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    Columbia Helicopters Awarded Chinook Maintenance Contract

    Aurora-based Columbia Helicopters has announced this week the award of "one of our first larger prime contracts," said Scott Ellis, the company's director of business development.

    The Army said Wednesday it picked Columbia over one other bidder to repair Chinook helicopter rotor heads. The five-year contract could be worth up to $30.55 million, depending on how many rotor heads the Army wants Columbia to repair. The Army said the contract would cover at least 10 rotor heads but could cover as many as 198.

    Ellis said the work would be done at Columbia's facility in Aurora.

    Columbia's founder, Wes Lematta, started the company in 1957 with a single helicopter. Now it says it is the world's only operator of commercial versions of the CH-47 Chinook and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, which serve in the forestry, construction and oil exploration sectors as well as government support and disaster relief. Military maintenance is an expanding division within the company.​

  • #2
    New US Army Training Manual to Focus on Air-Ground Ops

    A completely rewritten field manual for Army aviation, now in development, will be published in about a year. Field Manual 3-04 will reflect a strategic shift to air-ground operations.

    That's a "big shift," according to Brig. Gen. Michael Lundy, commander, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Ala.

    Lundy spoke at the two-day Army Aviation Association of America, known as Quad A, 2014 Mission Solutions Summit at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel here, yesterday. His seminar was titled "Maintaining the Edge in an Evolving Environment."

    Air-ground operations, he explained, is about conducting unified land operations with sister services and multi-national partners. The focus is supporting Soldiers on the ground.

    Partnering and interdependence are a big part of the shift. At Fort Rucker, there are soldiers from 47 nations training with U.S. Soldiers, he pointed out. There also will be an emphasis on joint exercises and operations, including with Special Operations Forces.

    Air-ground doctrine also has expeditionary aspects, he said, like operating in smaller units with regionally aligned forces. The Army chief of staff calls these units "tailorable and scalable." The shift will require greater agility.

    Besides the new field manual, other updates will occur around the same time frame as Field Manual 3-04.

    In addition to doing away with older doctrinal manuals, Field Manual 3-04 will be supported by a number of technical manuals, including topics on mission command, tactical employment techniques, survivability and sustainment, he said.

    Field Manual 3-04 is now in structural development, he explained, meaning the sections are being organized. Once a draft is completed, the manual will be staffed out to the brigades for review.

    This "capstone document" will be relevant to all aviation branches, he added.


    Besides doctrinal change, there are upgrades being made to professional military education and training.

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but Soldiers need to spend more time learning how to fight war, "as opposed to just knowing how to push buttons" as they progress through aviation training, Lundy said. "More focus needs to be on the art, not just the science."

    The Army Restructuring Initiative, or ARI, will free up some program of instruction time so Soldiers can get back to learning basic and advanced combat skills.

    He explained that ARI is resulting in fewer aircraft that pilots will need to learn to fly and fewer that mechanics must learn to fix; the Kiowa divestment, for instance. That frees up valuable POI time.

    Another aspect of training Lundy is focusing on changing is de-emphasizing some of the common core curriculum in advanced courses and focusing more on the technical and leadership aspects of aviation. "The common core is too broad and takes up too much of the POI," he said, adding that he's working with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the Combined Arms Center to "get that corrected."

    Soldiers at Advanced Individual Training are already getting common core training that includes theory and understanding of how things work so they can work on "multiple components and multiple aircraft," he pointed out, adding that those skills will give Soldiers the knowledge they need to maintain or fix aircraft, something that's been handled mostly by contractors over the last decade or so.

    Army aviation is also introducing a lot more virtual, constructive and gaming simulation to its coursework in an effort to increase fidelity and train more efficiently, he said. When students are at Rucker learning this type of training, it gives them an edge when they get back to their home stations, where they'll be able to use their own simulators. In effect, "we're training them to learn how to train," Lundy said.

    As the Army becomes more "CONUS-based," emphasis will also be placed on more and better quality home-station training, he said. Home-station training will include exercises up to the brigade level.

    Brigade commanders will be leading that effort, he said, as will the combat training centers. "We're pushing to get that fully integrated."

    An especially important initiative underway, he said, is building a central repository of lessons learned, tips, tactics and strategies units employ during exercises. This repository will allow Soldiers and units to share their own solutions and collaborate using information technology.

