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This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
Boeing officials say they showcased Armed Aerial Scout technologies for the U.S. Army during 10 flight hours on the AH-6 platform during a recent demonstration.
The company is one of several volunteering to demonstrate AAS capabilities as the Army conducts market research for options to potentially replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet. Boeing's flights took place Oct. 8-12.
Company officials were secretive about their potential offerings to the Army should it decide to move ahead with an AAS program; they briefed reporters Oct. 22 at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference here.
Dave Koopersmith, vice president of attack helicopter program for the company, said the aircraft flew both day and night missions in high and hot conditions, though he declined to say what the limits of Boeing's offerings would be.
The Army has not yet decided whether it will conduct a competition for an AAS helicopter; the service is considering whether it can buy a new platform for the same or less cost than upgrading existing Kiowas. The service is targeting an average unit product cost of $13-15 million.
The voluntary flight demonstrations are intended to allow the Army to explore what it could buy in lieu of upgrades to the Kiowa, so firm requirements have not yet been set.
Koopersmith says Boeing included several options in a response to an Army request for information. One is likely a baseline AH-6i, which is being developed for international customers. The first foreign military sales customer is Saudi Arabia. A few technologies not on the baseline AH-6i, however, also were demonstrated. Koopersmith declined to outline what those were, owing to concerns over a potential competition. The Army will oversee air worthiness certification for the AH-6i as part of the foreign military sales procurement for Saudi Arabia.
One strength of an AH-6i proposal, according to Boeing officials, is the commonality of the software to the Apache Block III, which has been developed by the U.S. Army. He says 83% of the software was ported from Apache Block III. The applications will look and feel to AH-6i pilots much like the look and feel of the application in the Apache Block III, he says.
"Affordability will be a unique driver going forward more than it has in the past," Koopersmith says. "The Boeing strategy is a low-risk, date-certain, cost-certain approach." In lockstep with that plan, Koopersmith says the proposals are geared to provide affordability through the operational life of the system.
Credit: U.S. Army