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RAH-66 Comanche


Comanche was a reconnaissance platform integrated into the total force that provides operational (fire and maneuver) and intelligence capabilities while generating full spectrum dominance for the force commander. It brought unprecedented force projection, reconnaissance, and reduced logistics capabilities to the maneuver forces. Comanche was designed with a significant inter-theater and intra-theater self-deployment capability to support a power-projection force. Its capability to cover extended distances helped to streamline the Reception, Staging, Onward Integration (RSOI) procedures and integrate forces into the battle sooner. With its suite of multipurpose visual and electronic sensors, Comanche was a key component of the force intelligence plan and force protection package. Designed for minimal maintenance support, Comanche reduced the logistics footprint on the battlefield and minimizes sustainment operations. Integration into the distributed logistics concept increases Comanche unit OPTEMPO and efficiency for operational planning and execution. Logistical support was focused on continuous and near-simultaneous operations. Incorporation of the virtual TOC into Comanche units enhances planning and execution while decreasing logistical support, to include maintenance, use of spares/parts, and consumables such as fuel. Comanche's inherent low observable (LO) characteristics (radar, IR, visual, and acoustic) and robust mission equipment package (MEP) provides a man-in-the-loop capability that provides "eyes on the target". These capabilities, coupled with the ability to acquire and destroy targets, enhance situational awareness, shape the battlespace, and generate force protection. Comanche's ability to dislocate the enemy from its critical nodes was a crucial factor in the force commander achieving information dominance. Comanche could operate at extended depth and has the speed and flexibility to rapidly adjust to changing conditions. These attributes, coupled with its capability to synchronize disparate operations make it a cornerstone of future decisive operations.

Comanche was to onducts overt, covert, and clandestine missions against the enemy's centers of gravity to destroy key enemy capabilities while preserving friendly freedom of maneuver to create windows of opportunities. Comanche was to provide a critical man-in-the-loop capability. Comanche supported the increased demand for immediate situational awareness with its ability to observe critical battlespace areas that ground reconnaissance assets could not cover in a timely manner or other strategic assets could not penetrate effectively. It was to provide the commander with a dedicated, rapidly retaskable asset with the capability to conduct armed reconnaissance throughout the extended battlespace. The LO characteristics of Comanche reduced the probability of detection by threat systems, allowing Comanche to acquire and process targets while avoiding decisive engagement. Comanche's digital interconnectivity provided commanders at all levels the precise, real-time information needed for the synchronization of the combined / joint battlespace.

Comanche units were to be employed as maneuver elements throughout the battlespace supporting the corps and division commander's scheme of maneuver. They were to provide reconnaissance and security for the total force as a member of the corps regimental cavalry and divisional cavalry. They were intended to be able to rapidly task organize to conduct shaping and/or decisive operations throughout the battlespace. Comanche units were intended to provide light divisions with timely reconnaissance information. Comanches were intended to provide the corps and heavy division attack battalions with a low observable scout that, when combined with the AH-64D Apache Longbow and other members of the combined arms team, significantly increase overall force effectiveness. The Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) would also employ Comanches. Each of these units would be organized in accordance with the Objective-Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) approved by the Chief of Staff - Army, 3 February 1993. The SOAR would be organized IAW United States Army Special Operations Command approved operational concept. The air cavalry troop was organic to corps and division aviation organizations. It provides the force commander with a highly mobile, low profile reactionary element; capable of detecting, identifying, locating and reporting enemy weapons systems; thereby influencing the overall outcome of the battle. The attack company provides the ability to rapidly acquire and destroy targets either through supporting fires or autonomously. The light attack companies in the airborne, air assault, and light infantry divisions are structured differently than the attack companies in the heavy divisions, armored cavalry regiments, and corps attack regiments. SOAR supports special operations missions as required.

Sensors and avionics. In the reconnaissance role, the Comanche would be equipped with a new generation of passive sensors and a fully integrated suite of displays and communications. Advance infrared (IR) sensors would have twice the range of OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and AH-64 Apache sensors. The Comanche would be equipped with the Apache Longbow fire control radar and the Helmet Integrated Display and Sight System (HIDSS). The fully integrated avionics system would allow tactical data to be overlaid onto a digital map, allowing the crew to devote more time for target detection and classification. A triple-redundant fly-by-wire system could automatically hold the helicopter in hover or in almost any other maneuver, reducing workload, allowing the pilot to concentrate on navigation and threat avoidance. A hand-on grip permits one-handed operation.

Stealth characteristics. The Comanche incorporated more low-observable stealth features than any aircraft in Army history. The Comanche radar cross-section (RCS) was less than that of a Hellfire missile. To reduce radar cross-section, weapons could be carried internally, the gun could be rotated aft and stowed within a fairing behind the turret when not in use, and the landing gear are fully-retractable. The all-composite fuselage sides were flat and canted and rounded surfaces are avoided by use of faceted turret and engine covers. The Comanche's head-on RCS was 360 times smaller than the AH-64 Apache, 250 times less than the smaller OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, and 32 times smaller than the OH-58D's mast-mounted sight. This meant the Comanche would be able to approach five times closer to an enemy radar than an Apache, or four times closer than an OH-58D, without being detected.

Noise suppression. The Comanche only radiated one-half the rotor noise of current helicopters. Noise was reduced by use of a five-bladed rotor, pioneered by the successful Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) MD-500 Defender series of light utility helicopters. The fantail eliminated interaction between main rotor and tail rotor wakes. The advanced rotor design permited operation at low speed, allowing the Comanche to sneak 40% closer to a target than an Apache, without being detected by an acoustical system.

Infrared (IR) suppression. The Comanche only radiates 25% of the engine heat of current helicopters, a critical survivability design concern in a low-flying tactical scout helicopter. The Comanche was the first helicopter in which the infrared (IR) suppression system was integrated into the airframe. This innovative Sikorsky design feature provided IR suppressors that are built into the tail-boom, providing ample length for complete and efficient mixing of engine exhaust and cooling air flowing through inlets above the tail. The mixed exhaust was discharged through slots built into an inverted shelf on the sides of the tail-boom. The gases were cooled so thoroughly that a heat-seeking missile cannot find and lock-on to the Comanche.

Crew Protection. The Comanche featured a crew compartment sealed for protection against chemical or biological threats, an airframe resilient against ballistic damage, enhanced crash-worthiness, and reduced susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.

Maintainability Comanche would be easily sustained, would require fewer personnel and support equipment, and would provide a decisive battlefield capability in day, night and adverse weather operations. Comanche was designed to be exceptionally maintainable and easily transportable. Through its keel-beam construction, numerous access panels, easily accessible line-replaceable units/modules and advanced diagnostics, the RAH-66 possessed "designed-in" maintainability. Comanche aircraft would be able to be rapidly loaded into or unloaded from any Air Force transport aircraft.

Companion UAV A new feature of the 2002 program restructuring was the addition of a "companion" unmanned aerial vehicle. The crew in the Block 3 Comanche, slated to enter production in 2012, would be able to take over control of a drone to perform scouting missions, letting it go in harm's way while the Commanche crew keeps distant from danger.

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