U.S. Army leaders had hoped to launch a new competition for a replacement for the Kiowa Warrior helicopter but funding pressures have raised questions about those plans.
Boeing Co, Europe’s EADS, Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp, and others had hoped to bid for a contract worth an estimated $6 billion to $8 billion to build a new armed scout helicopter.
If the acquisition program proceeds, it will be the Army’s third attempt to start replacing the OH-58 helicopters, whose basic airframe dates back to the Vietnam era, although it has been upgraded and modernized several times to keep it current.
Lieutenant Colonel Matt Hannah, product manager for the Kiowa Warrior, said there had been some cost growth in the program due to delays in the congressional budget process and the Army’s decision to stretch the program for five more years.
Over time, the Army’s decision to manage the upgrades would save the government about $600 million, largely due to lower labor and overhead rates in government than industry, he said.
Colonel John Lynch, capability manager with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said the F-model’s lower weight would allow it to carry fuel for 30 minutes of extra flying time, or to essentially double its weapons load.
The new sensor would also give the scout helicopter the ability to locate possible enemies much faster and more effectively than before, Lynch said.