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Helo upgrades focus on Special-Warfare Missions: Non-traditional operations challenge capabilities of rotary-wing aircraft. (Unconventional Warriors).

From the mountains of Afghanistan to the confines of America's cities, vertical takeoff-and-landing mobility will be essential to U.S. special operations forces Those Active and Reserve Component forces of the Military Services designated by the Secretary of Defense and specifically organized, trained, and equipped to conduct and support special operations. Also called SOF. .

By definition, special operations Operations conducted in hostile, denied, or politically sensitive environments to achieve military, diplomatic, informational, and/or economic objectives employing military capabilities for which there is no broad conventional force requirement.  are missions with high risk and high operational or strategic payoff. They often are politically sensitive. Objectives can be deep in hostile territory and protected by mixed air defenses. Operational secrecy is essential to success, and single aircraft or small formations must fly long distances at night and low altitude to avoid detection.

Mission profiles consequently put a premium on performance and take a toil on helicopter transmissions and other dynamic components. They also generate extraordinary cockpit workload--manageable only with highly trained crews and integrated avionics.

As it stands today, the special operations forces' helicopter fleet is due for modernization or replacement in coming years.

Each of the U.S. armed services The Constitution authorizes Congress to raise, support, and regulate armed services for the national defense. The President of the United States is commander in chief of all the branches of the services and has ultimate control over most military matters.  has special-operations helicopters.

The U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment operates MH-60K and MH-60L Black Hawks, MH-47D and MH-47E Chinooks, and AH/MH-6J Little Birds.

The U.S. Air Force 20th and 21st Special Operations Squadrons fly the MH-53M Pave Low PAVE LOW Sikorsky MH-53H/J Project  IV.

The joint U.S. Special Operations Command A subordinate unified or other joint command established by a joint force commander to plan, coordinate, conduct, and support joint special operations within the joint force commander's assigned operational area. Also called SOC. See also special operations.  routinely mixes the Army and Air Force helicopters on missions such as the evacuation of civilians from hotspots. Army Special Operations Chinooks relieved Air Force Pave Lows stationed in Korea in July 2001.

Outside the Special Operations Command, Navy Reserve squadrons HCS-4 and -5 provide special warfare support with the HH-60H Seahawk. Aboard amphibious assault Noun 1. amphibious assault - an amphibious operation attacking a land base that is carried out by troops that are landed by naval ships
amphibious operation - a military operation by both land and sea forces

 ships, less specialized but still specially trained Marine Corps composite helicopter squadrons can use their CH-53E Super Stallions to support Marine Expeditionary Units A Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) is the smallest Marine Air-Ground Task Force in the United States Marine Corps. The MEU is normally built around a reinforced Marine infantry battalion, a composite helicopter squadron, a logistics combat element, and a command element.  (Special Operations Capable).

The Sikorsky MH-53M Pave Low IV helicopters in Air Force Special Operations Squadrons are the same Super Jolly Green Giants first sent to Vietnam in 1967. Today, the re-skinned, re-bladed and thoroughly refurbished aircraft have night/adverse weather capability, integrated aircraft survivability sur·viv·a·ble  
1. Capable of surviving: survivable organisms in a hostile environment.

2. That can be survived: a survivable, but very serious, illness.
 equipment, and digital connectivity.

The Pave Low III first introduced a forward-looking infrared An airborne, electro-optical thermal imaging device that detects far-infrared energy, converts the energy into an electronic signal, and provides a visible image for day or night viewing. Also called FLIR.  (FUR) sensor and terrain following/terrain avoidance radar for combat rescues in 1979. It became a Special Operations Command asset after Navy minesweepers failed to rescue American hostages from Iran in 1980. The enhanced Pave Low III integrated the night/adverse weather sensors with a sophisticated navigation/communications suite on a 1553B databus. With their precision navigation capability, Air Force Pave Lows led Army Apaches to make the opening shots of Desert Storm in 1991.

