Warplanes: October 14, 2003

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The twenty year effort to get the U.S. Army's Comanche recon helicopter into service has hit another snag. The bird is overweight. By 200 pounds. So heads were huddled and brains stormed and hundreds of ideas have been brought forth to get the Comanches down to its fighting weight of 9,950 pounds. That's still about five tons, which is pretty heavy for a reconnaissance helicopter. But the Comanche is expected to fight as well, and one suggestion was to save fifteen pounds by rearranging the weapons launchers. There is still fifty million dollars left in the Comanche development budget for weight reduction. The Comanche has often been accused of being a Cold War project that is no longer needed. But the army insists it is needed, and wants 819 of them. So far, Congress is only willing to pay for 650. Originally the army wanted to buy 6,000 Comanches, but that was whittled down to 1,213, and then to 650 last year. As the army has shrunk after 1991, so has the need for a new attack helicopter. The AH-64 Apache has been upgraded in the last ten years, and the Comanche design has been upgraded as well, to take advantage of new technologies. If all goes well, the Comanche will enter service in the next three years. Maybe.

 


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