Warplanes: March 3, 2004

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The fallout from the cancellation of the Comanche is becoming interesting. A source reported that the OH-58A/C Kiowa (as opposed to the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior) and AH-1S Cobra retirements scheduled to occur at the end of Fiscal Year 2004 are still on. This is due to the Armys 2001 decision to speed up the modernization of the aviation units. The cancellation will probably cost close to $680 million.

The Comanche program is not going to be a total loss for the Army. Already, the Army is planning to put the radar from the Block I Comanche into a total of 501 Block III AH-64D Apache helicopters for the Active components as opposed to a mixture of Block I and Block II AH-64Ds. The Block III Apache will have every feature of the Comanche except for the stealthy radar signature, and the loss of stealth is not seen by the Army as a serious problem for the foreseeable future. The Reserves and National Guard will receive 213 of the AH-64A Apaches, which are still among the best attack helicopters in the world.

The other interesting result is the decision to build a new armed reconnaissance helicopter. This is not a surprise. Even though the presence of unmanned aerial vehicles makes reconnaissance less of a risk, there are times when a manned vehicle works better especially since human curiosity can often find out things that might not be in a UAVs mission profile. The new reconnaissance helicopter will come down the road, and the Army is going to send out a request for proposals (RFP) for 368 aircraft of a new design. Meanwhile, the army is considering buying some MD500s, which have been used with great success as a scout helicopter by many American allies. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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