Since then, the Air Force Special Operations Command Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) was established 22 May, 1990,with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla. AFSOC is a United States Air Force (USAF) major command and is the air component to the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), a unified command  has modernized 25 of 38 Pave Low IIIEs to MH-53M Pave Low IVs with the integrated defensive avionics system/multimission advanced tactical terminal (IDAS/MATT IDAS/MATT Interactive Defense Avionics System/Multi-Mission Advanced Tactical Terminal ), made by Lockheed Martin For the former company, see .

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is a leading multinational aerospace manufacturer and advanced technology company formed in 1995 by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta.
. An MH-53M led an MH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter to the stealth fighter pilot shot down in Kosovo in 1999. With digital connectivity and a digital map display, the IDAS/MATT gives the Pave Low IV crew better situational awareness Situation awareness or situational awareness [1] (SA) is the mental representation and understanding of objects, events, people, system states, interactions, environmental conditions, and other situation-specific factors affecting human performance in  to avoid enemy air defenses and take advantage of new intelligence.

At a gross weight of up to 50,000 pounds, the MH-53M carries up to 37 troops or hook loads to 20,000 pounds. Air Force special-operations pilots practice night aerial refuelings from HC-130P and MC-130E tankers at altitudes less than 500 feet to avoid enemy air defenses. Despite their robust capabilities, the hard-working Pave Low IVs with their vintage radar and FUR, have the highest maintenance requirements in the Air Force special-operations inventory.

Even with their IDAS-integrated aircraft survivability suite, they lack infrared engine exhaust suppressors that would help counter shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles This is a list of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). Radar-guided SAMs
  • Akash Missile - India
  • Arrow - Israel
  • Aster - United Kingdom/France/Italy
  • Bloodhound - United Kingdom
  • Ground launched AMRAAM - NASAMS (AIM-120 AMRAAM AAM) - Norway

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC AFSOC Air Force Special Operations Command
AFSOC Air Force special operations component (US DoD) 
) had planned to buy 50 CV-22 tilt rotors to replace a variety of rotary-and fixed-wing aircraft "Airplane" and "Aeroplane" redirect here. For other uses, see Airplane (disambiguation).
A fixed-wing aircraft is a heavier-than-air craft where movement of the wings in relation to the aircraft is not used to generate lift.
, including the MH-53M. Whatever the future AFSOC force mix, the troubles of the Osprey osprey (ŏs`prē), common name for a bird of prey related to the hawk and the New World vulture and found near water in most parts of the world.  have put Pave Low replacement plans on hold.

Unlike conventional Army cargo helicopter units, the Night Stalkers of the U.S. Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment use the Boeing-made Chinooks as assault transports to fast-rope and fast-land troops, deploy loaded boats, and haul cargo too heavy for the MH-60 Black Hawks. Unlike conventional Army units, the Night Stalkers routinely refuel re·fu·el  
v. re·fu·eled also re·fu·elled, re·fu·el·ing also re·fu·el·ling, re·fu·els also re·fu·els
To supply again with fuel.

 from C-130 Hercules tankers and fly from Navy ships.

The first modernized CH-47D---remanufactured from a Vietnam-era Chinook--joined then-Task Force 160 in 1982. The unit's own systems integration and maintenance office ultimately gave the MH-47D a Rockwell Collins Rockwell Collins, Inc. (NYSE: COL) is a large United States-based international company headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, primarily providing aviation and information technology systems, solutions, and services to governmental agencies and aircraft manufacturers.  cockpit management system, including a weather radar and first-generation Hughes/Raytheon AAQ-16 thermal imager.

The MH-47D operates at gross weights of 50,000 pounds and carries up to 50 troops. Its wartime infiltration radius of around 300 nautical miles can now be extended with air refueling The capability to refuel aircraft in flight, which extends presence, increases range, and serves as a force multiplier. Also called AR. . In 1988, two MH-47Ds flew 490 miles at night to recover a Soviet Mi-24 Hind helicopter from a remote African site.

