* Army hopes to stage demonstration in April
* Only flying helicopters to be allowed to participate
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON, Oct 10 The U.S. Army, under
mounting pressure to generate budget savings, says it will
defer work on a broad new multi-role helicopter until around
2030, but still expects to upgrade or replace its workhorse
OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters in coming years.
Army Major General Tim Crosby, the Army's top helicopter
buyer, wants to stage a demonstration next April of armed light
helicopters that are already available from the industry that
could be used to replace the aging Kiowa Warrior.
Crosby said the service was taking an "appetite
suppressant" on the bigger project, or Joint Multirole
Helicopter, which would include development of new light,
medium, heavy and "ultra" sized helicopters.
For next year's demonstration, he said only companies with
existing helicopter could participate; no PowerPoint
helicopters were invited.
"You don't have an airplane; you don't play," Crosby told
reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army
conference. "If it doesn't fly, don't bother to show up."
Crosby said the service was seeking approval from top Army
and Pentagon leaders to spend up to $8.7 million on the
demonstration, which will allow Army leaders to see the
offerings from up to five companies.
This is the Army's third attempt to try to replace the
aging OH-58 helicopter built by Bell Helicopter, a unit of
Textron Inc , a program that is being closely watched by
companies hoping to sell their helicopters to the Army.
Boeing Co plans to offer a version of its AH-6
Little Bird, while the U.S. unit of Europe's EADS has
spent tens of millions of dollars to develop three prototypes
based on its UH-72 Light Utility Helicopter.
Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp , Bell Helicopter and AVX Aircraft may also compete for
the work, which turn out to be one of the few new programs
available for helicopter makers in the near term.
The Army cancelled the first contract for an armed
reconnaissance helicopter with Bell Helicopter in 2008 after
costs rose sharply on that program. It launched a new program,
the Armed Aerial Scout, only to reassess that program as well.
Crosby said the demonstration was intended to see if there
were any helicopters available now that met most of the
requirements for planned upgrades of the OH-58 helicopters with
new cockpits and sensors, and at what cost.
Depending on the outcome of the demonstration, the Army
could launch a competition for the new aircraft, Crosby said.
He declined to give an specific target for the cost of the
new helicopters, saying that the costs would be evaluated --
and weighed against the cost of the upgrades -- once their
capabilities were seen.
Congress has questioned why the Army should pay for OH-58
upgrades that could cost nearly as much as new aircraft.
EADS North America Chief Executive Sean O'Keefe, citing his
company's on-time, on-budget delivery of over 190 light utility
helicopters to the U.S. government at a cost of $7 million.
He said the company could modify the helicopter for
reconnaissance missions and arm it at a cost comparable to that
of the upgrades, which have estimated by some at around $12