    Units will soon be "hanging a lot of exercise products" in the repository, he said. Fort Rucker has already taken the lead, filling the repository with training products and that's being pushed out to commanders right now.

    Another initiative is the Project Warrior Program. The idea is to bring more experienced and the best instructor pilots and maintenance and safety instructors into TRADOC. They must also have the right fit, he said. The idea is to improve quality of instruction and provide the right mentors for young lieutenants and warrant officers.

    Human Resources Command, known as HRC, and brigade commanders are leading that effort, hand-selecting the best off the flight lines.


    The most important task at hand, Lundy said, is figuring out "how to develop and keep the best talent."

    "We need to have the right people in right place, so we'll be looking at skills and developing and maintaining the most talented," he said.

    Sadly, about 10,000 people will leave Army aviation in the next five years, some involuntarily and through no fault of their own, Lundy said. "We've got to honor the service of those leaving our ranks and ensure we transition them right," he emphasized.

    There's "a lot of concern in the force" regarding not only the drawdown but ARI, as "we transition from different air frames across the components," he said.

    Making ARI a success -- and it will be a success, he said -- will take "a lot of engaged leadership from HRC and the branch, brigade commanders.

    "There will be a period of risk as this transition takes place," Lundy said, adding that during this period, "we have to ensure we don't lose our readiness." Timing, synchronization, and detailed work among leaders across the components will make that happen, he said.

    Lastly, he added: "It's not all about the machines that we fly, it's also about Soldiers and their leaders."


    • #3
      JBLM Kiowa Helicopter Squadron to be Decommissioned

      400 soldiers will transfer or separate when recon group ends deployment and helicopters to be left in South Korea.

      The Army’s postwar downsizing will take another bite out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord this year, as a 400-soldier helicopter squadron will be shut down.

      The plan to decommission the Kiowa helicopters and crews of the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment became inevitable when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in February a proposal to phase out the Army’s entire Kiowa fleet.

      Lawmakers in the the U.S. House did not challenge Hagel’s proposal last week when they considered the 2015 defense budget, so the plan is moving forward.

      OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter takes off behind a Stryker combat vehicle during training at the Yakima Training Center, Washington State. Kiowas were used for observation and reconnaissance

      JBLM’s Kiowa squadron is among the first in line to close down on a five-year schedule. The Kiowa, the smallest helicopter in the Army, is used for scouting and observation duty and light-attack combat missions.

      Closing the unit affects about 400 local aviators currently deployed with the squadron on a nine-month mission in South Korea. They’ll come home this summer, take post-deployment leave and then either move on to new units or separate from the military.

      Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, spokesman for JBLM’s 7th Infantry Division, said the Army has not announced whether it plans to send a replacement unit to JBLM’s 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, which oversees the Kiowa squadron.

      Its deactivation will leave JBLM with about 120 helicopters, down from the current fleet of roughly 150.

      The Army is shedding tens of thousands of soldiers from its Iraq War peak of 570,000 active-duty troops. About 519,000 active-duty soldiers are in uniform today. At the end of the drawdown, the Army is expected to have a force of less than 450,000.

      JBLM’s main contribution to the cutbacks so far was the inactivation of a 4,500-soldier Stryker brigade in March. The Army sent Strykers from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Fort Carson in Colorado and its soldiers have joined other units or left the military.

      OH-58D Kiowa's of the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Squadron​ which shall remain in South Korea

      The Army also closed a 400-soldier artillery battalion at JBLM last year. It’s unclear if other units are being eyed for inactivation.

      About 45,000 soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines serve at JBLM. About 32,000 are active-duty soldiers.

      The Kiowa squadron’s history at JBLM goes back to 2005 when the Army moved it to the South Sound from Louisiana.

      It brought 48 helicopters, most of which were OH-58 Kiowa aircraft. The unit also had some UH-60 Blackhawk combat transport helicopters; it was an oversized squadron that the Army used to build up its aviation assets at JBLM.

      In late 2011, the squadron provided a foothold for a significant expansion of helicopters at JBLM. The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade headquarters moved here, and more subordinate units followed, including one that the flies Apache attack helicopters.

      The aviation brigade’s headquarters, along with its Blackhawk and Apache battalions, are currently deployed on a nine-month tour in Afghanistan.