By comparison, the MH-47E Special Operations Aircraft was designed for special operations missions from the outset, with a Lockheed Martin integrated avionics system-common to the MH-60K Black Hawk. It also has a Raytheon APQ-174 TF/TA TF/TA Terrain Following / Terrain Avoidance  radar, Raytheon AAQ-16 FLIR FLIR Forward-Looking Infrared (Radar)
FLIR Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer
FLIR Forward Looking Infrared Radar
FLIR Forward Looking Infra Red
, and a cockpit layout different from that of the MH-47D.

Army Chinook Chinook, indigenous people of North America
Chinook (shĭnk`, chĭ–), Native American tribe of the Penutian linguistic stock.

At a maximum gross weight of 54,000 pounds, the MH-47E with its swollen sponsons carries twice the fuel of the MH-47D. It provides a wartime infiltration radius of 415 nautical miles and is equipped for air refueling. To hike hot-and-high performance and single-engine emergency power, the E-Model Chinook introduced Honeywell T55-GA-714 engines up to 38 percent more powerful than the 712s originally used in standard Army CH-47Ds. The 714 engines have since upgraded the MH-47Ds. Similar 714A powerplants are being installed in all U.S. Army Chinooks.

The 160th now operates 11 MH-47D and 25 MH-47E Chinooks at a high operational tempo in the most difficult flight profiles. They require mission ready rates of 85 percent--10 percent higher than that expected from ordinary aviation units. The special operations Chinooks and Black Hawks have a dedicated spare parts depot at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, managed by the Boeing-Sikorsky Aircraft Support Company.

The last of 26 MH-47Es was delivered to Fort Campbell in May 1995. However, both the MH-47D and MH-47E are due for modernization. The two aircraft have dissimilar avionics and pose obsolescence ob·so·les·cent  
1. Being in the process of passing out of use or usefulness; becoming obsolete.

2. Biology Gradually disappearing; imperfectly or only slightly developed.
 problems as replacement parts grow harder to get. An attrition replacement for an MH-47E lost in a training accident in March 1996 provides the opportunity to standardize the 160th to a common special operations Chinook.

The modernized MH-47G has yet to be defined, but a CH-47D earmarked for the 160th already has been inducted into the CH-47F improved Chinook line. Preliminary plans blend MH-47E-like avionics with the structural and systems improvements of the F-model. The Army plans to upgrade 300 CH-47Ds to F-Model improved cargo helicopters with a stiffer fuselage that reduces vibration and databus-equipped cockpits. The first six aircraft off the line have been allocated to the 160th SOAR.

With special-operations Chinooks busy elsewhere, six CH-47Ds inducted from conventional Army units may be brought to a new MH-47G standard with enlarged fuel sponsons, terrain-following/avoidance radar, stiffered structures, marinized 714A engines, and common avionics , including color multi-function displays.

Second generation FLIR technology now offers night sensors with greater range and resolution. The Special Operations Command has a requirement for an infrared suppressor sup·pres·sor  
1. or sup·press·er One that suppresses: a suppressor of free speech.

2. A gene that suppresses the phenotypic expression of another gene, especially of a mutant gene.
 to protect Chinooks. The first MH-47G should be delivered in 2003 and could be followed by MH-47Ds and MH-47Es modernized to common G standards. Depending on Army and SOCOM SOCOM Special Operations Command (US DoD)  requirements, the last six aircraft may return to conventional units as CH-47Fs or bolster the Night Stalkers with additional MH-47Gs.

In addition to the MH-47s of the U.S. Army's 160th SOAR, British special forces use the Chinook HC.2s, in service with the Royal Air Force. The RAF self-deployed four aircraft 3,000 miles from the U.K. to Sierra Leone, for peacekeeping duties last year. The last of seven or eight new Chinook HC.3s with Rockwell Collins night/adverse weather avionics will leave Boeing's Shreveport Modification Center in late 200l and ill assume the RAF special operations mission.

