EADS Quits Helo Competition To Pursue Uncertain AAS

By Graham Warwick
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

EADS, meanwhile, is focused on proposing the AAS-72X/X+ for AAS, while also lobbying to reverse the Army's fiscal 2014 budget decision to prematurely end procurement of the U.S.-assembled UH-72A Lakota light-utility helicopter on which the Armed Aerial Scout would be based.

But an AAS competition is looking less certain as the Army struggles with budget cuts. The service may be forced to choose between near-term replacement of its Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and long-term investment in an FVL family of advanced rotorcraft to replace initially the UH-60, then the Boeing AH-64 Apache, but eventually everything from the OH-58 to the Boeing CH-47 Chinook.

“The Army's concept development plan for JMR to replace AAS with an aircraft that meets the needs of the force currently met by the OH-58, AH-64 Apache Block III, UH-60M and CH-47F/G appears to be very long term and an open-ended industry resource commitment,” O'Keefe told Shyu.

EADS has invested heavily in company-funded development of the AAS-72X/X+, derived from the Eurocopter EC145, and is finalizing a cooperative research and development agreement with the Army to conduct weapons testing. Citing the fiscal constraints caused by sequestration and budget instability, O'Keefe said EADS's “plan is to focus our resources and our world-class teammates on the AAS competition. As such we will withdraw from further consideration for the JMR/FVL concept development effort.”

Army leadership, meanwhile, has said the path forward for AAS is either a service-life-extension program for the OH-58D/F or a new development program. After evaluating five off-the-shelf candidates, including the AAS-72X/X+, “we did not find a single aircraft out there that could meet Army requirements,” Lt. Gen. William Phillips, principal military deputy for acquisition, said in May.

“If we go forward with AAS, it essentially will be a new development program,” Phillips told a congressional hearing. Army Secretary John McHugh told Congress the airframes evaluated do not provide the “generational progress” required. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the decision the service must make “is do we think technology is far enough along that it can really provide us generational change . . . or do we have to reinvest in the Kiowa and wait for the technology.”

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