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Originally posted by Valhall
"After 20 years and $6 billion, the latest of many restructuring efforts could finally save the Army's endangered RAH-66 helicopter development program"
That's the blurb across the first two pages of an article written by Ron Laurenzo in the October issue of Aerospace America entitled "New life for Comanche?"
After those 20 years, and 6 billion dollars, all the Army has to show for it's patience, mismanagement, delusions of grandeur and our money, are 2 prototypes.
Everything in the world has set back this program. As Laurenzo puts it "...the Comanche has become something of a poster child for what can go wrong in a high-tech procurement program." The reasons range from mission creep due to grandiose ideas in the military branch (mainly fueled by the dynamics of the possible enemy and the face of the possible battlefield weaponry) to the lean mean years of Clinton's military underfunding.
Well, we still don't have our Comanche...BUT, things are looking up for the "horse-warriors" of the skies. The program has been restructured to make deliverables and technological improvements in a "spiral" project path. In other words, cut to the chase and give us the basic model, the retrofit, add ons, advance as the program proceeds on.
"The Army has requested $1.1 billion in R&D money for Comanche in 2004. All four congressional defence committes have now approved that amount."
They are aiming for operational capabilities in late 2009, with 9 Comanches being delivered from 2005-2006 (new prototypes). The Pentagon will then decide, sometime in 2007 if te Comanche is ready for a low level production rate (73 production aircraft!) "It is slated to replace the services' OH-6s and OH-58s special operations and scout helicopters."
Some specs and capabilities of the Comanche:
Can cruise at 175 kt (exceed 200 kt in a dive)
Radar cross section is 360 times less that the radar signature of a AH-64 Apache; 250 times less than the Kiowa Warrior (OH-58D)
The bearingless five-bladed rotor and fantail design makes it 50% quieter than other helicopters (but also reduces the infrared signature).
Can endure more damage and is easier repaired in-field.
Power-pack: 2 T802 engines (1500 shp each).
"The chin turret will hold a three barrel-20 mm cannon."
The weapons bays will be able to hold up to six of either the Hellfires or the Stingers, as well as the Hydra rocket. Later project cycles will increase munitions carrying capabilities even further than these.
The Comanche can now "take off and climb vertically at 500 ft/min in 'mission configuration' at an altitude of 4000 ft above SL and temperature of 95F...a critical flight performance requirement.
But..."the most exciting thing about Comanche, say program officials and aviation analysts, is the way it is wired into the rest of the joint warfighting machine." It will actually serve to point out targets to other aircraft and missile systems.
The next big step in the development is the software package that will not only integrate the Comanche but achieve "digitzation, sound modification and information management". Program managers believe the delivery date will be met.
Future improvements will take place concurrent with the project's basic deliverables. There are between 200 and 250 different efforts underway to reduce the Comanche's weight, and talks about the appropriateness of increasing engine output; formerly reduce to achieve longer life.
Concerning connectivity: "One goal is to close a T-1 link to a 1-ft terminal on a moving vehicle...If you have a battalion in the field with a number of satcom links, they will have connectivity back into the greater network. Once the data gets into the battalion, it can be relayed wirelessly out to the individual solder, who should be able to pull data onto a handheld unit from a data center back in CONUS without caring that it is moving over an RF or laser link."