service airtanker base in Redding, California.

http://www.fs.fed.us/fire/news_info/latest_news.html

The Forest Service [acquired] 24 surplus Bell AH-1 HueyCobra helicopters from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., for possible use as lead aircraft. The Forest Service is hoping to get four or five functional aircraft and spare parts out of the surplus birds.
http://www.govexec.com/features/0103/0103s6.htm


Tankers-AH-1-H
By Thomas Wm. McGarry
The grounding of 11 Forest Service air tankers, as well as the uncertain fate of its Beech Baron lead planes, is just the beginning of the changes coming to the way wildfires will be fought in the U.S.
Even before the Barons were grounded last month, the USFS was concerned about their future as lead planes because of safety, age and reliability issues. USFS Senior Aviation Officer Tony Kern revealed in a letter to the air tanker community that the agency had acquired 25 Bell AH-1F Huey Cobras from the U.S. Army.
Unlike most surplus military aircraft sold on the civil market, the AH-1s did not come from the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. They were acquired through the Federal Excess Personal Property Program from an aviation unit attached to the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum, N.Y.
While the AH-1s are not direct replacements for the Barons, their success in the mission might reduce the number of acquisitions required when the Baron fleet is replaced, a USFS spokesman said. Current basing plans call for the first few AH-1s to be based in California but they won't be ready in time for the 2003 fire season.
The USFS plans to make five AH-1s flyable, with two airframes as spares for each operational one. The remaining 10 aircraft may go to various state agencies under the FEPP at the same ratio of operational aircraft to spares.
The Forest Service estimates the first refurbished AH-1F will cost about $300,000, with the work to be accomplished by civilian contractors.
This is not the agency's first experience with Huey Cobras. It acquired three ex-Army AH-1Ps more than a year ago, restored them and loaned them to the Florida Division of Forestry (which operates three UH-1H and two OH-58 helicopters).
Nicknamed "Firesnakes," the Cobras were tested as lead planes or "Air Tactical Group Supervisors" in California last year. They accumulated some 65 flight hours in 21 days fighting five fires.
http://www.landings.com/_landings/pacflyer/jan4-2003/Jn-86-Tankers-AH-1-H.html
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 2:57:50 AM EDT
[img]http://www.wildlandfire.com/pics/heli4/flcobra.jpg[/img]
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 3:05:42 AM EDT
Very cool.

Fast, powerful, maneuverable, good visibility.

I’d say an excellent choice as a command, control and communications platform for fighting fires.

I still think the OV-10’s are THE coolest aircraft in the CDF fleet.  We camped out at Grass Valley Airport a couple of years ago while cruising around California and Oregon for the weekend.  Our alarm clock just after dawn was an OV-10 launching to begin ops on a fire in the area.

THAT was one hell of a wake up call [:D]
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 6:58:56 AM EDT
So, 30 years after I started flying Cobras, and five years after I can no longer pass the flight physical, there is finally a civilian demand for Cobra pilots...
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 7:04:05 AM EDT
Complete waste of money.
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 12:45:19 PM EDT
WOOHOO!  N-NUMBERS!

The problem with the OV-10Ds that Warbirds of America, AKA BATF, had N-numbered was that the FAA then decided they couldn't be transferred, so they are now spraying Paraquat down south. (And the ones in Columbia may be "spraying" more than Paraquat!)

If these helos are N-numbered and able to be transferred, I know what -I- will be getting after I win the Powerball on Saturday!
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 1:27:51 PM EDT
There are something like 12 AH-1 airframes that are in civilian hands that were not demilled before being sold.
There are 4 of them that are actually flying in civilian hands and two are for sale here:
[url]http://www.garlickhelicopters.com/rotorcraft.htm[/url]

Originally Posted By kpel308:
WOOHOO!  N-NUMBERS!

The problem with the OV-10Ds that Warbirds of America, AKA BATF, had N-numbered was that the FAA then decided they couldn't be transferred, so they are now spraying Paraquat down south. (And the ones in Columbia may be "spraying" more than Paraquat!)

If these helos are N-numbered and able to be transferred, I know what -I- will be getting after I win the Powerball on Saturday!
View Quote
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 1:35:21 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/26/2003 1:57:34 PM EDT by QCMGR]
Originally Posted By natez:
...I  remember about 10 years ago, they were supposedly on track to get A-10s, which would have actually carried a (fairly large) firefighting payload.
View Quote



The problem was they were designed as tank busters and not useful for carrying cargo.  They would have made a poor platform for a firefighter.  
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 1:59:59 PM EDT
[tinfoilhat] the militarization of the forest service continues...[/tinfoilhat]




Sorry, I thought I was on Assweb for a minute...
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 2:02:24 PM EDT
Seems like a waste, but I guess it is better than selling them to Israel for $23 each.
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 2:23:05 PM EDT
Originally Posted By QCMGR:
Originally Posted By natez:
...I  remember about 10 years ago, they were supposedly on track to get A-10s, which would have actually carried a (fairly large) firefighting payload.
View Quote



The problem was they were designed as tank busters and not useful for carrying cargo.  They would have made a poor platform for a firefighter.  
View Quote


There were some links in an earlier post about the A-10 fire busters. The take the gun out, and replace it with a tank, which also enlarges the fuselage. Supposedly it has pretty good capacity, and computer controlled delivery nozzles.

On the flip side, there are load issues when going from full-empty, which is also why there are controlled delivery nozzles, since too quick of a release would cause a loss of control. Loading also seemed complicated.

I wonder if an AH-1 has a useful load capability.

Seems like bigger would be better...............
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 2:54:26 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/26/2003 2:56:34 PM EDT by DarkNite]
Man, if their chin turrets could just be modified with a pair of [red][i][b]Splashzookas[/b][/i][/red]...

[img]http://www.hasbro.com/common/images/products/31190_imageMain400.JPG[/img]

... forest fires would be a thing of the past!
Link Posted: 12/26/2003 3:02:25 PM EDT
Using the A-10 for a firebomber is one of those stupid ideas that just won't die, and thanks to the internet I doubt it ever will.

On the other hand there are 179 A-10A's and OA-10A's in storage at Davis Monthan plus about 25 more on display across America.

There are plenty of real firebomber pilots who can give you pages of reason why not to use the A-10 as a firebomber.

Firehogs: [url]http://www.firehogs.com/[/url]

It's not like someone wants to turn a Russian IL-76 into a firebomber...
[img]http://airtanker.com/pics/il76_.jpg[/img]
[img]http://www.desastres.org/ger/global/photomedia/4a.gif[/img]
[img]http://www.desastres.org/ger/global/photomedia/19.jpg[/img]

Or a DC-10...
[img]http://members.tripod.de/McDonnellDouglas/162-0-N450AX.jpg[/img]
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