USAF Wants New Helicopters to Replace 62 Bell UH-1Ns

The US Air Force wants to start replacing 62 Vietnam-era Bell UH-1Ns with up to 93 new helicopters after 2015. A “sources sought” notice issued on the 17th December 2009 for the potential multi-billion dollar common vertical lift support programme (CVLSP) reveals both the quantity and the USAF’s desired attributes for the new fleet. The service wants to replace its UH-1Ns with a type that can lift 1,450kg (3,200lb), including four crew members, nine passengers and mission equipment, the notice says.

It should also be able to fly up to three hours without refuelling, and at speeds of up to 135kt (250km/h). Aircraft survivability is a key area that the USAF wants to upgrade with its new helicopters. The new CVLSP helicopter should also be armed with the ability to suppress an “eight-man enemy element in the open out to 800m (2,620ft) during daylight with 3 seconds of detection time.

The USAF has also made it clear that the contract is expected to be awarded to an off-the-shelf design. Once fielded, the CVLSP fleet is expected to provide escort for nuclear convoys, respond in any weather to emergencies at launch silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles, and also transport passengers in the Washington DC area. The type could also support NASA and homeland security missions. The USAF’s requirements call for an aircraft that is only marginally larger than the UH-1N.