back to article Obama says his new chopper is 'procurement gone amuck'

It looks as though the new US President may soon join the Queen and switch to purchasing his official helicopters in America. Speculation is rife over the future of the planned buy of modified British/Italian copters, after Barack Obama made negative remarks regarding the project. "The helicopter I have now seems perfectly …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    "This provides extra lift, as helicopter blades work better when beating air which they haven't already churned up"

    No, ship motion provides more lift by adding to the airspeed of the rotor. Choppers actually have more lift on the deck by sitting in Ground Effect.

    The problem comes during the phase called "Transition" where hover in ground effect gives way to forward-speed generated lift. That's why rolling take-offs are used.

    There is a situation where a rapidly descending egg-beater can enter its own downwash and this is called "flight into the vortex ring." This has been known to seriously ruin the day of all on board. However this situation is unrelated to the issues in your piece.

    Nice piece otherwise Lewis. Politics and procurement eh? It just leaves one with a vague dirty feeling doesn't it?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh no, not again...

    This is going the way of the F35C, isn't it ? If you load it up you can't get it off the deck. Or back on it, for that matter.

    Peter R.

  3. Joe

    Gone amok?


  4. jason

    Oh dear.... thing to do on this one is just walk away. Really isnt worth the hassle.

    Let him keep using the current ones.

    Does it need a washroom? Doest everyone always have a wee before they go on a trip?

  5. Dave Bell
    Black Helicopters

    Bit of an odd choice?

    This is a specialised transport job, so they're not going to use a bog standard military chopper. And they'll take special care over the air and ground crew. But why something that needs a completely different spares and maintenance system? Have the US Marines started using metric threads yet?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    It's those $90 screws that pushed the price up

    Plus all those pesky $500 rivets and the $100 000 toilet seat.

    Paris, 'cause there's nothing she won't do for $100 000.

  7. billy no mates

    sounds like US protectionism is on its way

    take note everyone, US protectionism is on its way.

    but then a nation that large doesn't really have an option, does it ?

  8. Steve
    IT Angle

    rolling forwards

    Does it really produce more lift due to higher airspeed over the rotors?

    I suspect not, as at any given time one rotor is moving towards the rear of the chopper, so it may produce higher airspeed on one side, but not on the other, so overall it should have a zero net affect on lift.

  9. Peter Fielden-Weston

    Hover in still air...

    "it doesn't have enough power to achieve a hover in still airs with a full load of weapons and fuel*, for instance"

    Isn't hovering for protracted periods part of what a sub-hunting helicopter does? And does a huge amount of.

    Hours and hours of dip, listen, listen, listen, bit more listening, listen, lift; repeat.

    if so, how is the Merlin so good at its primary role then?

  10. Nick


    Amok or amuk? I think that you'll find that's a mute point!


  11. null
    Thumb Down

    Not Protectionism

    "take note everyone, US protectionism is on its way.

    but then a nation that large doesn't really have an option, does it ?"

    While there certainly is a protectionist element in this country which lobbied hard to give contract to Sikorsky, I don't think this particular case has much to do with protectionism. We're talking about a helicopter that's going to cost $400 million per unit (two times the initial budget) and we plan to buy TWENTY EIGHT of them. Do you have any idea how expensive that is? As Lewis pointed out, EACH UNIT is more expensive than Air Force one. The US could buy THREE F-22 Raptors for the price of each helicopter and, by the the way, helicopters are much more expensive to maintain than fixed-wing.

    The specifications that make this helicopter so enormously expensive don't seem to be publicly available. I would very much like to see them, as I cannot see any possible way to justify a $200 million dollar transport helicopter, let alone $400 million. For some perspective, the CH-47 Chinook dual-rotor helicopter runs around $10 million per unit. The Apache Longbow, which is the most sophisticated and heavily-armored helicopter is around $16 million.

    The best argument I've heard so far is that it's the limited production run that's making this helicopter so expensive. I cannot see why this wasn't taken into account when they were thinking up the contract. Why couldn't they just modify an existing helicopter to suit the president?

