Procurement: The Ghost of ARH-70 Rises In Iraq

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February 27, 2009: The U.S. Army is eager to sell the Iraqis buy an American helicopter for use as a scout/attack helicopter. To that end, they have asked Bell Helicopter to rush three of their Model 407 helicopters to them, so the helicopters can be armed and equipped with military electronics. Thus equipped, the aircraft will be shipped overseas so the Iraqis can try them out.

There's a bit of déjà-vu going on here. Four years ago, the army tried to convert the Bell 407 into a new scout helicopter for American use. The 2.8 ton ARH-70 (a militarized Bell-407), was to replace the elderly OH-58D scout helicopter. But the ARH-70 ran into problems getting the new military electronic systems adapted to the Bell-407. This should not have been a difficult problem. Both the contractors and the military people said so. But the electronics intended for militarizing the Bell-407 were not as ready for prime time as advertised. Bad leadership and poor supervision, plus unforeseen problems and unsuccessful attempts to overcome them, caused the ARH-70 to be cancelled two years ago.

The Bell 407 is a very successful commercial helicopter. And apparently the army is trying to get it right the second time around, using a large sale to Iraq to help make it happen. Originally, the Bell 407, which costs about $2.4 million each, was to have been militarized and delivered to the army for about $5 million each. At the time of the ARH-70 cancellation, per aircraft cost had risen to about $10 million. The Iraqi version will have to cost more like $5 million each to work.

 


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