Black Hawk

Like the Chinook, the Sikorsky Black Hawk has been part of the 160th SOAR since its inception. Black Hawks took special-operations units to hide-sites deep in Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait which resulted in the 7 month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait[4]  in 1990 and extracted troops from Iraq under fire in 1991. They also were casualties of the bloody Mogadishu firefight fire·fight  
An exchange of gunfire, as between infantry units.
 in 1993. Black Hawks of the 160th SOAR have practiced military urban-warfare operations in several American cities.

The basic UH-60A with General Electric T700-GE-700 engines carried up to 16 combat troops, depending on fuel load, and could be equipped with the AAQ-16 FLIR, 7.62 mm mini-guns, Fast-rope bars, and other special-warfare equipment. The maximum infiltration radius was 358 nautical miles, with internal auxiliary ranks. The current MH-60L Black Hawk-- with more powerful 701C engines--has a maximum takeoff weight The Maximum Takeoff Weight or Maximum Takeoff Mass of an aircraft is the maximum weight at which the pilot of the aircraft is allowed to attempt to take off. The Maximum Takeoff Weight is the heaviest weight at which the aircraft has been shown to meet all the airworthiness  of 20,500 pounds. With rockets, Hellfire hell·fire  
The fire of hell, considered as punishment for sinners.


the torment of hell, imagined as eternal fire

Noun 1.
 or Maverick missiles, and 30 mm cannon, it becomes the direct or defensive action penetrator.

UH-60As and MH-60Ls of the 160th received a Rockwell Avionics cockpit management system, a predecessor of the MH-60K integrated avionics system.

Development of the sophisticated MH-60K began in 1986, but the Black Hawk special-operations version was not declared mission-ready until October 1995. The air-refuelable night/adverse weather MH-60K has both the AAQ-16 FUR and Texas Instruments APQ-174 multi-mode radar tied to the avionics system. The communications suite includes the ARC-20 1 tactical radio, ARC-220 HF (high frequency) radio, and ARC-2 10 satellite communications set.

Like the MH-47E cockpit, the MH-60K integrated avionics system gives the pilot and co-pilot a visual representation of aircraft systems, sensor imagery, navigation and communication functions, aircraft survivability equipment, and diagnostics. With internal auxiliary tanks, the infiltration radius without air refueling is 296 nautical miles. The cabin of the MH-60K sacrifices one troop seat for an electronics rack, and an upturned external tank system gives MH-60K gunners a clear field of fire.

Night/low altitude operations are planned to evade the enemy, but the MH-60K also has a comprehensive aircraft survivability suite to detect and confound air defense threats. Those threats have grown more sophisticated and more diverse since the end of the Cold War. The special operations Black Hawk is the first platform slated to receive the ITT ITT Initial Teacher Training (UK)
ITT I Think That
ITT Invitation To Tender
ITT Individual Time Trial (professional cycling)
ITT Intention-To-Treat
ITT In This Thread (forums) 
 ALQ-211 Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures (SIRFC SIRFC Suite of Integrated Radio Frequency Countermeasures ) and the BAE Systems ALQ-212 Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures (SIIRCM SIIRCM Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures (Army) ).

The 160th SOAR reportedly has 37 MH-60L and 23 MH-60K Black Hawks. Like the Chinook fleet, the diversity of Black Hawk models poses training and support challenges, and the avionics are facing component obsolescence. Modernization schedules for special operations Black Hawks have nor been released, but the broader Army UH-60M/UH-60X program provides hints.

Special Operations Black Hawks have flown at gross weights to 25,000 pounds. Driven in part by special operations requirements, Sikorsky Aircraft began flying broad-chord, drooped-tip, high-lift composite main rotor blades on a Black Hawk in 1993. The blades have since been tested on an MH-60K, and they will go on new and remanufactured UH-60Ms due off the production line in 2004.

A longer term UH-60X program after 2010 incorporates more powerful engines, an upgraded transmission, and other changes for select units. A modernized MH-6OK/L could share a new avionics suite with the MH-47G.

