Future Rotorcraft 2011: Vertical lift aviation ?reaches a tipping point'
The US Department of Defense's funding model is out of balance and needs to recognise the key role of the rotorcraft in current conflicts, according to a key industry figure.
Speaking at the Future Rotorcraft conference in London on 15 June, Philip Dunford, vice president, general manager and operating executive for Boeing Military Aircraft, argued that the US had reached a ‘tipping point' for vertical lift aviation and that funding needed to be allocated to those platforms that were currently of most value to the warfighter.
‘Let's balance the funding correctly for the relevance of the product. The way we fight wars has changed - it is really the helicopters that are getting in there and doing the dirty work. The balance is wrong in terms of how we fund things going forward,' Dunford said.
Dunford highlighted a gap in rotorcraft production from the end of current programmes to the onset of the Joint Multirole (JMR) project, which is not expected to reach the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase until 2030.
‘As we move to the right in terms of time we are going to cut deliveries from a peak in 2012 and 2013 of about 300 deliveries per year down to half of that. If this pans out the way we think it will, Sikorsky will have two products, the CH-53K and the UH-60M, Boeing will have Apache and I'm not sure what else there will be,' Dunford said.
‘So the question is what happens to the industry? What happens to the engineering base? What do we do in the meantime? The JMR is the next thing we all have to focus on. In my opinion JMR is taking too long - we need to somehow accelerate it.'
Dunford outlined the fact that rotorcraft investment in the US was currently 17% of the total investment available compared to the 83% allocated to the fixed wing world; more money will be spent on the Joint Strike Fighter programme than all of the helicopters over the last 50 years.
In terms of the development and production cost of a platform, the fixed wing aircraft involved in the current conflicts averaged $181,000 per combat flight hour (for a total of 2.56 million flight hours flown) compared to rotorcraft which cost $53,000 per combat flight hour (3.02 million hours).
‘In the days of the Cold War, which is where this funding model comes from, this was about right but the way we do things has changed. There will continue to be more helicopter flight hours as we go on than fixed wing just because of the environment in which we are fighting,' Dunford argued.
‘We have reached a tipping point for vertical lift aviation. Things are changing, the customer in the United States and the OEMs are talking about what we need to do. The question is whether it is happening quickly enough and it is going to be dependent on pulling a plan together and it is going to depend on funding.'
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