Military


ARH-70 Arapaho / RAH-70 / RH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (Bell 417ARH)

On 16 October 2008 the Department of Defense notified the Congress and the contractor, Bell Helicopter, that it would not certify the U.S. Army Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program for continuation. As a result the Army Acquisition Executive Office for Aviation is directing that the program's contract be terminated completely for the convenience of the government. The ARH contract was awarded for an expected development cost of $359 million and a procurement average unit cost of $8.56 million. at the time of cancellation, DoD estimated that development will cost $942 million and the procurement average unit cost will be $14.48 million. Delivery of ARH to the Army was originally scheduled to take place by 2009, but the current projection was for 2013.

Although referred to in a few official media reports under the designation of "Arapaho", this name was never officially assigned to the ARH-70 product. The designation of this helicopter was initially unclear. Most sources, including authoritative sources, use the designation ARH-70 or ARH-70A, derived from the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) [as of 17 December 2006 Google knew of about 2,400 citations of this nomenclature]. "A" indicates the Attack mission, while "R" designates the ARH's basic mission of Reconnaissance. "H" represents the vehicle type of helicopter. "70" is the sequential design number approved for the basic mission. The suffix "A" indicates the first model of this specific design. Some sources using the designation RAH-70, which is consistent with the RAH-64 Comanche [as of 17 December 2006 Google knew of about 300 citations of this nomenclature]. Yet others use the designation RH-70 [as of 17 December 2006 Google knew of about 80 citations of this nomenclature].

The Bell 417 was a growth variant of the Bell 407, in essence a civil version of the ARH-70 armed reconnaissance helicopter for the US Army. The 417 made its first flight on June 8, 2006. The 417 was to be powered by a Honeywell HTS900 turboshaft engine, producing 970 shp (720 kW) and includes full FADEC controls. The cabin will seat 5 passengers in club-seating configuration, in addition to the crew of two. The civilian 417 was canceled at Heli-Expo 2007 in Orlando.

The ARH was a combination of a modified off-the-shelf (OTS) airframe integrated with a non-developmental item (NDI) mission equipment package (MEP). Follow on lots of aircraft would provide Future Force capabilities. The ARH will be fielded to support current forces in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and will possess the growth potential to bridge the capability gaps to the Future Combat Force. The ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) was intended to conduct armed reconnaissance to gain actionable combat information enabling joint/combined air-ground maneuver execution of Mobile Strike, Close Combat and Vertical Maneuver operations across the full-spectrum of military operations. The ARH was slated to replace the existing US Army fleet of OH-58D reconnaissance aircraft upon retirement.

The Army reprogrammed more than $14 billion from the 2004 cancellation of the Comanche program to further aviation modernization. The ARH acquisition was being funded with those resources to replace the aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, which was originally designed to be an interim scout-attack aircraft solution.

The Bell 407, the civilian basis for the ARH-70, was advertised as offering one of the best speed, payload and ranges available in its class. The 407 was said to bring superior attributes together to make a phenomenal aircraft. A "sports car-like handling" with exceptional hot and high hover capability and unparalleled maneuverability, combined with a fuselage and large composite panels would ensure ruggedness and ease of maintenance.

The rapidly reconfigurable ARH would provide the space, weight, and power to incorporate the Mission Equipment Package (MEP), as Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops available, Time and Civilian considerations (METT_TC) dictates, for use in High/hot (4K/95F with growth potential to 6K/95F) conditions, complex terrain, and urban environments. The MEP would provide a robust communications and navigation suite, advanced state-of-the-art sensor assembly, and self-defense armament capability to fight for, collect, and distribute critical information to all members of the Joint air-ground maneuver team. Specifically, the ARH's robust communication suite when combined with the sensors assembly would provide real time delivery of actionable combat information to the joint force while enabling precision employment of Joint sensors and fires.

The helicopter can carry up to four Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, one or two 7-round 2.75-inch rocket pods or 0.50-caliber or 7.62-millimeter machine guns. Instead of the mast-mounted sensor on the OH-58D, the ARH has a nose turret with a color television sensor, a forward-looking infrared sensor, a laser rangefinder, and a laser designator and spot tracker. The digital cockpit of the ARH is based on the CAAS.

