The Navy brought World War II battleships out of mothballs, the Air Force resurrected its B1 bomber and now the Army wants to bring out of storage and start flying the heavy-lift helicopter that Congress canceled almost a decade ago.
If Congress goes along -- an uncertain prospect -- the Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will spend $71 million to determine what the dusted-off chopper can do.
Congressional committees complained in 1975 that the Army had exceeded its legislative authority by building a heavy-lift helicopter rather than confining itself to research. Congress canceled the program that year after $179 million had been spent but before the helicopter could be flown. The chopper has been sitting in a hangar at Boeing's Vertol plant in Philadelphia since.
"There is no stated future requirement for the HLH heavy-lift helicopter ," the Senate Armed Services Committee said when members voted to cancel it.
Since then, the Soviets have fielded heavy-lift helicopters, including the Mi26 Halo. The Army says the Mi26 can lift 20 tons compared with 13 tons for the American CH47D workhorse helicopter and 33 tons for the HLH. Refurbishing and flying the HLH, the Army argues, would help it design a new heavy-lift helicopter for the 1990s.
Besides the expected congressional resistance to restarting the HLH program when budget-cutting is the order of the day, the Army will be up against the argument that the Pentagon is far along on its JVX short-takeoff-and-landing transport. The Army counters that it will need more lifting power than the JVX will provide.
The Army intends to stress to congressional committees over the next several weeks that it wants to embark on a national research program with the HLH, not put it into production.
The Army would contribute $25.7 million, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA $22.6 million each, for the total $70.9 million sought through fiscal 1989.
A related experiment under discussion but not in the Pentagon budget calls for teaming the refurbished HLH at Vertol with a helicopter in the Army museum at Fort Rucker, Ala., to see if one pilot could fly two helicopters at once with digital controls. The idea is to see if the HLH and the "slave" helicopter obeying computerized commands could lift the same load from one place to another without colliding.
"A bargain," one Army official said, arguing that a tremendous amount would be learned by the three agencies under the experimental program.