      The Kiowa squadron left for South Korea in October. At the time, the Army announced that it would leave the squadron’s aircraft there and replace them at JBLM.

      The replacement plan changed with the new Pentagon budget proposal. The Defense Department preferred shifting the Kiowas’ reconnaissance missions to unmanned aircraft and Apache helicopters rather than refurbish the fleet.

      JBLM’s Kiowas will be turned over to U.S. Forces Korea.

      The squadron has established a legacy of sacrifice since arriving at the base south of Tacoma.

      In December 2006, three of its aviators were killed in a training accident in Enumclaw.

      In 2007, it deployed to Iraq and lost five soldiers in two helicopter accidents.

      In December 2011, four of its pilots died in a nighttime collision over JBLM when one helicopter crew flew into a training area occupied by another crew.

      Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno visited the Kiowa squadron in South Korea in late February.

      “In these very complex times, it is important that you are there every day for each other,” he told them, according to an Army press release.


      • #4
        US Army Makes Surprise 'Weather Stop' in Poland

        When a flight of military helicopters descended into a field in the small village of Gruta, Poland, on Tuesday, residents had reason to be alarmed.

        After all, the village is only about 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and with current tensions between Poland and its NATO allies and Russia over the situation in Ukraine, well, it would be natural to worry.

        But it turned out this was more treat than threat.

        The six copters were US Army. The five Black Hawks and one Chinook were on their way back to their temporary base in Poland from NATO exercises in Lithuania when bad weather forced them to land in the Gruta field, a Polish military spokesman told Bloomberg News.

        Whoever could in the village of 1,600 people flocked to the scene, according to the town's website, chatting with the U.S. troops and posing for pictures.

        "It's a big treat to be able to see up close such a colossus," the website said of the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook. Town residents posed for pictures with the troops and the machine.

        "Thank God it was the Americans," the town's mayor, Halina Kowalkowska, told Bloomberg. But she said the town's excitement may have made residents forget their hospitality.

        "Now, when I think about it, we could have served them some food, but we were in shock and the boys had to go," Bloomberg quoted her as saying.

        Residents of the village of Gruta in northern Poland pose for a photo with US troops and their Chinook helicopter in the middle of a field where six US Army helicopters made an unplanned landing due to poor weather on Tuesday, September 9

        Villagers walk around the US Army helicopters which had made an unplanned landing near the village of Nowa Wies due to poor weather

        The helicopters landed for approximately two hours

        A US Army Chinook and Black Hawks wait in a Polish field for the weather to clear

        And finally they depart having made some new friends

        (Video) US Army depart after weather stop in Poland:​


        • #5
          US Army Being Sued by AgustaWestland

          A unit of Italy's Finmeccanica SpA has sued the U.S. government to block the Pentagon's proposed award of an $800 million helicopter deal to an arm of Airbus Group EADSY -0.35% NV, alleging that the defense department violated its own rules for opening contracts to competition.

          The U.S. Army stirred controversy from rival manufacturers during the summer with its plan to retire two types of training helicopters and replace them with 155 new Airbus UH-72 Lakota helicopters, without holding a competition.

          AgustaWestland North America Inc., the Finmeccanica unit, asked a U.S. judge for a temporary restraining order barring the Army from awarding the helicopter contract to Airbus without a competition, according to the complaint filed on Sept. 19 with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C.

          Representatives of the U.S. Army and the Justice Department, which represents the government in civil cases, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

          While defense contractors regularly contest contract awards through the Government Accountability Office, it is unusual for them to go to court. However, the Pentagon has attracted two such suits this year.

          Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in April sued the U.S. government and a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. over the award of a military satellite launch contract. That case continues.

          Pentagon officials have conceded in recent months that the overall level of competition awards has dropped. Acquisition chief Frank Kendall last month issued new guidance aimed at boosting competition, including guidelines for proposed deals agreed without a contest.

          The Army wants to retire its fleet of Bell TH-67 Creek and OH-58 Kiowa training helicopters made by the Bell Helicopters unit of Textron Inc., and replace them with Lakotas transferred from other uses and others bought new from Airbus.

          The Army now uses the Lakota—a version of the EC-145 helicopter commonly used to transfer workers and supplies to offshore oil and gas platforms—for noncombat missions such as transport and reconnaissance.

