U.S. Army Plans Demonstration of Armed Scout Proposals

 - October 17, 2011, 9:00 AM
Maj. Gen. William T. Crosby, U.S. Army Aviation program executive officer, says contractors should ”come as you are” to planned AAS flight demonstration. (Photo: Bill Carey)

The U.S. Army wants companies vying for its armed aerial scout (AAS) requirement to demonstrate their proposals next spring to help inform its analysis of replacing the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior in the manned reconnaissance role. The possibilities range from an OH-58 service life extension program to the pending AAS requirement.

The Army says it cannot afford a new-build program, so will evaluate essentially commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) offerings from several companies for the improved scout helicopter. As part of its analysis of alternatives for the AAS, the service wants to stage a flying demonstration of those offerings, tentatively in April. Maj. Gen. William T. Crosby, Army Aviation program executive officer, said he has requested $8.7 million for a demonstration involving up to five companies. Crosby spoke October 10 at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

With defense budget cuts looming, Crosby said, the service aims to sustain and modernize its current fleet and invest toward the proposed joint multirole (JMR) helicopter in 2030. The JMR is envisioned as a combined utility-attack platform. “That’s the investment we need to continue to focus on while we continue to sustain and modernize our fleet that’s currently in the fight,” he said. “With that in mind, we’ve coined the phrase of an ‘appetite suppressant.’ We can’t afford a new start for the scout today, so what can we do to the scout that we have? … We want to do a demonstration to refine that AoA guidance. It’s not a flyoff, it’s not a source selection–it’s a demonstration to allow us in the Army to make an informed decision.”

More mature developments for the AAS requirement include the Bell Helicopter OH-58 Block II aircraft, which first flew April 14; the EADS North America AAS-72X; Boeing’s AH-6 light-attack/reconnaissance helicopter; and AgustaWestland’s A119.

“This is come as you are,” Crosby said of the planned demonstration. “This is not PowerPoint. If it doesn’t fly, don’t bother to show up. We believe there are COTS systems that can meet not all of the [AAS] requirement, but substantially part of it … What we need to do is to extend that scout and keep that manned reconnaissance role valid as quickly as possible. We’ve got to do either a [Kiowa Warrior] service life extension or we’ve got to get a system to replace it.”