The ARH was designed as a highly deployable, reconnaissance and security capability that would employ immediately upon arrival into theater. The platform would address the capability gaps of interoperability, survivability, versatility, agility, lethality, and sustainability to ensure interoperability over extended ranges, enhance mission effectiveness throughout the operational environment, and focus on system survivability against threats operating in the contemporary operational environment, while reducing the logistical burden on the tactical unit. The fundamental purpose of ARH was to perform reconnaissance and to provide security in combat operations. In doing so, it would improve the commander's ability to maneuver and concentrate superior combat power against the enemy at the decisive time and place.

The ARH was intended to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior with a dual crew station, single-pilot-operable aircraft capable of operating worldwide in all airspace. The standard armed reconnaissance configuration would include the sensor assembly, active and passive countermeasures, external weapon systems, and communication suite. The ARH would be able to communicate on the battlefield with Army, Joint, and Coalition forces. The ARH would have a larger, enhanced engine. In addition, an upgraded tail rotor from the Bell 427 provided greater directional stability and control authority and the upgraded glass cockpit provides greater accuracy, had better display ergonomics, and was more user friendly than the previous OH-58 Kiowa series display. The ARH would also incorporate an exhaust infrared suppressor. This device suppresses heat from the helicopter so that it is less detectable by the enemy.

Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody marked the beginning of a new era in Army aviation 29 August 2005 when he signed a ceremonial contract with Bell Helicopter for the Army's $2.2 billion Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). At a ceremony held outside Fort Worth, Texas, the ARH became the first new manned airframe slated for fielding under the Army's Aviation Modernization Plan since 1983. "This is a significant moment in Army aviation history, a much-needed advance in the capabilities of our aviation fleet, and a key component of the Army's overall transformation," said Cody. The ARHs was intended to be the first of three new platforms procured including the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA), to revitalize and modernize the existing fleet of aircraft in the Army's arsenal.

"These are exciting times for Soldiers across the Army," said Cody. "They are seeing rapid technologies developing throughout our war-fighting equipment. From unmanned aerial vehicles to advanced weapons to state-of-the-art communications and night vision systems. And now our aviation Soldiers will get 900 new helicopters fielded for the multi-functional aviation brigades, a key component of the Army's modular force."

"We are focused on getting this system into the hands of our Soldiers as soon as possible, so they can meet the war-fighting challenges," said Bell Chief Executive Officer Mike Redenbaugh during the ceremony.

The joint endeavor with Bell Helicopter was part of an accelerated acquisition process that took less than 13 months. ARH requirements were identified, approved and put into contract in half the normal acquisition time. "We have accelerated the development and fielding of Aviation Survivability Equipment across the fleet, directly supporting our Soldiers in the on-going fights in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Cody. "The relevance of a scout-attack aviation platform in today's fight is undeniable."

"We are happy that (Program Executive Office) - Aviation, teamed with Bell Helicopter, is working so hard to bring the ARH online to give Soldiers and aviators a more modern and robust aircraft as part of the Army's combined arms team," said Cody. "This fulfills our Army leader's commitment to continue to give our Soldiers the best leadership, equipment and training this country can provide," he said.

The Army's newest Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter has been designated as the YRH-70A. The Mission Design Series was officially released by headquarters Air Force Materiel Command on 21 February 2006. The MDS is the official designation for Department of Defense aerospace vehicles. The status prefix "Y" indicated the ARH's then prototype status. "R" designated the ARH's basic mission of Reconnaissance. "H" represented the vehicle type of helicopter. "70" was the next sequential design number approved for the basic mission. The suffix "A" indicates the first model of this specific design.

The first four ARH System Development and Demonstration (SDD) prototypes were being manufactured at Bell Helicopter's facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The ARH First Unit Equipped was scheduled for September 2008. The Army planned to buy 368 aircraft to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. The Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, which had been commonly known as the ARH-70, would retain its prototype status until it entered production in 2007.

The Army Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH-70A), developed by the Program Executive Office, Aviation, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, completed its first flight 20 July 2006. The aircraft took off from Bell XworX in Arlington, Texas and flew multiple handling maneuvers, flew in a hover for both in and out of ground effect, and flew in a traffic pattern reaching 80 knots, 500 ft. altitude, with banks up to 30 degrees for a little more than 1.5 hours of flight. The flights delineate the ARH program as one of the fastest "contract to flight" programs completed in the US Army's history and set a new standard for such acquisitions. Branded in December 2003, Bell XworX combined project resources from the across the company to serve as a single resource for rapid development and prototyping of new vertical solutions, as well as efficient solutions to problems facing larger projects.