          AgustaWestland and Bell have both claimed the twin-engine Lakota will cost more to buy and operate than their own helicopters.

          The Army has said it is cheaper to retire whole fleet types. It aims to save money by using the same helicopter for training and operating.

          "We are dismayed that the Army is moving toward a sole-source procurement, involving more than $800 million in initial acquisition costs, with no publicly available cost analysis or open consideration of alternative platforms potentially better suited for this important mission," an AgustaWestland spokesman wrote in an emailed response.

          The federal judge assigned to the case hasn't ruled on the request for a restraining order. On Monday she granted a request from AgustaWestland to refile part of its motion to correct non-substantive errors, according to a court filing.


          • #6
            Four Charged with Espionage

            Four alleged members of an international computer hacking ring face charges in the US of breaking into the computer networks of the US Army and several tech companies and stealing several software packages, including programs used to train Army helicopter pilots.

            The alleged thefts included software and data related to the Xbox One gaming console, the Xbox Live online gaming service and popular games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Gears of War 3, the
            US Department of Justice said.

            Between January 2011 and March of this year, the four men and others allegedly hacked into the computer networks of Microsoft, Epic Games, Valve, Zombie Studios and the
            US Army, using methods including SQL injection and stolen usernames and passwords of company employees and software development partners.

            The group is accused of stealing unreleased software, software source code, trade secrets, pre-release works and other confidential and proprietary information, including technical specifications for Microsoft's then-unreleased Xbox One and Apache helicopter simulator software developed by Zombie Studios, the DOJ said. Members of the conspiracy also stole financial and other sensitive information relating to the companies and some employees, the agency alleged.

            The group also stole intellectual property and proprietary data related to Xbox Live, a pre-release version of Epic's Gears of War 3, and a pre-release version of Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

            The value of the intellectual property stolen and the costs associated with the companies' responses to the hacking is estimated at between $100 million and $200 million, the DOJ said. The DOJ has seized more than $620,000 in cash and other proceeds related to the allegedly illegal conduct.

            The four men charged are Nathan Leroux, 20, of Bowie, Maryland; Sanadodeh Nesheiwat, 28, of Washington, New Jersey; David Pokora, 22, of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; and Austin Alcala, 18, of McCordsville, Indiana. The four were charged in an 18-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the
            US District Court for the District of Delaware in April. The court unsealed the indictments on Tuesday.

            The charges in the indictment include conspiracies to commit computer fraud, copyright infringement, wire fraud, mail fraud, identity theft and theft of trade secrets, the DOJ said. The defendants are also charged with individual counts of aggravated identity theft, unauthorized computer access, copyright infringement and wire fraud.

            Pokora and Nesheiwat pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and copyright infringement and are scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 13. Pokora was arrested on March 28, while attempting to enter the US at Lewiston, New York. Pokora's plea is believed to be the first conviction of a foreign-based individual for hacking into
            US businesses to steal trade secret information, the DOJ said.

            "Electronic breaking and entering of computer networks and the digital looting of identities and intellectual property have become much too common,"
            US Attorney Charles Oberly of the District of Delaware said in a statement. "These are not harmless crimes, and those who commit them should not believe they are safely beyond our reach."


            • #7
              US Army Receives First MH-47G Chinook

              The Boeing Co. delivered the first new-build MH-47G Chinook to US Army Special Operations Command during a ceremony on Sept. 29.

              The rotorcraft will be the first of eight MH-47G variants to be delivered to the service through fiscal year 2015. The G-model is the seventh iteration of the heavy lift vehicle.

              “This new-build MH-47G begins another new and exciting chapter for Army Special Operations Aviation Command,” said Army Col. Dean D. Heitkamp, deputy commander for the command.

              “This aircraft … incorporates the best of the capabilities our Special Ops aircrews have demanded and relied upon in the past — capabilities which enable them to achieve mission success in the most demanding environments and incredible SOF mission profiles,” he said.

              The US Army has taken delivery of it first MH-47G

              The rotorcraft includes improved electronic warfare capabilities, better transportability, safer airframes, in-flight refueling and is also equipped with larger fuel tanks that double the capacity of the CH-47F version, officials said.

