2008: After two years of delays, and
huge increases in costs, the U.S. Army is openly discussing cancelling the
ARH-70 scout helicopter. The army means business, as several high profile army projects
have been cancelled in the last decade, despite manufacturers mustering their
Congressional and military allies to oppose such moves. The army has told the ARH-70
manufacturer to come up with a convincing rescue plan. Otherwise, another
helicopter manufacturer will get a shot at the contract.
was supposed to get the first of its new ARH-70 scout helicopters by September,
2008. But over a year ago that slipped to sometime in 2010. It gets worse. The
ARH-70 was supposed to cost $8-9 million each. That was the 2005 estimate. But
now the manufacturer, Bell Helicopter, wants over $12 million per aircraft. The
army originally wanted to buy 368 ARH-70s. But with the delays and price
increases, that number will likely shrink. Bell got the contract in July, 2005.
ton ARH-70A is a militarized Bell 407. The helicopter it is replacing, the
OH-58D, is itself a militarized version of the older Bell 206. ARH stands for
or armed reconnaissance helicopter. ARH-70 has a max speed of 243 kilometers an
hour, and max range of 577 kilometers. It was supposed to be a straightforward
conversion. A new engine and tail assembly, plus adding a fire control and
weapons system similar to that installed in the OH-58D. But problems were
encountered, that took more time, and money, than Bell expected, to fix. If you
follow defense procurement, you've heard that many times before.
Kiowa Warrior has a top speed of 226 kilometers per hour, and a range of 241
kilometers. It has a mast-mounted sight, which carries a powerful FLIR (heat
sensing camera) and a laser designator. The OH-58D is lightly armed, and
usually only carries four Hellfire (anti-vehicle) or Stinger (anti-aircraft)
missiles, or 14 70mm unguided (or guided) rockets.
and price increases are attributed to the usual problems. The manufacturer
over-promised, and the army keeps adding new features to the fire control and
cockpit electronics. The manufacturer knows how this works, and has lawyers,
tech writers, Congressional lobbyists and public relations teams standing by to
come up with perfectly good, and legal, reasons for the delays and cost
increases. The military, and the taxpayers, usually relent and pay up. Not
always, but usually. Collective amnesia then sets in, and the process is
repeated endlessly. But in the last decade, that has begun to change.
Troublesome projects are increasingly at risk, and that acts as an incentive to
make things work.