Murphy's Law: What You Need Are More Lawyers


March 5, 2010: Four years after selecting the CH-47 as the new American search and rescue helicopter (HH-47), and after four years of lawyers from other manufacturers contesting that choice, the U.S. Air Force has dumped plans to get 145 HH-47s from Boeing. Instead, it will buy 112 UH-60Ms (the latest Blackhawk model) from Sikorsky. These will replace the current force of rescue helicopters (the HH-60G, a variant of an older UH-60 model.)

The HH-47 was basically an updated version of the 1960s era CH-47 transport helicopter.   The HH-47 had an edge because SOCOM (Special Operations Command) already uses a CH-47 variant, the MH-47, for commando operations. The 22 ton HH-47s were to cost about $69 million each, be all weather and will have the long range needed to be able to fly itself to overseas assignments.

The CH/HH-47 was selected largely because the air force wanted its search and rescue helicopters to also perform some of the tasks the SOCOM MH-47s was capable of (delivering and picking up personnel deep in enemy territory, or delivering supplies there.) The lawyers for the other manufacturers argued that this was not fair, and so on. Thus the existing HH-60Gs, which are wearing out fast (only about a hundred are still operational), will be replaced by similar (but updated, and brand new) HH-60Ls. These replacements cost about half what the HH-47s would have gone for.


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