So long, Sea Ranger
For decades, anyone who ever looked up to the whop-whop of a low-flying helicopter over the skies of West Florida or along Mobile Bay or the Mississippi Gulf Coast has often spied the distinctive TH-57 Sea Ranger as it put-putted along.
A derivative of the commercial Bell Jet Ranger 206, NAVAIR first acquired the TH-57 in 1968 and has been using them, typically out of Whiting Field, to train budding sea service and allied chopper pilots.
As noted by the National Naval Aviation Museum, “Prospective Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard helicopter pilots spend approximately 106 hours flying the Sea Ranger at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field, Florida, before receiving their wings. Over the course of this period, they learn aerodynamic and engineering qualities of rotary-wing aircraft and in particular, how to hover. They also learn basic instrument techniques, radio navigation, rough terrain landing, night and formation flying, emergency procedures like auto-rotation, shipboard operations, and helicopter tactics.”
Now, after a 52-year run that was stayed by updated airframes in 1981 and 1989, the days of the Sea Ranger are coming to an end.
AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is awarded a $176,472,608 firm-fixed-price contract for the production and delivery of 32 TH-73A aircraft, initial spares, peculiar support equipment, flyaway kits, hoists, sling loads, data in excess of commercial form fit function/operations maintenance instructional training data as well as ancillary instructor pilot and maintenance personnel training. Work will be performed at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (87%); Mineral Wells, Texas (5%); and various locations outside the continental U.S. (8%), and is expected to be completed in October 2021. Fiscal 2020 aircraft procurement (Navy) funds in the amount of $176,472,608 will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via an electronic request for proposal; five offers were received. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland, is the contracting activity (N61340-20-C-0007).
The TH-73A is a variant of Leonardo’s AW119, which had been marketed as the TH-119.
“Today marks a great team effort to procure and deliver a helicopter trainer for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition. “I’m proud of the aggressive work the team did to leverage the commercial industrial base to get this capability to the warfighters, and our nation, at the best value to the taxpayer. This effort is key to ensure the readiness of our Naval Aviators for decades to come.”