The US Army released an RFI (Request for Information, for the uninitiated) for a light recon attack VTOL aircraft. The intent is to gather
information about what industry can do and then draft detailed requirements, award study/baseline design work, then down select to two competitors and
have them do a fly off. The prototypes are meant to fly by 2023.
It is generally passed off that this is to replace the now retired Kiowa and fill a niche very similar to the cancelled Comanche. The information
released makes it sound very much like they want a recapitulation of the Comanche, though, perhaps not with with the stealth aspect. There are four
specifications that might not be the same though: this sucker is intended to do some VERY aggressive EW/EA. See a radar; spoof the radar; and even
kill the radar. Potentially nonkinetically. Secondly, technically, the Army has not stated it is a helicopter, supposedly to allow for as broad a
potential designs, but vertical flight and hover seem to be pretty strongly implied. That would mean Tilt rotor or helicopter to me, but I
someone could propose an autogyro or something else. Also, despite being billed as a Kiowa replacement, the numbers being talked about
may actually be pretty small and used in a more roving, deep strike sort of mission that would be discounted from the ground troops. Finally, the
aircraft is to be optionally manned at this point.
I have to admit, I have some concerns. First off, a more meta concern, as this is the US Army, and while that is my family's traditional service,
they have a serious record of fscking up their acquisitions as of late. Mission creep is a major problem for them. Secondly, this seems awfully
ambitious out the door in some ways: this sounds almost exactly like the Comanche, but with the optionally manned and EW/EA mission tossed in. Kitchn
sink, actually ALL the kitchen sinks, seem to be thrown into this aircraft. Finally, the proposed role, where the aircraft is not part of the ground
maneuver units concerns me: recon ought to be available for the ground troops, yes? Finally, what does this do to the Future Vertical Lift? Does
it kill that effort? The light aircraft was supposed to be part of that, too. And now?
Assuming this goes forward, then I'd say this looks a lot like its been tailored for the Sikorsky Raider or perhaps some derivative thereof. It's
flown and it could handle most of mission with additional electronics. However...if stealth makes a comeback, then I would be concerned about the
pusher prop. OTOH, I am baffled how you'd do a stealth tilt rotor.
What do you folks think?
25-6-2018 by anzha because: edited a finally into an also