              The new-build MH-47G delivery is also an important milestone because it could set the stage for increased commonality between Army aviation and Special Operations Command, said Army Col. Paul Howard, projects manager at the SOCOM technology applications program office.

              “This aircraft may very well be the building block design on which the Army — both conventional and Special Operations — will base their future on,” Howard said. “If this vision for increased commonality between the airframes is realized … we can all benefit from greater lift capacity … and efficient utilization of future investments for a common technological and capability improvements.”

              For example, one SOF modification the Army could benefit from is the aircraft’s 54,000-pound payload capability, Howard said.

              SOCOM already has a fleet of MH-47Gs that were refurbished from older Chinook models. The aircraft delivered at the Pennsylvania plant was the first all new version, Howard said.

              “Capability wise, what is on this aircraft is similar to the mission equipment that’s on the current fleet. [The] cockpit is the same as the current fleet, so from a pilot-perspective and crew chief perspective, [it’s] fairly transparent,” Howard said. “What will be different though is the maintenance on it. It is a differently constructed aircraft so that’s where the true differences will be manifested then from a user perspective.”

              The MH-47G was delivered a month ahead of schedule and within budget, said Steve Parker, Boeing’s cargo helicopter and H-47 program manager.

              “This is without a doubt a very special aircraft and is without a doubt the most capable Chinook that Boeing has ever built,” Parker said. “This will ensure that the Chinook will remain relevant for the conventional Army and special operators alike through the 2060s.”

              The aircraft will enter service in August 2015 after going through “strain and vibe” flight tests, which will evaluate the new structure, said Helen Miller, H-47 deputy product manager at technology applications program office.


              • #8

                Fort Bliss Helicopter Battalion to Join Ebola Fight in West Africa

                Members of a Fort Bliss helicopter battalion are excited to be named to the U.S. mission that is being sent to West Africa to fight, contain and possibly eradicate the deadly Ebola virus.

                About 500 soldiers primarily from the 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment - a general support aviation battalion - are being sent to Liberia as part of what is being called Operation United Assistance, Fort Bliss announced Friday.

                Last week, it was announced that Fort Bliss would be sending 500 troops but the unit was not named. They will be part of about 3,000 U.S. service members who are being sent to West Africa by President Barack Obama.

                "The guys want to be part of" this mission, battalion commander Lt. Col. Whitney Gardner said during a news conference Friday.

                "There is very little fear about the actual disease," Gardner said. "They are looking forward to taking this on. It is a good time for our soldiers to do something different. We aren't going to attack an enemy force or insurgents. It's our time to go out and give back and help stabilize (Liberia) by saving lives."

                A 101st Airborne Division Chinook

                Helicopter Duties

                The Iron Knights will provide transportation to international health-care workers and to the command team which will come from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

                They will also provide heavy lifting for the construction of clinics and other infrastructure and medical evacuations of U.S. service members if needed, Gardner said.

                "I told soldiers and families when we met with them ... we are not there to provide any kind of medical support service or evacuation of those who are infected or suspected of being infected," Gardner said.

                The battalion's "bread-and-butter missions" are to provide transportation around a country that has very limited infrastructure and is largely jungle and to provide logistical support, he said.

                Details on when the battalion will depart, how long they will be gone or how many of their Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters they will take are still being hashed out, Gardner said. One thing that could hold back their departure is the lack of infrastructure on the ground in Liberia and whether they can support a large influx of troops, he added.

                While details are still sketchy, Gardner told soldiers to expect to be gone from nine months to a year.

                The Iron Knights have a lot of experienced soldiers and noncommissioned officers who have gone through multiple deployments and are ready for the new assignment, Gardner said.

                "It all begins with education," Gardner said. "A lot of people have self-conceived notions of what this virus is all about based on movies, reading books or even the national media, which I think has been sensationalizing for the past few weeks."

                Infection risk remote

                The safety and security of soldiers are the top priorities, Gardner added. They are all being educated on the signs and symptoms of Ebola so they can recognize if they are being infected or if their fellow soldiers are being infected, he said.

                But the nature of the mission will make that an extremely remote possibility, he added.

                "The chances of any of our soldiers having any direct contact with anyone suspected of having been infected or being infected is extremely limited to zero," Gardner said. "I would not be surprised if we went through a yearlong deployment, if it was to last that long, and never saw one person who was even suspected of having the disease."

