Other Option Is Extending The Life Of The Kiowa Warrior
Army officials are reportedly backing a plan to replace the long-serving OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter, rather than try to extend the life of the existing aircraft which first flew during the Vietnam era. If a new aircraft is pursued, it will be the Army's third attempt to procure a replacement.
Reuters reports that a new acquisition program was agreed to last week by Army acquisition chief Heidi Shyu and others, but sources not authorized to speak to the media told the news service that the program does not yet have the blessing of the Pentagon or senior Army officials.
The major players are already lining up with proposals for the replacement aircraft. Boeing says it will offer an armed version of the AH-6 Little bird. Interest has also been expressed by Eurocopter, Bell Helicopter, AgustaWestland, MD Helicopters, and AVX Aircraft.
A lot hinges on flight demonstrations currently underway by several of the companies, along with visits to factories of the manufacturers which do not have a demonstrator currently available. The Army says that no decision would be made until after those demonstrations are complete.
And then there is the federal budget and sequestration to consider, though Army officials say that the program could well proceed even if the automatic spending cuts amounting to $500 billion over ten years are triggered in January.
If a new procurement program goes forward, it would be the latest effort in a series dating back to 2004. Bell Helicopter had begun work on an armed reconnaissance helicopter for the Army in 2008, but that program was cancelled when costs rose sharply beyond the original estimates.