For light attack and assault companies of the 160th SOAR, the favored helicopter is the Little Bird. Easy to deploy and tough to detect, Little Birds--convertible AH-6J attack and MH-6J utility helicopters-- remain among the most versatile platforms for special operations forces. About 40 Little Birds provide night reconnaissance, fire support, and combat resupply re·sup·ply  
tr.v. re·sup·plied, re·sup·ply·ing, re·sup·plies
To provide with fresh supplies, as of weapons and ammunition.


The first Hughes Model 500D Little Birds were purchased in 1981, and Boeing continues to provide support through the commercial MD500/600 product line, which was sold to the Dutch firm MDHelicopters Inc. in 1999. AH-6s were deployed by C-130 cargo planes to fight for the first time in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada, in October 1983. Little Birds attacked Iran's Ajr as it lay mines in the Persian Gulf in 1987, strafed the headquarters of the Panamanian defense Forces in 1989, and were rumored to be flying over Baghdad in 1991.

The Little Bird can be pushed down the ramp of a C-130 by a single soldier and be ready to fly in seven minutes. The MH-6J carries up to six assault troops or two snipers on external bench seats. With a folding weapons carrier, the AH-6J can be armed with Hellfire missiles, rocket pods, and 7.62 mm or 50-caliber guns. Despite its small size, the Little Bird has a sophisticated mission suite including satellite communications capability.

Special operations aviators Well-known aviators
People largely known for their contributions to the history of aviation
While all of these people were pilots (and some still are), many are also noted for contributions in areas such as aircraft design and manufacturing, navigation or
 have long used a commercial flight management system that lets the Little Bird pilot choose from various navigation aids, such as a Global Positioning Satellite receiver. The system stores mission plans and way points, calculates range and endurance, and shows flight data on a night-vision compatible display An thermal imager provides a standoff sighting system for all the weapons, and a laser designator for Hellfire missiles.

Today's AH-6J has a maximum takeoff weight of 3,950 pounds. The MH-6M mission enhanced little bird currently undergoing flight tests at the Army Aviation Technical Test Center has a gross weight of 4,700 pounds. The stretched Little Bird combines the six-bladed rotor system of the MD600 commercial helicopter with a noise-reducing four-bladed tail rotor and a mix of engine and transmission improvements.

The Special Operations Command also is pursuing a cockpit miniaturization min·i·a·tur·ize  
tr.v. min·i·a·tur·ized, min·i·a·tur·iz·ing, min·i·a·tur·iz·es
To plan or make on a greatly reduced scale.

 upgrade, conformal fuel tanks, and second-generation FLIR for the MH-6.

Navy Special Warfare

Navy special warfare support and strike rescue/recovery are the specialties of Naval Reserve Squadrons HCS-4 and HCS-5. Both fly the HH-60H Seahawk developed from the SH-60F antisubmarine warfare helicopter.

The stripped-down Seahawk has no radar or sonar, but it retains a 1 553B databus architecture able to support the Texas Instruments AAS-44 FUR and Hellfire missile. It also has engine infrared suppressors and other aircraft survivability equipment.

The Navy bought 42 HH-60Hs between 1989 and 1996 to outfit the Reserve squadrons and provide rescue aircraft for active-duty squadrons on aircraft carriers. With their Seahawk lineage, the special operations helicopters are compatible with small ships. They operated from land bases during Operation Desert Storm Noun 1. Operation Desert Storm - the United States and its allies defeated Iraq in a ground war that lasted 100 hours (1991)
Gulf War, Persian Gulf War - a war fought between Iraq and a coalition led by the United States that freed Kuwait from Iraqi invaders;

The HH-60H was designed to haul seven or eight SEALs (Sea-Air-Land commandos) plus a crew of two. Its range is 200 nautical miles. It can insert the team in a hot-and-high landing zone. However, compared to the Army Black Hawk, the small cabin doors of the HH-60H are less appealing to heavily loaded troops who have to get in and out quickly. Seahawk landing gear--designed for deck landings--is also less crashworthy crash·wor·thy  
Capable of withstanding the effects of a crash: crashworthy cars; crashworthy seats.

 than the energy-absorbing Black Hawk gear. Navy helicopter modernization plans will give naval reserve squadrons an aircraft that is better suited for special operations.