The Team's focus continued to be towards the completion of the build and functional test of the remaining three test aircraft, clearing the path towards a successful Limited Users Test (LUT), and finishing the production design. The program schedule had LUT beginning late 2006 to early 2007, in order to complete the production award criteria required to accomplish the first unit equipped in fourth quarter FY08 and Full-Rate production in FY09.

In February 2007 an interoperability testbed for the ARH-70 program crashed on a golf course near Bell Helicopter's XworX development facility in Arlington, Texas after losing power about 30 min. into its maiden flight.

The ARH program was featured in a March 2007 report published by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO noted that the ARH program began system development without designating any technologies as critical. Since then, the program identified two critical technologies: the sensor package and the engine, both of which were then approaching full maturity. The ARH program was scheduled to hold its critical design review in January 2007, and it was not certain that the critical technologies would be mature by that time. The program had mandated that 85 percent of the design drawings, a measure of design stability, be released by the design review. About 88 percent have been released to date. The Army did not plan to collect statistical process control data in preparation for the production decision scheduled for May 2007. Rather, the Army would evaluate ARH's engineering and manufacturing readiness levels. Further, the Army's oversight of ARH was potentially compromised due to the decertification of the prime contractor's earned value management system.

Although the critical sensor technology was a derivative of a currently fielded and flying system, it contained some updated components. The sensor was tested earlier in 2005 in a prototype configuration and improvements were currently being incorporated into the design. It was planned that the system would be retested in late calendar year 2006. The engine has recently completed the compressor rig test, the results of which would be critical in reducing the risk of the engine and increasing the maturity level. However, the program office was unsure if these technologies would be fully mature by critical design review, scheduled for January 2007.

In addition the GAO reported highlighted other issues. In March 2006, the lead contractor lost its earned value management certification due to a recent compliance review that found a lack of progress in addressing long-standing systemic deficiencies. Without certified earned value management data, the Army would not have timely information on the contractor's ability to perform work within estimated cost and schedule. According to the program office, the contractor did not make its first milestone detailed in the Defense Contract Management Agency's corrective action plans in efforts to obtain earned value compliance. Still, the contractor planned to be compliant by the end of August 2007, 3 months after ARH low-rate initial production was scheduled to begin.

According to program officials, the Army planned to start low-rate production in May 2007 and procure two lots of 18 and 20 to conclude in May 2008. However, the Army did not plan to start full-rate production until February 2009. This schedule created a 10-month production break between low-rate initial production and full-rate production. During the production break, the program planned to purchase development and production needs such as support equipment, pilot and maintenance trainers, and spares. Further, according to program officials, the budget reduction of $39 million in FY07 exacerbated the break issue which could be very disruptive. The program office's proposed solution to the production break was to increase low-rate production, but this would have had to be approved by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics. Another possible solution could have been to extend low-rate production to three lots, as opposed to two, which would help the program ramp up production and fill the 10-month production break.

By May 2007 the ARH Program continued to accomplish critical events during the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. Commenting on the progress of the program, President and CEO of Bell, Dick Millman noted, "We recently completed two significant events in support of a Milestone C (Low Rate Initial Production) decision. These are critical paths to the successful fielding of the ARH-70A. The Bell and Army Teams have worked closely over the life of the ARH Program to bring it to this point. Overall the aircraft is performing well and receiving many positive comments from the Army/Bell test pilot team." Recently completed events include a demonstration of the ARH digital battlefield capabilities to a representative from the Department of Defense. The demonstration was conducted from the ARH Mobile Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) at the Bell Xworx facility in Arlington, TX. The second Milestone C pre-requisite event, the Early User Test (EUT) was completed on 25 April 2007 at the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas. The Army's requirement is for an ARH-70A to be flight-ready within 15 minutes of arrival in a transport aircraft like the Air Force's C-130 Hercules or C-17 Globemaster III.

ARH flight testing continued with system development and integration. By 17 May 2007, the ARH Program had completed nearly 600 flight test hours. System Design and Development (SDD) aircraft #1 leads with over 100 flight hours. It had reached a ceiling up to 14,000 feet and flight envelope expansion with external stores. The Honeywell HTS900-2 engine had successfully completed over 125 hours of flight testing and continues to demonstrate exceptional performance.