                In additional to members of his battalion, the Fort Bliss contingent will also include some soldiers from sister unit, the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, and from the 127th Aviation Support Battalion. All are part of the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

                Staff Sgt. Richard Sosa of Phoenix is a helicopter crew member with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment. He said the mission is vitally important to prevent the spread of the disease and having it turn into a worldwide epidemic.

                "We have a big job," Sosa said. "If we can't contain it, you can see it getting to the rest of the world. It's important we get over there, get the infrastructure built. Clinics, beds, they don't have enough beds for everyone."

                The unit is anxious to get going, Sosa added.

                "They think the mission is very important," Sosa said. "They think it is important to get over there and help out."


                • #9
                  Army Receives 300th CH-47F

                  Boeing has delivered its 300th CH-47F Chinook helicopter, 75 days ahead of schedule, to the US Army.

                  “This marks another benchmark for the CH-47F program,” said Lt. Col. Michael Hauenstein, the Army’s CH-47F product manager, Office of the Project Manager, Cargo Helicopters. “More importantly, we have met this benchmark ahead of schedule, within cost, and produced an aircraft that performs as required worldwide. We wouldn't have been able to achieve this if it wasn't for the partnership of the entire Chinook community.”

                  Boeing workers stand with the company's 300th CH-47F Chinook helicopter at Ridley Park, Pennsylvania prior to its delivery ( 75 days ahead of schedule) to the US Army

                  The CH-47F has a modernized airframe, Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) cockpit that improves crew situational awareness and the Digital Automatic Flight Control System (DAFCS), which offers enhanced flight-control capabilities for the multitude of conditions in which the helicopter is used.

                  “The Chinook provides a lifeline to soldiers,” said Steve Parker, Boeing vice president, Cargo Helicopters & H-47 program manager. “There are soldiers alive today because of the dedication of this team.”

                  Since the completion of the first CH-47F Chinook in 2006, 18 U.S. Army and National Guard units have been trained and equipped with the aircraft.

                  “The efficiency we have demonstrated is keeping the Chinook a highly relevant U.S. Army asset today and into the future,” said Parker.


                  • #10
                    US Army Report Highlights Fears of Hydraulic Fluid Contamination in Apaches

                    A military investigation into an Apache attack-helicopter mishap has found potential hydraulic fluid contamination that could cause “a catastrophic failure and loss of life,” government contracting records show.

                    The investigation began after a “Class A aviation mishap” of an Apache helicopter resulting from an uncommanded flight control movement, according to contract documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

                    Although the root cause of the contamination found in the Apache AH-64D fleet at Fort Rucker, Alabama, wasn’t identified, officials are replacing reservoir servicing units manufactured by Ohio-based Tronair Inc. with units made by another company.

                    “Further investigation of the Tronair [reservoir servicing unit] being used in the field revealed corrosion and design issues that could result in contaminating the hydraulic fluid when servicing the Army’s helicopter fleet,” an Army contracting official wrote.

                    The document doesn’t shed any light on the accident that prompted the investigation, and Army officials did not respond to questions from The Times seeking details.

                    The AH-64D is an attack helicopter used mostly by the Army, but it also is found in other countries’ military aviation fleets. Last November, Alabama television station WSFA reported that Fort Rucker authorities had reported an investigation into a “mishap” involving an AH-64 Apache in which an instructor and student were taken to a hospital but were unharmed.

                    Class A mishaps are the most serious under the military aviation classification system. They include accidents involving fatalities or total disability; property damage exceeding $2 million; or missiles or aircraft that have been destroyed, missing or abandoned.

                    The contract document to purchase servicing units cites an Army memo in September ordering officials to replace the Tronair units because of concerns about the potential passing of contaminated fluid into flight operation hydraulic systems.

                    “The contaminated fluid could cause a catastrophic failure and result in loss of life,” a contracting official wrote.

                    Josh Green, vice president of strategic planning for Tronair, said in an interview Tuesday that the company has cooperated with the Army’s investigation, but the probe hasn’t concluded.

                    He said the company doesn’t believe its equipment played a role in any failures.

                    Mr. Green also referred to the Army all questions about the mishap referenced in the contracting documents.

