Remember the Comanche

The Washington Post’s Tom Ricks today exhumes a fascinating farewell memo from June 2003. It’s General Eric Shinseki’s 12-page, parting shot sent to his boss and nemesis former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. The entire memo is worth reading, but I, of course, focused on the one paragraph about aviation. It reads:

Comanche and Aviation Modernization. Our aviationforce is aging. We need the armed, manned reconnaissance and surveillance(R&S) capability that comes with the Comanche. The early history of thisprogram has not been pretty, but the program has been restructured, is nowsound, and deserves your continuing support.


Of course, Rumsfeld cancelled the troubled Comanche programme less than eight months later in February 2004. The army embraced the decision. Even if the Comanche’s many programmatic issues could be cured, the army by then realized the futility of fielding a “stealth” helicopter at housetop level in plain sight of RPG and MANPAD launchers.

Rumsfeld also won the army’s approval by ring-fencing the Comanche’s $14.6 billion budget for the army’s aviation modernization account. Several new and desperately needed recapitalization programs were launched with the Comanche’s funding.

Ironically, the one program that appears at risk of termination is the Bell ARH-70 Arapaho — the helicopter that was supposed to replace the Comanche!


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4 Responses to Remember the Comanche

  1. rapier 30 July, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    Well …..
    The RAH-66 was a replacement for the OH-58 (and other helos).
    The ARH-70 (a direct derivative of the OH-58) was a replacement for the RAH-66.
    Now the ARH-70 “appears at risk of termination” …..


  2. EG 30 July, 2008 at 9:21 pm #

    Sort of reminds me of how the A-4 outlived two sucessors-
    The A-6 and the A-7.

    I wonder would it be better if we went back to day when Kelly Johnson or Ed Heinemann could basically write the spec and then have DoD write their RFQ around it ?

  3. Stephen Trimble 30 July, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    Wonderful question.

    If you want to read a great story about Ed Heinemann, check out this blog from our archives:

  4. eg 31 July, 2008 at 3:50 pm #

    The A-4 was the first jet that I turned. The J52 is yet another living relic. Beyond the EA-6B it still lives as the JT8D.

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