The Army, perhaps having absorbed the lessons of Comanche and looking to what we are politely calling the constrained budget environment, has put aside all thoughts of building a new recon helicopter any time soon and will instead upgrade the venerable Kiowa Warrior.
The Army will upgrade the existing fleet so it can meet the mission through 2020, Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and management, told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee Tuesday morning. Instead of proceeding with a new helo program, they will "reinvest that money" in the Kiowa. In the best budget tradition, the Army brass offered no funding numbers since the president's budget has not been released yet.
The fleet will be upgraded by 2015, Army Brig. Gen. William Crosby (PEO aviation) told the HAC-D. At least 52 aircraft remain to be upgraded, the army brass said. Crosby told the committee that that the service and OSD remain "committed" to the requirement for a manned Armed Scout Helicopter. However, they will do without a new one for a while. He said the Army will perform an analysis of the Kiowa program once the upgrades are done and will then decide "if a new capability is needed" or they should keep upgrading the OH-58s.
The current requirement is for 368 helos and the Army is now short 30 of the OH-58Ds, the Army told the HAC-D. So the service plans to upgrade A and C models currently used by the National Guard, Gen. Thompson said. The service has completed an engineering analysis of what must be done but no details were offered.