Monday, July 19, 2010

The Super Hawk could take a bite out of Army's dilemma

The U.S. Army has never had enough transport helicopters or attack helicopters. The former Soviet attempted to solve this problem with the Mi-24, a heavily armed troop carrying helicopter we know as the Hind. The Hind has served effectively for decades in dozens of militaries around the world. Dating back to the Vietnam War the Pentagon decided to build a dedicated helicopter gun ship to support the iconic "Huey" troop carriers and came up with the AH-1 Cobra.

Since Vietnam we have seen the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, AH-1 Supercobra and the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor. All are either troop carriers or attack craft and none are a combination of both.  The Black Hawk has been of limited value in Afghanistan because of the altitudes, the Apache is powerful but has been more vulnerable to ground fire than expected and the Osprey had significant development problems and will likely never be available in large numbers. The workhorse of the Army is the classic twin rotor CH-47 Chinook.

The Pentagon could reduce the overall number of helicopters and save a lot of money by developing an all new transport/attack helicopter that incorporates the best of the two types. The TA-70 (Transport/Attack) "Super Hawk"  would essentially be a redesigned Black Hawk with elements of the Apache. It would have a somewhat streamlined fuselage to help make it less of a target than the Black Hawk, but be roomy enough to incorporate a rear door/ramp and troop compartment that can hold 8-10 soldiers. It would be armed with a combination of guns, missiles, rockets and bombs so it would need know gun ship support - it would be its own gun ship. It would need larger engines to handle the extra weight and still be agile and be able to attain a respectable altitude.

This is not a magic bullet, but it would redirect the Army's inventory toward a more efficient and combat effective channel instead of trying to rely to much on expensive and delicate technologies that may or may not prove themselves in the future.

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