EADS North America is bidding to dominate any potential competition for a U.S. Army Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) helicopter by offering not one, but two versions of its AAS-72X.

In addition to the baseline aircraft built on the Army’s UH-72A light utility helicopter, a version of the commercial Eurocopter EC145, the company has unveiled a higher-performance AAS-72X+ based on the improved EC145T2 now in development.

A full-scale mockup of the AAS-728+ was unveiled April 2 at the U.S. Army Aviation Association of America convention here in Nashville. The AAS-72X+ has more-powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines and a Fenestron shrouded tail-rotor, plus an integrated cockpit with three large-format displays and four-axis autopilot.

The EC145-based AAS-72X and X+ are the only declared contenders for the AAS requirement to have twin engines. The AAS-72X+ will exceed the Army’s 6,000-ft.-altitude/95F-day (6k/95) hot-and-high performance requirements for AAS, says Dave Haines, vice president of rotorcraft programs for EADS North America.

The baseline AAS-72X has already demonstrated its ability to hover out of ground effect (HOGE) at 6k/95 carrying the 2,300-lb. mission equipment package originally outlined by the Army for AAS. The more-powerful AAS-72X+ will meet the Army’s HOGE and endurance requirements with a 2,800-lb. payload, EADS says. The extra 500 lb. will allow the aircraft to carry more mission equipment or more fuel for longer endurance, the company says.

The Army plans a flight evaluation to assess the performance and likely cost of potential off-the-shelf AAS contenders before deciding whether to launch a procurement competition to replace its Bell OH-58D/F Kiowa Warrior armed scout helicopters.

A Defense Acquisition Board meeting to approve the Army’s AAS strategy is scheduled for April 23. If given the go-ahead, the service will immediately issue a revised request for information for the flight evaluation, says Maj. Gen. Tim Crosby, Army program executive officer for aviation.

“We anticipate five vendors will participate” in the evaluation, he says. EADS has three company-funded AAS-72X technology demonstrators available, but says it will have to use a commercial EC145T2 prototype if it elects to enter the more-powerful version in the flight demonstration.

The EC145T2 has accumulated more than 300 hr. of flight testing at Eurocopter in Germany; civil certification is planned for next year, Haines says.

Boeing says it will participate in the AAS evaluation with an improved version of its AH-6i. AgustaWestland is expected to take part with the AW119. A Bell Kiowa-based aircraft is another likely participant. The evaluation is expected to take place in July or August.