Potential Contractors Demo Helicopters for U.S. Army’s AAS

 - October 26, 2012, 11:55 AM
For the U.S. Army’s armed aerial scout requirement, Boeing is proposing its AH-6i light attack helicopter, seen flying over the Arizona desert last year. (Photo: Bill Carey)

Three contenders for the U.S. Army’s as-yet-undefined armed aerial scout (AAS) requirement–Bell Helicopter, Boeing and EADS North America–have just completed a series of flight demonstrations for Army evaluators who are studying alternatives to the aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior for manned reconnaissance. They reported the results at the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) Convention in Washington, D.C., this week, where, one year ago, Army aviation leaders called for just such demonstrations. The Army followed up with a request for information last April.

Bell Helicopter said it demonstrated its Block II OH-58 Kiowa Warrior the week of October 22. The Block II helicopter comes with a more powerful Honeywell HTS900 engine and improved transmission and a new tail rotor. Bell claims it is a “fast fielding,” low-risk solution to achieve 6,000 feet altitude in 95-degree F temperatures, which is expected to be an operational requirement.

Boeing demonstrated its AH-6i light attack helicopter from October 8 through 12 at Mesa, Ariz., logging 10 flight hours. Earlier this year, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed a letter of acceptance to supply 36 AH-6is to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, the helicopter’s launch customer. The FMS version of the aircraft is among the options that Boeing is offering to the Army, said David Koopersmith, vice president of attack helicopter programs. He said that the AH-6 meets the Army’s preference for a low-cost solution.

EADS North America demonstrated an armed version of the Army’s existing UH-72A Lakota helicopter, which the company designated AAS-72X, from September 24 to October 3 in Alamosa, Colo., which is 7,500 feet above sea level. It also flew a Eurocopter EC145T2, representing the AAS-72X+ configuration that it proposes, with more powerful twin Arriel 2E Fadec engines and a fenestron tail rotor. The two helicopters then visited four major U.S. Army bases. An EADS spokesman told AIN that the AAS-72X could match the price of refurbished or new OH-58s, while offering superior performance. The Army wants to spend no more than $15 million per copy, he added.

Another contender for AAS, AgustaWestland, said it flew an AW139M technology demonstrator for the Army last June. The company said it would propose a military variant of the AW169 for the AAS requirement. An Army team spent several days with AVX Aircraft Company of Forth Worth "examining our proposal and collecting more detail on our design and offering," the company said. AVX is proposing a substantial redesign of the OH-58 to incorporate a coaxial main rotor and two ducted fans in place of a tail rotor.

In late August, Sikorsky Aircraft hosted Army evaluators in Stratford, Conn. The Army team examined flight data from the experimental X2 coaxial rotor helicopter and also flew an X-97 Raider simulator. At the AUSA convention, Sikorsky displayed a full-scale mockup of the proposed all-new S-97, which is based on X2 technology. It also showed models of the X2 adapted for “utility assault,” attack and unmanned flight. If the Army opts for a new platform to replace the OH-58 for the AAS program, "we very much want to compete," said a Sikorsky spokesman.