U.S. Army officials are redrafting a presentation for the service’s vice chief of staff on the way forward for the controversial Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program before they can move forward with a possible competition for the Kiowa Warrior replacement.
“We were expecting to get a decision [to move forward] from the vice but we did not,” says Col. John Lynch, Army AAS project manager. The AAS team recommended that the service move forward with a competition to purchase up to 368 helicopters to replace the Kiowa Warrior fleet and had hoped to present its plans toacquisition chief Frank Kendall this spring. Lynch spoke at a rotorcraft update hosted by Jan. 8.
Gen. Lloyd Austin, III, vice chief of staff, requested more data from the voluntary flight demonstration held by the Army, which allowed for contractors to showcase their existing aircraft in a realistic setting. Additionally, Lloyd directed the team to take into account the pace of development and fielding of other technologies — such as unmanned aerial systems and future sensors — that could augment the AAS mission area. “We have to get this one right because it is probably the last chance” the Army will have to establish a way forward, Lynch says.
The Army canceled its contract with Bell for an Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter based on the company’s 407 model helicopter in 2008. Since then, it has struggled with a way forward amid tightening fiscal pressure at the Pentagon. Kendall said last year he wanted the price to be between $13 million and $15 million.
Lynch says he his confident multiple contractors can offer bids if a competition is established by the Army, though “most” of the options will likely cost more than the window established by Kendall.
This is unlike the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter program, which resulted in only a single bidder —— after would-be competitors found the requirements too limiting for their platforms.
Because of the cost pressure and the time available to field a system, the Army is looking at “conventional” technologies, rather than funding a leap in capabilities through a large development program.
Potential AAS competitors include Boeing, with the AH-6i;, with a version of the UH-72 Lakota or an option based on the more capable EC145 T2; , with the AW169; Sikorsky, with the S-97 Raider; and , with the MD540F.
Meanwhile, the Army plans to continue funding the Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade Program for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior at a cost of roughly $3.8 million per aircraft to address obsolescence issues.