Comanche’s Wi’ane: No New Armed Scout Helicopter
Jan 14/14: All Alternatives Scrapped. The OH-58 fleet will be retired, without a successor. Instead of 15 Combat Aviation Brigades, the Army is likely to drop to 10-13.
US Army Aviation Center of Excellence commander Maj. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum finally discusses the Army’s 2010 ARH Analysis of Alternatives, which recommended a mix of AH-64Es and UAVs to take on the Army’s scout helicopter role. So, why did the Army keep pushing for a new Armed Aerial Scout? Magnum says they didn’t have enough money to buy enough AH-64s. What changed? A smaller Army doesn’t need as many. The current leadership has decided that 698 AH-64Es, who will be able to control the planned fleets of unarmed RQ-7B Shadow and armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs from the air, will provide an “80% solution.”
The AH-64D to AH-64E upgrades will be funded by avoiding Kiowa modernization or replacement, and the Army also axed 15 military specialties that were unique to the OH-58D. Some rebalancing will need to move more UH-60s to the National Guard, where they can offer useful capabilities during natural disasters etc., while shifting AH-64s to the active-duty force. Gen. Magnum adds that investment of all kinds is going to be slim:
“I tell youngsters who are in the Basic Officer Leader Course that when some of you retire from the Army in 20, we still will not have finished fielding the UH-60M and AH-64E. That’s how far we’ve pushed these programs.”
Especially with AH-64s and UH-60s costing a good deal more to fuel and maintain than Kiowas. The question is whether the sequester’s recent rollback will create pushback on Capitol Hill, if National Guard drawdowns affect local bases. If so, will that pushback be enough? The Army does seem determined to do this. Sources: US Army, “Army aviation flying smarter into fiscal squeeze” | Alabama.com, “Army planning to scrap OH-58 Kiowa Warriors helicopter fleet: Reports” | Jackson Sun, “National Guard: Tennessee could lose 30 OH-58D helicopters, including at Jackson flight facility, under proposed Army plan” | The Motley Fool, “The U.S. Army Is About to Make a Huge Mistake”.
The US Army’s Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program aimed to replace around 375 Bell Textron OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, after the $14.6 billion RAH-66 Comanche program, was canceled in 2004. Instead, the Army would buy a larger number of less expensive platforms, with reduced capabilities. Bell Helicopter Textron initially won the ARH competition with a militarized version of its highly successful 407 single-engine commercial helicopter, but despite significant private investment after Army funding stopped in March 2007, spiraling costs killed the ARH-70 in October 2008.
What hasn’t changed is the battlefield need for on-call, front-line aerial surveillance and fire support. With its existing OH-58D stock wither wearing down, or shot down, the Army needs to do something. But what? The eventual answer: scrap the Kiowa fleet for a combination of attack helicopters and UAVs.
AAS: Now What?
Timeline & Choices
ARH-AAS: Contracts & Events
FY 2005 – 2006
Appendix B: Initial Winner – Bell’s ARH-70
Appendix A: The ARH Program – What Happened?
Appendix B: Weary Warriors – From the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior to the OH-58F
The Long Bridge: OH-58(I) CDS4 & OH-58D(R)
Additional Readings & Sources
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