RAH-66 COMANCHE HISTORY
The development of the Comanche helicopter began in 1983 when it was first called the Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX). In the early 1980s, the LHX was envisioned to be a family of low-cost, lightweight helicopters that could come in a scout, utility, or attack version. Originally, all versions were to be single-seat aircraft, but by 1988, the Army chose a two-seat concept, decided on a single version (combined armed reconnaissance and attack), and reduced the planned acquisition from 4,292 to 2,096. Force structure changes and increased costs subsequently decreased the acquisition quantity to 1,213.
The Army announced in February 1992 that it had restructured the Comanche program. The restructured program would, among other things, extend the research and development phase, with no commitment to proceed to the procurement phase.
The Milestone (MS) I ADM (1988) and TEMP envisioned an operational evaluation of an integrated system before MS II. However, the program has been subsequently restructured several times, primarily as a result of funding reductions. The most severe reduction in funding occurred in the 1994-1995 timeframe. As a result, the program schedule was extended significantly. Although some funding has been returned, the program has never fully recovered from the turbulent funding stream. Many developmental activities were delayed and over the course of time compressed up against MS III. Many of the program issues experienced today are predictable results of the 1995 "survival mode" restructure. Consequently, testing up to now has been largely restricted to individual sub-systems or surrogates of those sub-systems.
The major goal of the nine year evaluation program was to clearly establish the operational effectiveness and suitability of the Comanche helicopter, with particular emphasis on situational awareness, survivability, lethality, and sustainability. In order to maximize the likelihood that timely and relevant information will be available to decision makers, the baseline evaluation strategy being pursued was to provide a series of relative comparisons of the combat potential of the Comanche and the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Early OT involvement would ensure that Comanche development reflected operator/user concerns. LUTs, FDTEs, and multiple exercises during the 2-year user evaluation period should provide several early operational assessments to enable a continuous evaluation of Comanche performance, maximizing user influence on the refinement of the aircraft.
The first Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche prototype was rolled-out at Sikorsky Aircraft, Stratford, Connecticut, May 25, 1995. The prototype's first flight was made on 04 January 1996. The pace of flight tests remained slow, mainly due to very low funding profile. By September 1998 only about 105 flight hours had been accumulated. The second helicopter was completed in 1998.
A July 1998 decision redirected the Comanche program to accelerate the Fire Control Radar development by approximately five years; and accelerate entry into the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase by 18 months. This was to be accomplished within current funding constraints, both within annual funding profiles as well as total dollars. A substantial portion of the program redirection directly impacted the electronic heart and soul of the Comanche -- the Mission Equipment Package (MEP). Specifically, MEP includes the mission computers, navigation subsystem, communications subsystem, targeting subsystem, aircraft survivability subsystem, night pilotage subsystem, controls and displays subsystem, and display generation subsystem. The Comanche MEP had significant technical complexity and presents challenges in developing multiple, integrated new technologies. Modifying EMD plans to meet funding and schedule constraints through routine acquisition practices would not be effective in the time available, while still assuring an executable program plan. For that reason, Comanche implemented aggressive new processes that involved the entire acquisition team (user, developer, contractors, and contracting authorities).
The requirement to significantly accelerate portions of the program and make available production representative aircraft at the point of Independent Operational Test and Evaluation (IOTE), all within established (reduced) schedule and cost constraints, created an environment with incentives and urgency for other than a "business as usual" approach by the acquisition community. However, it became increasingly evident that different elements of the acquisition community react very differently to any perceived "change" in the established processes and procedures.
In August 1999 the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche Joint Program Office delivered a $3.1 billion proposal to the U.S. Army to initiate the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the Comanche program, and to build 13 RAH-66s for Army testing and evaluation.
The Comanche program cleared its last hurdle on 4 April 2000 on its way to enter the final phase of development, Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD). A Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) Readiness Meeting (DRM) was chaired on 4 April 2000 by USD (A&T) Dr. Jacques Gansler and reviewed the program's readiness to proceed. As a result of the DRM, Comanche was given the go-ahead to enter EMD as briefed, to include the proposed Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Exit Criteria (along with its associated Long Lead Exit Criteria) and the LRIP quantity of up to 84 aircraft. Also directed were two Interim Decision Reviews to be held in January 2003 and January 2005. The Acquistion Program Baseline was finalized based on the Army's submission of the FY 2002-2007 POM in late May 2000. These decisions and other directions from the DRM were documented in an Acquisition Decision Memorandum, signed by Dr. Gansler on 7 April 2000.
On 01 June 2000 representatives of the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche program and the US Army signed contract documents that officially launched the $3.1 billion engineering and manufacturing development phase for the Comanche program. The contract signing came less than two months after a Department of Defense Acquisition Board Milestone II review gave the go-ahead for EMD. The contract for the RAH-66 Comanche Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) was awarded by a team of Government acquisition professionals working in partnership with the contractor, Boeing Sikorsky Comanche Team (A Joint Venture). The estimated Cost-Plus-Award-Fee (CPAF) amount is $3.15 billion.
The contract was to complete the design, development and testing of two existing prototype aircraft; and the design, manufacture and assembly of 13 additional pre-production prototype configured aircraft. An important component of the acquisition strategy was the acceleration of the Milestone II decision from October 2001 to April 2000. The acceleration of the milestone decision to enter the EMD phase would require the parties to initiate "alpha contracting" procedures to meet the aggressive procurement schedule. The Government and contractor teams jointly developed an acquisition strategy to promote a successful partnership; not only during the planning and negotiation of the program requirements, but also during the execution of the resulting contract. This cooperative environment allowed the parties to appropriately balance the risk between the parties. They entered into a partnership by execution of an "Alpha Contracting" Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU called for a cultural change in the way program requirements were to be communicated, how the contractor team implements these requirements, and the method and timeframe in which the EMD proposal and resultant contract was prepared, evaluated, negotiated and awarded. The "alpha contracting" approach used integrated product teams and focused on developing a plan to minimize overall program disruption during the procurement process.
Six early operational capability aircraft were scheduled to be delivered 2002 to participate in an Army field exercise in 2002-2003, or possibly later in "Corps 04". A fully integrated aircraft is not currently scheduled to be available until FY05. An updated TEMP was approved by OSD in February 2000. The program entered the EMD stage following a DAB-level MS II decision in April 2000; MS III and Initial Operational Capability are scheduled for December 2006.
Full rate production of 72 Comanches a year was planned for 2010.
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