It seems like a long shot, a start-up company bidding to provide the US Army with its next armed scout helicopter. But AVX Aircraft's Forth Worth, Texas-based AVX is largely made up of former Bell engineers and managers, so they should know the OH-58D well. But the company, founded in 2005, is privately funded and has spent about $4 million so far on design studies. It needs a lot more money to take the next step - building a concept demonstrator - and is trying to get the Army to provide the funding.
All artwork: AVX Aircraft
I wish them luck with that endeavor, because the "OH-58D AVX" is an interesting concept. The idea is to offer the Army a low-cost solution to its Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) requirement to replace the OH-58D and its cancelled successor, the Bell ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter.
Replacing the four-blade rotor and tailrotor with coaxial rotors and ducted fans reduces the power required by 15-20%, says AVX, which in turn boosts the helicopter's hot-and-high performance with the existing engine. The company estimates the OH-58D AVX can meet or exceed the performance promised by the ARH.
AVX believes the configuration is low risk. The coaxial rotors are similar to those on the Kamov Ka-50/52 attack helicopters, but with composite blades and hubs. The variable-pitch fans are mechanically driven to provide differential thrust for directional control and propulsion for forward flight.
Cost would be kept down by retaining much of the original OH-58D, taking advantage of the Army's substantial investment in upgrading the Kiowa Warrior in the wake of the ARH cancellation. This includes replacing the old McDonnell Douglas mast-mounted sight with a lighter Raytheon sensor under the nose.
AVX says it has no plans to be a manufacturer and instead would act as prime contractor, working with low-cost suppliers to produce the modification kits. These could be simple enough to be installed at depot level, the company believes.
But first AVX has to find around $30 million to build a "bare bones" concept demonstrator, which it says could fly within 18 months. The company is working to raise more money privately, but is hoping the Army can come up with funding, possibly as part of a prototyping phase leading up to an AAS acquisition.
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