The Navy's helicopter master plan introduces the multi-mission MH-60S Seahawk to replace the aging CH-46 in the vertical replenishment mission. It also provides a marinized special-warfare support Seahawk equipped with the wider cabin doors and crashworthy landing gear of the Black Hawk. The new helicopter--already in production--also provides a databus and multifunction cockpit displays compatible with thermal imagers, digital maps, and other mission equipment. Plans call for the acquisition of 38 HH-60Hs by 2007, for combat search and rescue A specific task performed by rescue forces to effect the recovery of distressed personnel during war or military operations other than war. Also called CSAR. See also search and rescue. , and special warfare support roles.

Expeditionary Units

Although the Marines do not have a separate special operations unit, they do organize, equip, and train amphibious Marine Expeditionary Units (special operations capable) to penetrate enemy territory and perform covert reconnaissance and other operations, including tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP).

The most capable transport helos in the deployed MEU MEU Marine Expeditionary Unit
MEU Mobile Expansion Unit
MEU Maximum Expected Utility (philosophy, economics)
MEU Municipal Employees Union
MEU Modern English Usage
MEU Main Electronics Unit
(SOC) composite squadron are four Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallions. CH-53Es enabled the 24th MEU TRAP team to recover Air Force Capt. Scot O'Grady from enemy territory in Bosnia in 1995.

CH-53E deliveries to the U.S. Marine Corps ended in 1999 with the 180th aircraft.

A portion of the Super Stallion fleet received the helicopter night vision system modification with AAQ-16 FLIRs and limited cockpit upgrades. The CH-53E crew-station remains workload-intensive for special-warfare missions. Sikorsky is negotiating with Turkey to build new CH-53Es with integrated avionics. A service life extension program proposed for the U.S. Marine Super Stallions several years ago could provide an opportunity to modernize the CH-53E cockpit.

The Marines, Air Force, and Navy all had special operations plans for the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt rotor. With its integrated avionics, even the basic Marine MV-22 would give expeditionary units a night/adverse weather assault platform. With a single air refueling, the Air Force CV-22 would self-deploy 2,700 nautical miles. Unlike helicopters disassembled to fit jet transports, the tilt rotor would arrive ready to fly. The 250-knot CV-22 also promised to fly missions up to 1,100 nautical mile radius under cover of a single night, eliminating the risky daytime hide-sites needed for helicopters. The speed and range of the planned HV-22 offered the Navy long-term improvements in its strike rescue and special warfare support capabilities.

The Air Force Special Operations Command planned 50 CV-22Bs to place 89 aircraft, including MH-53J/M J/M Just Messin'  and MH-60G helicopters and MC-130E and HC-130P fixed-wing turboprops, with initial operational capability The first attainment of the capability to employ effectively a weapon, item of equipment, or system of approved specific characteristics that is manned or operated by an adequately trained, equipped, and supported military unit or force. Also called IOC.  in 2004. After training squadron VMMT-204 achieved IOC IOC
International Olympic Committee

IOC n abbr (= International Olympic Committee) → COI m

IOC n abbr (=
 in 2001, the Marines planned to outfit some of their 325 MV-22s with the additional wing tanks of the CV-22 for use by the special operations MEUs. The Navy planned 48 HV-22s delivered between 2010 and 2013.

The December 2000 crash of the eighth MV-22B put tilt rotor plans on undetermined hold. But even if the CV-22 had been cleared for production, the aircraft would have not been ready for the special-warfare units in Operation Enduring Freedom.
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Title Annotation:helicopters
Author:Colucci, Frank
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2002
Previous Article:Why special ops prefer C-130s for many missions. (Unconventional Warriors).
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