Says No Existing Helicopter Meets Requirements For OH-58 Replacement
The U.S. Army has once again delayed a decision on whether to replace its aging fleet of OH-58 Kiowa Warriors or embark on a program to refurbish the Vietnam-era aircraft.
Army officials said Wednesday that they will delay a the decision, which had been expected last December, until sometime this summer at the earliest, and it may not come before fall.
Reuters reports that helicopter industry executives are not feeling very confident about their prospects, given comments by Army officials described as "disparaging" about "off the shelf" helicopters currently available. The Army's military director of acquisition Lieutenant General William Phillips told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee that "(w)e didn't find a single aircraft that was out there that could meet the Army's requirements. So if we were to go forward with an armed aerial scout, it would essentially be a development program." He said he now expects that a decision might be made around mid-summer.
Lt. General James Barclay, Army chief of staff for budget issues, told the SASC subcommittee that the service plans to proceed with upgrades to cockpit displays, sensors, and other aspects of the Kiowa Warrior no matter what direction the Army goes on a replacement aircraft. Army leaders had hoped to have already announced a competition for the replacement aircraft, but are unsure whether they can afford to do so given the current budget environment.