Kiowa Replacement Years Behind Schedule, Millions Over
Yet another trouble-plagued Pentagon procurement deal has
apparently seen its final days. The Defense Department notified
Congress and the contractor, Bell Helicopter, Thursday that it will
not certify the US Army Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH)
program for continuation.
John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics, in consultation with senior Defense and
Army officials, has determined that the fundamental cost and
schedule basis underlying award of the ARH contract is no longer
Intended to be a replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa,
the ARH contract was awarded to Bell in July
2005, for an expected development cost of $359 million
and a procurement average unit cost of $8.56 million. Those goals
seemed quite feasible at the time, since the ARH would be largely
based off Bell's existing 407 commercial helicopter.
If only wishing made it so. Plagued by delays, cost overruns and
development glitches -- including the February 2007 crash of an
ARH-70 prototype -- a Congressional committee
recommended last year the DoD scrap the entire
program. Currently, DoD estimates development of the
ARH would cost $942 million, and the procurement average unit cost
would skyrocket to $14.48 million.
Perhaps worst of all, delivery of ARH to the Army was originally
scheduled to take place by 2009; the current projection is for
"Rather than continue this program, I have decided that the best
course of action is to provide the Army with an opportunity to
define a coherent, disciplined Kiowa Warrior helicopter replacement
program, and to obtain more rigorous contract terms for its
development," Young said.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren stated, "The cost and schedule
that were the focus of the decision to award the contract to Bell
Helicopter are no longer valid. We have a duty to the Army and the
taxpayer to move ahead with an alternative course of action to meet
this critical capability for our Soldiers at the best price and as
soon as possible."
At this writing, Bell has not yet responded to the Pentagon's
Scrapping of the ARH deal comes just over one month after the
DoD announced the termination of the contentious
KC-X aerial tanker competition for the US Air
Force, forcing yet another round of competition for the contract.
The Air Force has also hinted it may defer choosing a winner in the
latest round of bidding for the
CSAR-X helicopter contract, in order to avoid
a third round of protests.
Those programs will live to see another day, however... whereas
it appears the last nail has been hammered into place for the