                    Asked whether other customers had been alerted, Mr. Green said, “We’re not aware of any other incidents, and we don’t believe that anything yet suggests that our products are causing malfunction.”

                    The Army on Oct. 21 added more than $300,000 to a $2.7 million contract, which called for the purchase of 81 servicing units under a sole-source basis with another manufacturer.

                    In describing the need for the purchase, the Army contracting official said the investigation into hydraulic system contamination began after an accident involving “uncommanded flight control movement.” In plain language, the chopper was doing something in midair that it wasn’t supposed to be doing.

                    “Since the Apache hydraulic system is a closed system, it is believed that the source of some of the contamination migrated to other aircraft operating through the same ground support equipment,” the contracting official wrote.

                    The official also said the Tronair hydraulic reservoir services units were “identified as one of the culprits of the hydraulic contamination.”


                    • #11
                      US Army Pushes Ahead with Airbus Trainer Plan

                      The US Army is moving ahead with the plan to use the Airbus UH-72A Lakota light twin as its helicopter primary trainer and the legal proceedings over the matter could be effectively over. In October and November the Army placed two separate orders for a total of 31 UH-72As that likely will be used as trainers and more orders are expected. The Army intends to use as many as 200 Lakotas, the military variant of the EC145, for its training mission.

                      An Army spokesman told AIN that the Army plans to acquire 82 more new Lakotas for the training mission, including the 31 ordered in October and November, with the remainder shifting from Active Component Army units. The Army National Guard will maintain its current fleet of 212 UH-72As and none of these will be used for the active Army training mission. The Army is acquiring three more cockpit procedural trainers from the Airbus Group in support of its training mission.

                      The US Army recently placed an order for 31 Airbus UH-72S Lakotas

                      The Army’s plan first came to light in its FY2015 budget proposal and immediately drew criticism from rivals Bell and AgustaWestland (AW). The Italian manufacturer went so far as to file suit to block the deal, claiming it should be put out for competitive bidding. AW filed a complaint on September 19 and sought a federal temporary restraining order to stop the acquisition. It wants to offer its AW119Kx single or AW109 light twin as alternatives. Spokesmen from both AW and Bell declined to comment for this article. Bell is not pursuing a legal challenge to the Army plan, even though its new 505 light single is viewed as a viable low-cost contender for the military training market. Sources close to the case told AIN that Bell’s inaction is prompted by its desire not to alienate the Army as the company pursues far more lucrative Army business such as the Future Vertical Lift program, which could buy the V-280 Valor third-generation tiltrotor that Bell is currently developing.

                      Proceedings Halted

                      On October 14 the United States Court of Federal Claims issued a temporary order denying the U.S. Government’s challenge of the AW action and issued a stay in all further proceedings on the case pending an Army issuance of its final justification and approval (J&A) to sole-source the helicopter trainer procurement. However, that J&A may never be issued, a maneuver that effectively quashes AW’s complaint.

                      The Army contends that the “new” training helicopters are being acquired under its existing 2006 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) contract with Airbus, and therefore the purchase does not require a new J&A and is not subject to court jurisdiction or challenge. That 2006 contract calls for the Army to purchase up to 500 UH-72As over 10 years. To date, Airbus has delivered approximately 320 UH-72As to the U.S. Navy, Army and Army National Guard at an average unit price of $5.5 million.

                      An October 20 “defendant’s status report” filing with the federal claims court by Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce Branda on behalf of the Army noted, “AgustaWestland’s…response confuses the ongoing procurement of UH-72 (Lakota) helicopters pursuant to an existing contract between Airbus Defense and Space and the Army, and the potential new sole-source procurement at issue here.”

                      Branda noted that under the LUH contract, “The Army may procure up to 55 Lakota helicopters in each program year 2014 and 2015, ending on September 30 of each year. The Army already has exercised a portion of its 2014 option to procure 26 Lakotas. Airbus and the Army have agreed that the Army may exercise its remaining 2014 option to purchase up to 29 Lakotas before November 30, 2014. The Army is currently taking steps to exercise part of the remaining 2014 option for 17 Lakotas and intends to do so soon. The Army also may exercise the 2015 option to purchase 55 helicopters before Sept. 30, 2015.”

                      The UH-72s ordered by the Army in October and November will be delivered in 2016.