On July 26, 2007 Bell Helicopter announced that the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, continuing to progress at an unprecedented pace for a major program, had surpassed the 750 test flight hours mark in less than two years from contract award. The Honeywell HTS900-2 engine had successfully completed over 175 hours of flight testing and continues to demonstrate exceptional performance. Other recent accomplishments include expanding the ceiling envelope to 14,000 feet, flight testing with external weapon stores.

On November 1, 2007 the Bell Helicopter Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter Program achieved another milestone while preparing for a Limited Users Test (LUT) at Yuma Proving Grounds. The program surpassed 1,000 flight test hours in under 15 months of flying. The purpose of the LUT is to verify the integrated system performance for the FLIR Systems International "Target Acquisition Sensor System" (TASS) and the "Common Avionics Architecture System" (CAAS) made by Rockwell Collins. Additionally, the LUT will evaluate the performance of the Honeywell HTS-900-2 turbine engine into the Bell 407 airframe.

As of January 2008 Army budget documents noted that the first delivery of the ARH-70A is scheduled November 2009, versus a scheduled first delivery of Jun 08 andticpated a year earlier. The FY09 budget request procures aircraft, training devices/services, support equipment, interim contractor logistic support, and tooling to support production. As of January 2008 Bell noted that LRIP Award was scheduled for June 2008. A total of 10 aircraft were funded with FY 08 Appropriation. These 10 Aircraft will serve as IOTE Test Articles, with final assembly at Fort Worth - Bell Army Program Center. Two additional SDD aircraft will precede the first LRIP aircraft on the production line, with first LRIP delivery in October 2009.

In March of 2008 the GAO released another assessment of the ARH program, noting that the program had progressed through the critical design review, but had experienced multiple issues integrating and qualifying 1 of 2 critical technologies. Program officials projected at the time that the sensor technology would not demonstrate maturity until at least the planned production decision in June 2008. While the ARH design was stable at the time, the ARH program issued a stop-work order in March 2007 and remained in flux until a future Defense Acquisition Board meeting. According to program officials, the board would consider the current acquisition program, as well as the results from a Center for Naval Analyses study to help define the future plan for the program.

The sensor selected for the ARH was designed and developed as a collaborative effort with the Marines and the Navy for combat helicopter operations. An earlier version of the sensor was already being fielded as of March 2008 in the Iraqi theater on a Marine helicopter. An updated version of the currently fielded sensor was proposed by the lead contractor for integration onto the ARH platform. Although previous sensor technology had been used in the Marine helicopter, the updated sensor hardware and related software was not integrated and tested at the component system level within the ARH sensor suite to determine their functionality and reliability. This was an important consideration since the lead contractor had proposed the Army use results from the original sensor configuration's testing to support its qualification on the ARH.

According to program officials, the integration and qualification issues with the sensor had contributed heavily to the risks of the program. At the beginning of the program, the lead contractor proposed the Navy lead efforts to flight test and qualify the sensor. However, according to the Army Test and Evaluation Command, there were significant differences between sensor and airframe configurations that could result in additional test requirements that were not anticipated by the lead contractor's proposal. Program officials stated that after contract award, it became apparent that the Navy effort was behind schedule projections and that ARH would bear the burden of development. Subsequently, the lead contractor performed significant development and testing in order to mature the sensor, which resulted in placing the development, integration, and qualification risk on the ARH program.

As noted, in March 2007 the ARH program office released a stop-work order to the contractor as a result of greater than 50 percent development cost growth and low-rate initial production pricing disagreements. The contractor requested and received permission to continue work at its own risk and submitted a plan to convince the Army that it could complete the contract as intended. According to program officials, the Army met with the Army System Acquisition Review Council and the Army Acquisition Executive, to consider proposed alternative courses of action. Further, an independent study by the Center for Naval Analyses was completed as directed by the Army Acquisition Executive to determine the root cause of failures prior to continuing work on meeting the ARH requirement. According to program officials, the study made numerous recommendations to be considered at a future Defense Acquisition Board meeting.

Prior to the stop-work order, an increase in acquisition quantities and delays in receiving low-rate initial procurement quantities required to support the initial operational test and evaluation led to cost increases and negative schedule variances during development.

In response to the 2008 GAO report, the program office added that leveraging off the Navy testing was a positive approach because the Navy shipboard standards were more stringent with regard to electro magnetic interference and emission-shielding requirements.




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