European and US officials will meet at Paris to discuss the potential for cooperation on development of a heavylift helicopter. And not for the first time. Getting the US on board has been a gleam in Europe's eye since France and Germany asked for industry ideas on the so-called Heavy Transport Helicopter (HTH) in 2006. Eurocopter responded with this beastie:
Now called the Future Transport Helicopter (FTH), it has become a European Defence Agency project, open to participation by other member states - and the US, if it's interested. The requirement is to carry a 10-13 tonne payload over a 500km unrefueled radius. The FTH is planned to enter service after 2020.
But wait, doesn't the US already have a new heavylift helicopter under development in the shape of the Sikorsky CH-53K? Indeed it does, and that is why many - including AgustaWestland - believe the FTH will be a derivative of an existing US helicopter.
Although Germany's requirement is to replace its CH-53Gs, the new CH-53K isn't big enough to meet the FTH requirement, which calls for a cabin large enough to transport light armored vehicles. But the CH-53K's new dynamic system might be big enough for the job if mated to a new, larger airframe.
CH-53E HTH (Concept: Sikorsky)
Back around 2006, Sikorsky proposed a derivative of the CH-53E to meet the then-HTH requirement. It gives an idea of what could be done if the bigger rotor, beefier transmission and higher-power engines of the CH-53K were to be used. Not surprisingly, the Navy's US H-53 program manager, Capt. Rick Muldoon, says he is lined up to talk to his European counterparts at Paris.