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Aviation Transformation includes new aircraft, upgrades

By Carrie David

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 29, 2005) -- Many changes are in store for Army aviation, beginning with a contract for 368 new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters.

“ARH is the next significant step in modernizing and transforming Army Aviation,” said Col. Mark Hayes, TRADOC system manager for reconnaissance and attack, located at Fort Rucker, Ala.

The $2.2 billion contract with Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. -- awarded July 29 with a signing ceremony Aug. 29 -- calls for delivery of 38 of the new aircraft by fiscal year 2008, with the remainder delivered by fiscal year 2013.

“The ARH will have a larger, enhanced engine,” said Col. Greg Gass, deputy director of the Army Aviation Task Force in the Pentagon.

In addition, an upgraded tail rotor from the Bell 427 provides greater directional stability and control authority and the upgraded glass cockpit provides greater accuracy, has better display ergonomics, and is more user friendly than the current display, said Gass, comparing it to the current OH-58 Kiowa helicopter.

The ARH will also incorporate an exhaust infrared suppressor. “This device suppresses heat from the helicopter so that it is less detectable by the enemy,” Gass said.

“The ARH will replace the current Kiowa Warrior, one for one,” said Lt. Col. Neil Thurgood, program manager for ARH, located at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

“The normal flying hours for the Kiowa is 14 a month, but it is flying about 70 hours a month per aircraft,” said Gass. “That is a lot of strain on an aircraft. The ARH can sustain the current flying requirements.”

The ARH is one of many initiatives resulting from the cancellation of the Comanche project in 2004, Gass said, which took the Army into a new phase of Army Aviation Transformation.

“We wanted to optimize our fleet for the joint fight and reduce logistics,” said Gass. “We are restructuring our maintenance and sustainability so that it won’t be so burdensome – more flexible, more deployable, more agile and more modular.”

“The decision to restructure Army Aviation through the termination of Comanche really permitted us to take some of the investment – known and tested technologies – and integrate them quicker into old and new systems,” Gass said.

“Reinvesting the gains we made with the Comanche project helped reduce the process of acquisition and saved time,” said Gass. “We are at war, and we wanted to make it happen quicker.”

“The Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. – recently designated the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center of Excellence – brings war fighting capabilities to the field by developing new concepts, programs and training for aviation Soldiers worldwide,” Hayes said.

New concepts and programs are already developed to transform Army aviation.

“A request for proposals was issued in July 2005 on the Light Utility Helicopter,” said Gass. “The first equipment is expected on the ground in fiscal year 2007.”

The LUH will conduct light general support in permissive environments and Homeland Defense, and will replace the legacy UH-1 Huey.

“The Future Cargo Aircraft will replace the C-23 Sherpa,” said Gass. “It will provide tremendous capability in getting critical supplies to forward deployed forces, because it will be able to land on a very short runway – about 2,000 feet, which is a better capability than anything else we have out there.”

“Comanche money provided us the new buys [aircraft] as well as allowed us to recapitalize the current fleet,” said Gass. “The Apache, The Chinook, UH-60, all will receive upgrades.”

One of the investments is in Aircraft Survivability Equipment. ASE provides counter measures to aircraft to defeat surface-to-air missiles and other threats to aircraft, said Gass.

“We are upgrading ASE and outfitting all rotary-wing aircraft with the common missile warning system – upgraded missile detection – through an accelerated process because of the need and desire to get the best equipment to the field,” said Gass.

“Our program is really about trying to use the current existing state-of-the-art technology and getting it to the war fighter as quickly as possible,” Thurgood said.

“We will restructure and transform into a modular, capabilities-based, maneuver force, which will provide significant contributions to the War on Terrorism and the future of Army aviation,” Hayes said.

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