MD Helicopters announced contract awards from the U.S. Army to supply and arm MD530F helicopters for the Afghan Air Force. With the U.S. drawing down forces in Afghanistan, the armed helicopters “will expand armed escort, scout attack and close air attack capabilities in support of an increasing operational tempo in the region,” the manufacturer said.
Bell OH-58 Kiowa
Sikorsky performed a ceremonial rollout of the S-97 Raider helicopter at West Palm Beach on October 2. The aircraft is one of two prototypes that are based on the company’s X2 rigid coaxial rotor plus pusher-propeller technology demonstrator that broke the rotary-wing world speed record in 2010. Sikorsky is proposing the Raider as a replacement for the U.S. Army’s large fleet of OH-58D Kiowa Warriors armed aerial scouts, and for special operations.
The U.S. Army’s 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB), based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, has fielded the latest model Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter in Afghanistan with impressive results, Army and Boeing officials said. The deployment has also afforded the “Tigersharks” an opportunity to direct unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) using the AH-64E’s UAS tactical datalink.
DRS Technologies, a Finmeccanica-owned U.S. defense contractor, has supported the distinctive sensor ball that sits atop the U.S. Army’s OH-58D Kiowa Warrior since 1998. Technology updates the company has developed will make the electro-optical targeting system known as the mast-mounted sight (MMS) more lethal and better protect Kiowa Warrior crews—if only the Army continues investing in the long-serving scout helicopter.
Boeing said that it recently flew its AH-6i light attack/reconnaissance helicopter for the first time in production configuration. Flight status moves the program “another step closer to full-scale production,” the manufacturer said on May 1.
With some long-awaited relaxation of the rules governing helicopter operations in China, prospects for the rotorcraft industry at last seem to be firming up. Last year the entire fleet (465 helicopters, 424 based in Mainland China) grew by 20 percent, according to the Asian Sky Group, which in February published the latest edition of its Greater China Civil Helicopter Fleet Report.
The Obama administration delivered a proposed $496 billion base U.S. defense budget for Fiscal Year 2015 to the Congress on March 4. In a round of briefings at the Pentagon, service budget officials spoke of making difficult choices because of spending limits Congress imposed in the Budget Control Act of 2011, followed by deep “sequestration” budget cuts that took effect in FY2013.
Faced with tough budget decisions on new weapons programs, the U.S. Army appears to be delaying a decision on the $6- to $8 billion Armed Aerial Scout program while concurrently moving forward with the potential $100 billion joint multi-role (JMR) initiative.
As the first new model introduced since Lynn Tilton’s Patriarch Partners bought MD Helicopters (MDHI) in 2005–and rescued the manufacturer from the brink of collapse–the MD 540F armed scout helicopter not only marks the continued evolution of a storied platform that traces its lineage back to the Hughes 500D. It also symbolizes renewed hope for the company’s future.
Bell Helicopter announced upgraded variants of its Model 407 and 412 helicopters today, and the Fort Worth, Texas-based company is displaying them this week at Heli-Expo, which opens tomorrow in Las Vegas.
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