    I'm all for buying out of country so long as the military is getting the highest quality product for the lowest price (like the EADS deal on the KC-X for instance). In this case, the taxpayer is getting screwed.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this in a similar vein to

    HM doesnt need a new yacht or train each year, but the Gov decide when it'll be replaced for her, she's quite happy not having the latest Roman Abromovitch cast off's...does Pres Obama have a say or does the protection squad spec the thing for him, I'd bet he'd rather it was lighter and faster away from a threat than sit there being hit with SAM's until they found the weak points.

    My point is this, he uses it to go from place to place, surely he doesnt need to be in the oval office to go from the oval office to his other oval office at home. use the saved money and buy him a blackberry and laptop so he can work on route.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Steve

    Please, please, please feel free to attempt a running take-off in an underpowered heli, down wind on a ship deck. I'll even pay for your flight.

    Hitting transition with a 30kt tailwind before the deck ran out? Yes, I'd pay to see you attempt that.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Yes and no, you're talking about dissymmetry of lift problems that choppers experience whenever there is lateral movement involved. The retreating blade will experience less lift than the advancing which is countered by flappy blades, but this is true regardless of whether it's on a ship or not.

    Agreed that there is less lift required for a static take-off, but generally there is less stability involved, and that combined with the transition phase (whoops I need more lift) isn't a happy place to be - esp. on a carrier. So Lewis still wrong :-)

  15. Seán


    Why are they buying 28 of them?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    RE: AC 15:02 GMT

    Oh FFS !

    You followed the same thinking that Steve did. I did not say "blades" or "lateral movement" or anything on relative airspeed. Yes Flex blades, fully articulated heads and swash plates remove advancing and retreating motion effects but I never said otherwise.

    I said "airspeed of the rotor" as in The Main Rotor.

    Ground Hover mode = max lift. Transition mode = min lift. Forward speed mode = good lift.

    Rolling a heavy chopper along a deck which is steaming into wind means achieving transition before even leaving the ground.

    Please don't mis-quote me it just creates noise in the comments.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Helicopter physics flamewar! FIGHT! FIGHT!

  18. E

    Maintenance costs

    Obviously if the S-76 C++ was made in Python it would be more maintainable.

  19. Henry Cobb


    Why not just use the CV-22?

    It's already military hardened with all sorts of night vision gear, etc and with in-air refueling it can scoot the chief to ANY working airfield in the country so he can hook up with Air Force One.

  20. Tom

    First the bust of Churchill and now this

    I never did understand why so many of you Limeys liked this guy.

    I'll grant they seem a bit pricey, but I suspect it has more to do with having the Executive Washroom AND the 14 seats plus sleep quarters for the president. Being as the helo is supposed to be for short trips of the President and his immediate staff, I don't see the need for all the crap. Cut that and let the contract stand.

    Mind you, with a roomie who is a civilian working for the Navy and handling some minor procurement items, I hear more about how the processes get F'ed up than I care to remember let alone relate.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    RE: David Wiernicki

    He He, I aim to please ;o)

    Any more trouble from this thread and I'm going to ALL CAPS !!!!!!!111!!

  22. Andus McCoatover

    Phew! Misunderstanding there...

    Obama's new chopper????

    Grief, for a moment I thought he'd had a strapadichtomy.

    (Gorrit already)

  23. Jerren

    The real question is...

    How a helicopter that is not able to take of vertically under load was allowed to be selected in the first place no matter who makes it? If the base configuration is not fit for purpose who in their right mind would think it would even get off the ground after you add all the extra kit on it it? Just a little common sense could have avoided this whole mess...

  24. TJ
    Gates Horns

    @Billy no mates

    "take note everyone, US protectionism is on its way.

    but then a nation that large doesn't really have an option, does it ?"

    Do you think before you type, or do you have stupid non-subject matter one-liner turrets?

    Bill Gates - a REAL "protectionist"

  25. SkippyBing
    Black Helicopters

    Why not just use the CV-22?

    It, the CH-53 and the Chinook all fail the 'Rose Garden' test. In which you land on the White House lawn, if it fucks up the Rose Garden you fail the test.

    Transitional lift is when the rotor disc moves clear of the downdraught it's inducing from above and the blades start biting into clear air which works quite well on a carrier, less well on a frigate because you're behind the hangar.

    Ground effect is all very interesting but if you're relying on it to get airborne you're not going to get very far unless you start doing advanced transitions but that's a whole other story.

