The U.S. Army has concluded the path forward for its Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) requirement is either a service life-extension program (SLEP) for the Bell OH-58D/F Kiowa Warrior or a new development program.

After evaluating five off-the-shelf AAS candidates, “we did not find a single aircraft out there that could meet Army requirements,” said Lt. Gen. William Phillips, principal military deputy for acquisition, testifying before Congress May 8.

“If we go forward with AAS, it essentially will be a new development program,” he told a hearing of the airland subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Voluntary flight demonstrations (VFDs) were conducted last year with the Bell OH-58D Block 2, Boeing AH-6i, EADS North America AAS-72X/X+ and MD Helicopters MD 540F. AgustaWestland demonstrated the AW139M as a surrogate for its AW169 AAS offering.

Citing “uncertain times and fiscal constraints,” Lt. Gen. James Barclay, deputy chief of staff, told the subcommittee the Army plans make a decision “in late summer or early fall” whether to recommend “a new-development AAS or SLEP of the Kiowa Warrior.”

“The Army is currently reviewing information obtained through the VFD and industry responses to requests for information [RFI],” Philips said in written testimony. The RFI drew responses from bidders who did not have helicopters available to demonstrate.

These included Sikorsky, which is proposing the 220-kt S-97 Raider coaxial-rotor light tactical helicopter. Two industry funded prototypes of the Raider are being built, the first of which is scheduled to fly at the end of 2014.

Barclay said the cockpit and sensor upgrade program for the Kiowa Warrior, which updates the OH-58D to the F model, “must continue” to address safety and obsolescence issues until a viable replacement is procured.

The first OH-58F prototype flew in late April, the first unit is to be equipped by the end of fiscal 2016, and all 368 OH-58Ds are planned to be upgraded by 2025. Retirement of the OH-58F has been delayed to 2036 from 2025.

Statements by Army leaders that aircraft evaluated in the VFD did not offer the required “generational” change in capability have puzzled bidders (AWIN first, May 8). EADS says its AAS-72X+ was rated as meeting the Army’s performance and affordability goals.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) criticized the Army for terminating procurement of EADS’s UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter, on which the ASS-72X is based, before it had made a decision on AAS. The UH-72A assembly line is in Columbus, Miss.

Barclay said the Army had completed procurement for the National Guard and Reserves, and that the final 31 aircraft that will now not be procured were all scheduled for the active component.

They were intended to cover gaps left by the forward deployment of Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, but with the drawdown in Afghanistan those aircraft have come back to the continental U.S. and the UH-72As are no longer required, he said.

Phillips said the Army has had discussions with EADS North America on the production schedule and the possibility of foreign military sales keeping the UH-72 line open.