News: 2nd MAW tackles H-1 upgrade: Modernization of Huey, Super Cobra helicopters to improve strike capability
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - One of the U.S. military’s most historic aviation systems is set to step into the future.
In an initiative dubbed the “H-1 upgrade program,” The Marine Corps is replacing its aging fleet of UH-1N Huey and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters with what leaders describe as state-of-the-art-technology increasing range, speed, ordnance payload, and weapons accuracy.
Hueys and Cobras have served in conflicts since the Vietnam War, from humanitarian operations in Haiti and Somalia to counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the aircraft have become symbols of Marine aviation and expeditionary warfare.
Leaders in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Marine Corps’ East Coast aviation component, said the H-1 aircraft are renowned for their combat agility and adaptability, and the new UH-1Y Venoms, commonly called the Super Huey or Yankee, and AH-1Z Super Cobras bring substantial improvement.
The new aircraft can fly faster, farther, stay in the air longer, carry more weapons, transport more Marines, and are more interoperable, said Col. Scott S. Jensen, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 29.
Jensen said he will miss the old airframes, but is excited to help usher in a new era of H-1 combat capability.
“I have more than 3,000 hours in these airplanes, they’re why I joined,” said Jensen, a native of Idaho Falls, Idaho. “That said, I’ve spent 20 years in the community as an advocate of trying to bring better systems on board.”
As the commanding officer of MAG-29, Jensen is in charge of all of 2nd MAW’s four Huey and Cobra squadrons, as well as its two heavy helicopter squadrons, which employ the CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter.
The colonel said the Huey-Cobra tandem, which pairs a versatile utility helicopter with a lethal attack helicopter, is an icon of the abilities of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
In recent years, the mission of Hueys and Super Cobras has been to attack. The aircraft have provided vital close-air support to Marines and their coalition partners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We can’t be expeditionary unless we can move quickly and respond quickly,” Jensen said, adding that the upgrade brings the “ability to deliver fires and a broad spectrum of weapons to do that with, from small rounds all the way to Hellfire missiles.”
With a large accoutrement of weapons and the ability to fly faster and farther for longer periods of time, Jensen said the upgraded helicopters will serve the Marine infantrymen who need them most.
“We can keep these airplanes moving right up at the forward edge of the battle where the Marines on the ground need us,” Jensen said.
Lt. Col. Raymond J. Schreiner, MAG-29’s operations officer, and former test pilot of the upgraded aircraft, led developmental testing of the new helicopters.
“Close-air support is going to be better,” he said.
According to information posted on the website for Bell Helicopters, the developer of the aircraft, the new UH-1Y Venom has a 125 percent higher payload than its predecessor, the UH-1N; it has nearly 50 percent more range and maximum cruise speed; it features an advanced electronic warfare self-protection suite, and ballistically hardened components that protect it from many modern threat weapons.
“It takes our old utility helicopter and really invigorates it,” said Schreiner, a native of Salt Lake City. “Ground commanders love this aircraft for the robust flexibility it brings as a true utility helicopter.”
Schreiner said the key difference with the new Cobra helicopters is the amount of weapons they can carry and the improved performance of the targeting sensors.
“Targeting effectiveness is the big improvement,” he said. “The targeting sensor on the AH-1Z is an eye-opening change compared to its predecessor.”
Another key advancement, Schreiner said, was that since the Cobra split from the Huey 40 years ago, the two aircraft had grown more and more dissimilar. Now, the UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Super Cobra have 85 percent commonality of parts, right down to the part number.
“It’s what Bell calls ‘identicality,’” said Schreiner “You don’t find that with any other aircraft in the Marine Corps, or in aviation, really.”
Because of how similar the aircraft are, one mechanic can be qualified to work on both systems, saving time and resources.
“You can literally take the tail boom off of a Y-model Huey and put it on a Z-model Cobra,” Schreiner said. “The helmets, the computers, the black boxes, they are all the same. This is the way to minimize the logistic footprint but maximize capability and flexibility.”
Schreiner said the main issue with the old helicopters is they have exceeded their growth potential. Not only do the new aircraft include a state-of-the-art avionics architecture, but they were designed with the future in mind.
Through what Schreiner described as modern avionics architecture, “We now have a growth path for continued progress, and incremental improvement overtime will lead these platforms to greatness,” he said.
Jensen said by this time next year, all of the Hueys in 2nd MAW will be new UH-1Y Venoms. The Cobra transition is slated for 2014.
“You can see the H-1 vision and fruits of many years of labor coming to fruition,” Schreiner said. “It’s great to be an active part of it and witness the transformation.”
Date Posted:07.27.2012 09:25
Location:MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NC, US
Hometown:IDAHO FALLS, ID, US
Hometown:SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US
- Powerline mechanic earns ‘542’s top maintenance award
- FLYBY: Lance Cpl. Abdourahaman Diakite
- MCCS hosts grand opening of new RV park
- Joint terminal attack controllers train with Air USA tactical jets