By Geoff Fein

Two Navy helicopter programs are each facing schedule slips of up to two years in the most current round of the Pentagon’s Selected Acquisition Reports (SAR) released Monday.

Bell Helicopter Textron‘s [TXT] efforts to upgrade a number of UH-1Ns into AH-1Zs is facing a two year slip in schedule from May 2008 to May 2010, according to the SAR.

“Specifically, the Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) Phase I Complete (AH-1Z) slipped…due to unresolved Critical Operational Issues related to the AH-1Z weapons employment. There were no cost changes reported,” according to the report.

The latest SAR reports are for the June 2008 reporting period.

During the operational test (OT) phase, evaluators did some tests that were not done in the earlier phase, specifically with the target sight systems, a program official told Defense Daily Monday.

Up to that point, testers had been using refurbished target sight systems (TSS), the official said.

A decision was made to stop OT and wait for manufacture and delivery of new TSS, the official added.

Once they have the new TSS in hand, a new round of developmental and operational tests will be conducted.

The official added that the schedule slip will not impact initial operational capability (IOC) or delivery of AH-1Z.

“They are going to try to get this done and IOC by FY ’11,” the official said.

Bell is under contract to remanufacture 180 AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters for the Marine Corps and 100 UH-1N Huey utility helicopters into four-bladed AH-1Z and UH-1Y models (Defense Daily, June 26, 2006).

However, the company ran into difficulties that prevented it from meeting the delivery schedules and thrust into question its capacity to execute the program successfully, all of which led to the program’s restructure (Defense Daily, Feb. 27, 2007).

On July 18, 2007, three days before stepping down as the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, Kenneth Krieg approved a plan to restructure the H-1 upgrade program.

Under the terms of the changes, the H-1 program added a fourth low-rate initial production lot in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 and delayed full-rate production until FY 2008, states an information paper on the H-1 Upgrades Program acquisition decision issued on July 18 (2007) by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, and initialed by Krieg. (Defense Daily, July 19, 2007).

A SAR was also submitted due to a schedule delay of 20 months for the MH-60S Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) IOC. The schedule slip now takes IOC from July 2008 to March 2010. Additionally, AMCM Interim Process Review (IPR) IV slipped two years from September 2008 to September 2010 due to testing and reliability issues,” according to the SAR.

There were no cost changes reported.

Sikorsky [UTC] builds the MH-60S, which will deploy from the Littoral Combat Ship.

In April, reliability issues with a component of AMCM, the AQS-20 sonar’s cable winch system, led the Navy to suspend the system’s operational evaluation (OPEVAL) while an independent team reviewed the effort.

The Navy told lawmakers in late April that it was de-certifying OPEVAL for the Q-20, as it is known. Raytheon [RTN] makes the sonar.

NAVAIR entered OPEVAL for the AQS-20 on March 18 (Defense Daily, April 30)

Back in 2005, the MH-60S suffered a schedule slip of six months in the IOC of the AMCM mission capability due to problems with the carriage stream towed recovery system (CSTRS), according to the Pentagon’s August 15, 2005 SAR (Defense Daily, August 30, 2005).

“Resolution of the issue requires redesign and manufacture of some CSTRS components,” according to the report (Defense Daily, August 17, 2007).

CSTRS enables the Q-20 to go from a carriage position on the left side of the helicopter to a position underwater and towed behind the aircraft (Defense Daily, April 30).

CSTRS is a common interface that brought together: Sikorsky, Lockheed Martin [LMT], and CTC, an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development professional services organization.

CTC is developing CSTRS and Lockheed Martin is developing the common console (Defense Daily, June 23, 2005).

The Pentagon also made an initial SAR for the Integrated Defensive Electronic Countermeasures (IDEC) program.

“Recent analysis determined that continued research and development (R&D) funding over the course of the IDECM Blocks 1-3 development has resulted in cumulative R&D funding that exceeds the dollar criteria for a Major Defense Acquisition Program, i.e., Acquisition Category I (ACAT I),” according to the report. “The Navy’s request to redesignate IDECM as an ACAT I program was approved in March 2008.”

The current baseline for BAE Systems‘ IDECM is $746 million, according to the report.

The Pentagon also submitted an initial SAR for Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] EA-6B ICAP (improved capabilities) III.

The initial baseline for the EA-6B ICAP III is $ 1 billion, according to the latest SAR.