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Armed Aerial Scout (AAS)

Because of sequestration and limited resources, the Army announced the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) which retired older platforms and deferred the armed reconnaissance requirement for a replacement to the current OH58 Kiowa series helicopter. As a result of the ARI, the Army will utilize AH64 Apache helicopters, teamed with the Shadow Unmanned Aerial Systems, as an interim solution to meet the armed reconnaissance mission. However, the Armys plan does not address how the Army intends to eventually meet the enduring requirement for a manned armed scout helicopter.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed performance and capability shortcomings in the US Army's current armed reconnaissance platform, the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Two attempts in the past decade to replace the Kiowa Warrior failed. The long-running Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was killed by high costs in 2004. Four years later, the less ambitious Bell ARH-70A Arapaho armed reconnaissance helicopter program was likewise cancelled.

In 2009, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) identified specific OH-58D capability gaps, many of which are being addressed through the OH-58F upgrade, which incorporates the cockpit and sensor upgrade program (CASUP). JROC OH58D performance gaps included limited lift and maneuvering capability at mission weights in a 4000-ft/95F environment and the inability to operate in 6000-ft/95F (6K/95) conditions. Additional shortcomings in the D model included lack of range, speed, crash survivability and high-risk autorotation traits.

Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program envisioned a contract for up to 368 aircraft at $1315 million per copy. In October 2011, the Army announced a voluntary flight demonstration/ request for information (VFD/RFI) plan for the AAS project. By late 2012, 5 manufacturers AgustaWestland, Bell, Boeing, EADS/Eurocopter and MD Helicopters had demonstrated their aircraft to the Army. On 30 April 2013, Army Secretary John McHugh announced, "Five manufacturers demonstrated their helicopters this past fall, but none of them had capabilities that justified the cost of kicking off a new program."

Two additional contractors offering new technologies were AVX Aircraft's compound coaxial rotor and dual-ducted-fan system and the Sikorsky S97 Raider, based on the FBW flight control coaxial/pusher configuration that propelled the X2 technology demonstrator to over 250 knots.

AgustaWestland developed the AW169 AAS as a contender for the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program to replace the army's ageing OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters with a new helicopter, incorporating modern technology to meet the current and future requirements of the army. Other contenders for the AAS program included Boeing AH-6, EADS AAS-72X+, Bell OH-58 Block II, Sikorsky S-97 Raider and MD 540F by MD Helicopters.

AAS was to replace the aging Kiowa Warrior fleet. The predecessor Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program was terminated in October 2008. JROC approved AAS Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) in July 2009. The Material Development Decision (MDD) was approved in August 2009. ADM approved $7.7 million for the conduct of an AoA. AAS Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) May 2012 approved path forward to RFI and VFD.

AAS average procurement unit cost target was set at $13 - $15M (base year 2012). All procurement quantities are based on 15 armed reconnaissance squadrons plus additional aircraft required for training, test, and Operational Readiness Float (ORF).

Specific Capability Gaps in the July 2009 JROC Approved ICD.

  • Performance - Limited lift and maneuvering capability at mission weights in 4k/95 environment, + 6k/95 capability required in OIF/OEF & future operations
  • Lethality - Lack of weapon load carrying capacity due to performance limitations
  • Interoperability - Lack Joint, combined, and multi-national interoperability (voice, data, imagery)
  • Survivability - Limitations in crash survivability, ability to incorporate Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE), Autorotation is High Risk
  • Responsiveness (range and speed) - Lack the ability to operate across the Division area (300k x 00k) of the future Modular Force
  • Versatility - Lack the ability to rapidly transition between engagements, react to mission task changes, execute branches and sequels
  • Sustainability - Parts obsolescence and airframe age limitations

The AoA concluded unmanned aircraft were not yet fully capable of replacing manned aircraft in the AAS role. A combination of manned and unmanned platforms (teaming) provided an enhanced capability and best meets aerial scout requirements. Mixes that include higher performing manned aircraft were better able to the support ground commander. The key distinguishing manned attributes were: speed, range, endurance, hover out of ground effect performance. Higher performing mixes cost significantly more than lower performing mixes and results in extreme risk to aviation portfolio affordability.

On 25 April 2012 the US Army, Armed Scout Helicopter (ASH) Program Management Office (PMO) sought information on commercial, commercial-modified, military, conceptual air vehicle technologies, performance capabilities and technical data in support of the potential acquisition of an Armed Aerial Scout air vehicle. Additionally, the ASH PMO sought information regarding industry's interest in participating in a voluntary flight demonstration of their existing air vehicles to display the state of the art in regard to helicopter systems and subsystem(s) technologies. This request for information (RFI - W58RGZ12R0329) did not in any way imply or indicate that the Government has made a decision as to whether or not to pursue an AAS program.

Despite cancelling its quest for an Armed Aerial Scout, or AAS, aircraft - a replacement for the OH-58 Kiowa - an Army leader told Congress there is still a valid need for that type of aircraft. During a March 19 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, subcommittee on tactical air and land forces, Maj. Gen. Michael D. Lundy, commander of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, said the Army still considers AAS a valid requirement.

"We still have a valid requirement for Armed Aerial Scout. That has not changed," he said. "We made a fiscal decision, based on the original 40-percent cuts that came into the aviation modernization portfolio."

The Army planned to divest itself of the OH-58 Kiowa aircraft, which had performed the armed reconnaissance helicopter mission. The Army deemed it too expensive to maintain the aircraft or upgrade it for the AAS mission through a Service Life Extension Program. Also too expensive was a replacement aircraft. The Army planned to use AH-64 Apache aircraft teamed with unmanned aerial systems to fill the role.

But Lundy said that isn't the end of the Army's quest for a new AAS aircraft. "Really where we are taking that now is, as we go into Future Vertical Lift [FVL]- what is going to be the armored reconnaissance capability that we have in FVL? We are doing a number of analyses of alternatives associated with the armored reconnaissance variant. We've got the requirement already clearly identified for a conventional aircraft right now. We are looking again at FVL as being that next iteration of the armed scout," Lundy told lawmakers. "If something materializes between now and then we are going to remain agile enough we can look at it. It is a valid requirement. But we are certainly going to be dependent on the fiscal constraints that we have."

For those pilots making the transition from OH-58 to AH-64 Apache pilot, Lundy said the training is going well, and said that the Army recently graduated three such pilots from training, and that two of those had done well enough to remain on at the school house as instructor pilots.



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