Well, it’s finally happening. Months after the Army was originally supposed to have industry show off the best choppers out there, in a weird variant of a fly-off, for the armed aerial scout mission, it looks like the service’s aviation officials are on the road to eye the potential replacements for the ancient OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet.
Just this week, service officials were in Philadelphia eying Agusta Westland’s AW139M armed aerial scout tech demonstrator. You can bet that Army aviation staff will be checking out Boeing’s AH-6i Little Bird variant, EADS’ armed version of its UH-72 Lakota, Bell’s upgraded version of the Kiowa Warrior and even Sikorsky’s long shot bid.
Via Defense News:
It appears that Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland is the first stop on the U.S. Army’s summer tour of potential competitors for the nascent Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) competition.
Paul Elliott, the company’s vice president for Army business development, said that Army officials arrived at the company’s facilities June 25 in Philadelphia and are being shown a technology demonstrator the company has constructed. The demonstrator showcases the capabilities AgustaWestland plans to offer if the Army pursues the AAS helicopter program, instead of recapitalizing the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet.
The technology demonstrator is the AW139M, a variant of the AW139 helicopter flown by military and law enforcement customers around the world.
Elliott said the company plans to submit a new AW169 aircraft to the Army. But since the helicopter only had its first flight test in May at the company’s Cascina Costa plant in Italy (AgustaWestland is a Finmeccanica company), it is instead using the technology demonstrator for flight tests this week.
Remember, the service is interested in off –the-shelf choppers that can be quickly and affordably modified to serve as a 21st Century aerial scout. However, if the Army decides that none of the helos offered up by industry offer enough bang for the buck, the service says it will simply move to upgrade its existing Kiowa Warriors to keep them flying for years to come.