The U.S. Army is evaluating AgustaWestland’s AW139 medium twin-turbine helicopter as the company prepares to propose the smaller AW169 for the service’s Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) requirement.

AgustaWestland North America is the first of five companies expected to provide available helicopters for evaluation in voluntary flight demonstrations as part of the Army’s AAS acquisition strategy.

Bell’s OH-58D Block 2, Boeing’s AH-6i, EADS North America’s AAS-72X and MD Helicopters’ MD 540F are also expected to be evaluated by an Army team over the next several weeks.

The flight demonstrations are intended to help the Army assess whether industry can offer aircraft at affordable cost and acceptable risk that have sufficient capability to warrant launching a competition to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed scout.

The Army’s philosophy is to evaluate industry’s latest offerings to determine whether there is “a compelling reason to start a new program and not upgrade the Kiowa Warrior,” says Paul Elliott, AgustaWestland vice president for Army business development.

The flight demonstrations will help the Army assess industry responses to an AAS request for information (RFI). The RFI responses, due July 2, will describe the aircraft that each team would offer if there is an AAS competition.

In a previous RFI round, AgustaWestland proposed the light single-engine AW119. But Elliott says the greater performance of the new AW169 intermediate twin offers “a [more] compelling reason for a new start.”

A single AW169 prototype has been flying in Italy since May 10 and is not available, so AgustaWestland offered its AW139M military demonstrator for the Army evaluation, which is taking place at company facilities in Philadelphia and is due to wrap up June 29.

“The AW139 is not a candidate, as it’s a bit big,” Elliott says. “The AW169 is smaller, but has a similar design philosophy, rotor system, flight characteristics, subsystems and power-to-weight ratio as the AW139.” The aircraft has the 6,000-ft./95F hot-and-high hover performance that the Army seeks, he adds.

The Army plans to use the results from analysis of the RFI responses and voluntary flight demonstrations to help make a decision by year’s end on whether to launch an open competition for a new AAS procurement or begin a service life extension program on the OH-58D/F.

AgustaWestland North America has not yet formed a team for any AAS competition, but Elliott notes that the AW169’s PW210 engines are supplied by Pratt & Whitney Canada and its integrated cockpit by Rockwell Collins.

The fact that the AW169 is still early in development is an advantage, he argues, as the commercial program can be leveraged to produce a military aircraft for the Army at reduced cost.