Army terminates Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program
October 17, 2008
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 17, 2008) - The Army announced Thursday night that the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, which had been awarded to Bell Helicopter, has been scrapped because development costs had almost tripled from $359 million to $942 million.
Originally, the ARH contract was awarded for an expected development cost of $8.56 million per helicopter, but the Defense Department had re-estimated costs to spike to $14.48 million per unit. Additionally, the ARH was slated for delivery by 2009, but current projections moved that to 2013.
"Warfighting capability for a manned armed reconnaissance helicopter is crucial to support the ground combat commander and remains a critical requirement for the Army," said Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, the Army's deputy chief of staff of operations and plans, G-3/5/7, at a Pentagon press brief Friday morning. "The decision that was made yesterday does not in any way diminish the imperative for this capability.
"Our operational tempo, attrition and losses of six aircraft per year underscore the need to fill this requirement as quickly as possible," he added. "To this end, we will rapidly pursue a re-validation of the particular characteristics needed for this capability so that we can restart the process of acquiring a manned, army reconnaissance helicopter."
In the meantime, the Army will invest significant efforts into the existing Kiowa Warrior (OH-58) fleet to ensure aircrews and commanders continue to have the best capability possible in order to carry on their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Thurman said.
Until the program can be re-evaluated and a contract awarded, the Army will use a bridging strategy that includes a safety enhancement program to standardize the entire Kiowa Warrior fleet and improve upon its survivability and reliability, officials said. They said this will include improved sensors, weapons systems and improved survivability equipment.
The Kiowa Warrior currently has the highest optempo of any aircraft in the Army -- 60 are serving in Iraq; 32 in Afghanistan.