After spending “tens of millions of dollars” developing two options for the U.S. Army’s potential program to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, is hoping the service will move forward with an Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) development program quickly, says Sean O’Keefe, CEO of the company’s North America business.
Company officials hailed the performance of the EC-145-based designs during a voluntary flight demonstration (VFD) test phase from Sept. 24-Oct. 3 in Alamosa, Colo.
The push by EADS comes only weeks after the collapse of merger talks withdesigned partly to grow EADS’ U.S. defense business. German government officials blocked the deal to form what would have been the world’s highest-revenue aerospace company. This leaves EADS scrambling to find a way to grow its U.S. defense business.
O’Keefe says a strategic review is under way across EADS globally that could be finished by year’s end. Among the issues being explored is what to do in the U.S. Business here has been disappointing since the loss last year toof the long-fought U.S. Air Force program to replace KC-135 aerial refuelers.
EADS poured substantial resources into the tanker program only to win it and then have it taken away after thefound shortcomings in the Air Force’s execution of the program. O’Keefe notes that the company has also underwritten the AAS work with “not a dime” of government support.
AAS is the nearest-term campaign of any magnitude for the company to chase here. The Army plans to buy 486-528 helicopters if it opts against upgrading the existing Kiowa Warrior fleet, a proposal from its manufacturer, Bell.
Other companies participating in the VFD includewith the MD 540F; Boeing with an improved version of the AH-6i; and , which demonstrated the AW139M as a surrogate for the AW169. The Army also evaluated ’s design for the S-97 Raider, though it did not fly the aircraft. Bell will also demonstrate its proposed upgrades for the Kiowa; they are dubbed the Block 2 configuration.
EADS officials flew two prototype designs in the VFD — the first is a UH-72-based helicopter outfitted with specialized armaments called the AAS-72X. The second is the AAS-72X+, which is based on the civil EC-145T2 with a fenestron anti-torque system and newArriel T2 engines.
The Army will decide in December whether to embark on an AAS development, go with the existing Kiowa Warrior design or upgrade them. The overriding factor will be cost. Army officials suggest that if would-be AAS contractors can stick to a $13-15 million unit cost, which includes the total procurement cost of the aircraft divided by the number of aircraft purchased (not including research funding), they are more likely to consider moving forward with AAS. This pricing window is designed to show the Army what it can get with a new design for roughly the cost of upgrading the Kiowa Warriors.
The Army rated the submissions from EADS to be affordable and operationally suitable and effective, according to David Haines, vice president of rotorcraft for. The civil EC-145T2, which contains the fenestron tail and new engines, should gain civil certification next year, Haines adds.
During the VFD, the X+ demonstrated the ability to hover out of ground effect at 14,000 ft. at “nearly” its maximum payload, Haines says. Additionally, the aircraft achieved 100% availability for more than 20 hr. of operation and single-engine performance at 9,000 ft.
Army officials also rated the X+ “superior” for growth capabilities, Haines says. Among those options is one to bring the existing 240 Lakotas, used for hauling equipment and people in the U.S., to the T2 standard.
If EADS ultimately wins AAS work, the company plans to assemble the helicopter at the Columbus, Miss., Americanplant.
If the Army decides to go another direction, however, the future for EADS in North America is murky. The company has long held that the U.S. market will eventually show interest in thecargo hauler, though fiscal pressure indicates that may be a long shot. Additionally, EADS — including the European hub — has signed a memorandum of agreement with civil airliner rival Boeing to explore possible joint opportunities to develop a tandem rotorcraft for heavy-lift missions in France and Germany. It is unclear whether that opportunity will materialize and whether the collaboration with Boeing will continue without a clear demand signal from the customers in Europe.