Bone Question Time - Sorry in Advance

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by meridian, Jan 23, 2011.

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  1. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Just been reading a story from the MoD about Apache maintenance

    Ministry of Defence | Defence News | Equipment and Logistics | Keeping the Apache ready to take on the Taliban

    They spend six weeks in theatre and about 9 weeks back in the UK being stripped down for a spot of deep maintenance

    This struck me as being a bit crazy in terms of operating costs. I am not in any way saying it should be done any less, that would be double bone, but can any of the grown ups answer me a few questions?

    1. Why is this depth maintenance not done in theatre, would it be cheaper, would it even be possible with the spares and personnel situation and how much does it cost to be shipping helicopters back and forth.

    2. Given that Apache seems to be operating from places with runways, as bloody fantastic as it is, is it really the right bit of kit for the job, not from a capability perspective but a cost perspective. It seems from point 1 that they are hideously expensive to run so could we do it cheaper with fixed wing? This definitely is not a fast jet v Tucano point because we all know you cannot replace Harrier/Tornado/Typhoon with a a lightweight turboprop but is that discussion looking at the wrong thing? How much hovering do they actually; given that slow speed/hovering/vertical landing/tight turning is the helicopters party trick and everything else is sacrificed to do so how much of that party piece is being done?

    3. How much are operations chewing through airframe hours, in 2015 when we pack up our bags and go home, how many Apache will be usable?

    Sorry if any of these seem bone its just that 6 to 9 ratio is pretty striking
  2. 600 flying hours in theatre doth not equal 6 weeks, if the heli flew 24 hours 7 days a week for 6 weeks it would have been in the air for 1008 hours.
  3. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Have I misread the article then?
  4. There is undoubtedly some serious civilian input in this, to have them in theatre would be very expensive. In the civvy crew are probably some key players, the only people that can do that, kind of thing, better to keep them safe and stress free, than bring them to theatre.
  5. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Thanks BC, next question

    Do we do this kind of thing for other rotary, Lynx, Merlin, Sea King, Chinook etc or is Apache particularly maintenance heavy
  6. Helis in general are very maint heavy compared to a fixed wing. Helicopters by nature are continuously trying to rip themselves apart. And yep, all depth maintenance is done at central locations (dependant on type). Vector (Fleetlands), Wattisham, Westland (Yeovil) etc. The extent of the maint is as it suggests -depth. Cabs are pretty much stripped to the bone and that takes a lot of time and resources. Lynx for example used to be about 1 in 4 - 1 hour flying equalled about 4 hours servicing/maint. Not too sure what the current man-hours are. I'm sure a tiffy can bore you on that guff.

    The article is a bit misleading I guess as on the surface it does read that the ratio appears 6 weeks to 9. Yep, the cabs are flying an awful lot and it will be interesting to see how the future post Herric fleet management goes. But rotating airframes through is better than just burning hours off a handful of airframes to save the majority.

    As for the economics of where to do the depth maint? To firstly build the sort of facility required in theatre would just not be feasible. Not to mention the supply chain to feed that facility. I suppose you have to weigh up cost of AT'ing the cabs back every so often compared to building and supporting the infrastructure in theatre. No brainer really.

    As I've mentioned, if we just kept a handful continuously in theatre, they would timex their hours prematurely and they'd be binned in a very short space of time. Better to spread the hours over the fleet than that I'd suggest? I have the capitation rates (cost per hour) of all MoD aircraft and you would be quite surprised at how much some of our aircraft cost!!
  7. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Thanks Flash

    OK, back to one of my original questions

    Given that helicopters are inherently maintenance intensive and therefore eye wateringly expensive to operate is it a sensible strategy to look at ways of reducing their use if we do not use their unique capabilities as much as we might do. I originally asked how much of the unique capabilities of helicopters do we currently use in AH specifically or is it a case of its what we have and use it or lose it.

    I think I remember MM talking about the Iraqis using Cessna Caravans with an EO turret and a pair of hellfires as a bargain basement helicopter alternative.

    Of course we are not talking about apples and apples but surely its food for thought
  8. AH package is in place, including training and spares, and historically, it was a long, hard fight to get what we now have.

    Bringing in another airframe, with a limited role, would probably incur huge costs, and arrive too late.

    Accept compromise - we've done it that way for long enough!
  9. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Fair enough, I see the pragmatic acceptance viewpoint but does that make it right?

    Limited role, ah, I guess that depends on your view of the future, more Herricks or more Granby's :)
  10. Possibly not, but given the position we, as a nation, are in, it's unlikely to change.

    It would be nice to have a Defence Procurement programme that gave us access to all the gear we could possibly ask for. In the real World, as we know, it isn't going to happen. WRT your Cessna Caravan analogy, we'd be acquiring another airframe/spares/training cycle, to meet an end we can't forecast. We'll keep flogging the AH fleet, just as we have with the other two types we've got, making the best use of the 'frames to fit the task.
  11. But then you'd need to fit DAS to it, make sure it's comms compatible with everyone else, find out if its actually up to the job on a battlefield (nicht for a Caravan - designed to chuck skydivers out!), prove its effectiveness in role etc etc. Not quite as cheap as first thought. Unless of course you'd want to put chaps in an aircraft in a warzone that is unsafe/ineffective/piss poor at protecting the crew just cos its cheap?

    We do need to face facts.

    1. Killing people hasn't changed for 70,000 years
    2. Its got a **** lot more expensive.
    3. If we want to keep killing the enemy, we need to either accept the bill or get the **** out of Dodge.

    As it happens, the mid term aspiration is to get JHC types down to a few airframe types. That will keep the costs down a little bit.
  12. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Fair enough chaps, thanks for being patient.

    I do see the logic, its just the article really hit home on how bloody expensive it is operating helicopters but as you say, pay the bill or stop playing
  13. As Flash said " I am sure a tiffy will bore you with this guff", prepare to be bored. The article is very misleading (and in some cases very innacurate), the aircraft will stay in theatre for about 10 months before rotating back to the UK, then come back for the depth servicing. I think there was probably a bit of an error in the reporters note taking. I.t is better to service then in the UK as they require a good clean prior to carrying out the work, dirt hides alsorts of faults

    As previously mentioned the maintenance penalty for rotary wing is high, Lynx is around 16 hrs per 1 flying hour and the AH is even higher, late twenties to early thirties. The wear on rotating components is massive and the vibrations can cause all sorts of issues, hence the high figure.

    Hope that helps, even if only a little.

  14. meridian

    meridian LE Good Egg (charities)

    Thanks BTD

    How would an article like that get past the quality control gate, its not the bloody Sun is it, its an official DE&S/MoD web site that will be referenced by the mainstream media

    I know we always default to the stock answer of its too expensive to introduce a new type for a limited operation so we use what we have, however expensive and sometime inappropriate that might be but in light of that maintenance penalty for operating rotary we should at least challenge that assumption

    Thanks again everyone, have learned a lot
  15. To be honest, the only difference is one has a crossword in it.