  26. Scott

    Protectionism? Err, not.

    First point, I'm rather sure that there's a procurement requirement for most US military equipment to select US vendors. That assures squabbles with other nations won't interfere with supplies and spare parts. It's not about protectionism.

    Second point, Sikorsky is a US-based company. The military is just buying from a different American vendor.

  27. Nicholas Ettel

    @David Wiernicki

    I whole-heartedly agree.

    This calls for popcorn. And the icon? It's my robe, not a coat - I'm getting comfortable. Should be a good show. :D

    (PS heli physics is actually interesting to me - as is all aeronautical physics - but that's an aside to how fun watching nerd fights can be.)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    As a taxpayer I would like to know why...

    We need TWENTY-EIGHT of these?!? Why?! Does the Obama's new dog get a personal chopper? And $400 million each!!!??? Let me see, "Mr. President, we can buy you 6 new helicopters, or we can buy the navy a new aircraft carrier--your choice."

    Holy cost overruns, Batman!!!

    How about like 10 of these helos? That should be plenty for the President, his family, the cabinet, their immediate security detail and still have 3-4 left over to constantly rotate helicopters through maintenance.

  29. Hugo
    Black Helicopters

    Sikorsky S-76C+ crash

    It was a Sikorsky S-76C+ (not the slightly newer S-76C++) that crashed into the sea when en route from Tallinn to Helsinki in 2005, killing all 14 onboard.

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  32. Fraggle

    Tower Defense?

    [quote]or do you have stupid non-subject matter one-liner turrets?[/quote]

    I'm trying to imagine the sort of threats these turrets would protect you from?

    If they're effective against bank/government grade 'talent', I'll take 28 please!

  33. Anonymous Coward


    "*This isn't quite as bad as it might seem."

    So how about landing on top of a building ?

    I reckon its still a bit of a showstopper. Unless .... I have IT. We can rig a catapult to fling the chopper off the top. That should build up some wind speed.

    I cant see anything going wrong. Wait ....

  34. Mark


    Why doesn't he slide open the door, get out his chopper(!) and p**s out of the door like everyone else.

    To paraphrase an ancient political maxim:

    Its better to be on the inside pissing out instead of outside pissing in

  35. David Stever
    Black Helicopters

    @Frank Gerlach

    After looking at the flight of the BO-105 through the woods (I saw Julie Andrews at one point- I think she was heading for the high meadow for a bout of singing), I'd expect the dramamine for PBO to exceed the savings for buying these bad boys. The pilot always needs less then the passenger. I'd advise the President to strap in, if they'll flight like they did in this video.

    PBO= President Barrack Obama

    The icon to use for this discussion is obvious, isn't it?

  36. BioTube

    It's a helicopter, not an emergency command airbunker

    There's no reason it needs hypercommunication abilities or luxury seats(it's not meant for long flights - that's Air Force One, which already has said uberplushy chairs) or a bed(last I checked, helicopters can't go a mile high :) ). A bathroom is somewhat understandable, but a chaingun serves the purpose better.

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  38. Andus McCoatover

    @We need TWENTY-EIGHT of these?!? Why?!

    Easily explained.. How many Saddam Hussein lookalikes were there. Did they hang the right one?

    Put a dark-skinned bloke in each chopper wearing a cheap suit and a Wal-mart tie (don't waste money on turkeys), then let the tourists/terrists (oh, fuc*k it - Dubya' history) terrorists shoot 'em down, Russian-roulette-style

    Plenty of volunteers for a free trip in a chopper in Gitmo, I reckon. Bet they've only flown once. With the blindfolds/gaffer tape over the eyes, probbly didn't enjoy the view much. Particularly the one over the Staue of Liberty.

    Who knows......


  39. SkippyBing

    (last I checked, helicopters can't go a mile high

    err.. yes they can, it's only 6000' (that's a nautical mile before the pedants strike).

    Also, not being able to take off with full fuel and weapons is a perfectly acceptable design choice. It means if you're not carrying weapons (i.e. most of the time) you can use the spare power to carry fuel and go further.

  40. Greem

    @Frank Gerlach

    Flying like that, the crew need to keep an eye out for the Gruffalo...

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