Army's Chopper Buying Spree


Two years after the Army canceled its high-tech, $42-billion RAH-66 Comanche attack helicopter, the service is putting together a new fleet of choppers that it claims are more affordable and better-suited to real-world missions than the Cold War Comanche ever was.helo1.jpgIn recent months, the Army has let contracts for new light utility helicopters and new armed reconnaissance helicopters and has agreed to cooperate with the Air Force on a new light cargo aircraft. Meanwhile, new models of the venerable Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk, Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Boeing AH-64 Apache are in development or production. In all, the Army will buy as many as 2,000 helicopters in the next 15 years."Overall, we're doing exceptionally well," says Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt, chief of the Pentagon's Army Aviation Task Force.That wasn't always the case.In early 2004, Army Aviation's future appeared bleak. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan had demonstrated helicopters' vulnerability to small arms and rocket-propelled grenades (more than 120 have been lost so far) and had proved that most Army aircraft were under-powered for hot weather and high-altitude flying. The aircraft fleet's average age was around 20 years and climbing. The rising cost of the Comanche threatened to bankrupt the force while delivering only a fraction of the new aircraft needed to recapitalize the Army's 4,000-strong rotary-wing fleet."We needed to meet the Army's vision for modularity and sustainability," Mundt says. Killing Comanche was the only way.Read more at AxeUPDATE 12:43 PM: The Army has been able to go on this shopping spree because it kept the money for the Comanche to buy new aircraft. Now, Congress is threatening to cut those funds, Inside Defense notes. And Army aviation chiefs are having a fit.

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