Navy reveals acquisition strategy for training helicopter fleet replacement

By Lee Hudson / March 8, 2018 at 4:38 PM

The Navy revealed earlier this week the TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopter fleet will be replaced with a commercial solution and will divulge schedule details next year, according to a service official.

Rear Adm. Scott Conn, air warfare director in the office of the chief  of naval operations (N98), said March 6 the Navy is taking a new approach to replace 115 TH-57s.

“We're going for commercial off-the-shelf aircraft that is going to be competed and we're going then after the competition, buy those aircraft,” he said during a Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee hearing. “And we're still working through the actual maintenance plan [and] certification plan.”

The Navy considered several different paths for replacing the TH-57. These include a COTS solution, a combination of procurement and services contract, or a services contract to provide aircraft simulators and ground instructors, according to fiscal year 2019 budget justification documents.

Inside the Navy reported in June 2017 the service anticipates releasing a request for proposals to replace the TH-57 in late FY-19 or early FY-20.

"While the Navy, Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard aircraft have been recapitalized to new technology, the training helicopters have remained with the late 1970s technology," Navy spokesman Michael Land wrote in a June 2017 statement.

The outdated technology results in a variety of training capability gaps ranging from use of the flight management system to digital cockpit integration to flight and mission planning.

"Along with the aircraft's advanced age . . . the associated increased cost of sustainment indicate the need for a replacement," Land wrote.

On June 1, the Navy posted a special notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website calling for industry to submit responses to a request for information.

"The number of helicopters will not be one-for-one," Land wrote. "The exact number is still under study and will take into consideration factors such as attrition, planned aircraft service life and planned aircraft availability."