Bell Helicopter has received an order to stop work on cockpit and sensor upgrades for the US Army’s Bell OH-58F Kiowa Warrior, the company says. The announcement comes as the service moves forward with plans to retire the OH-58 fleet.
“We did receive official notification of stop work on the OH-58F programme from the US Army in the first quarter” of 2014, Bell chief executive John Garrison said on 5 May.
The army’s $1.98 billion cockpit and sensor upgrade programme (CASUP) had called for modifications that would convert OH-58D models to the F model, allowing the service to operate Kiowa Warriors through 2025. The work would have replaced the type’s mast-mounted sensor with a new nose-mounted Raytheon common sensor.
Garrison made his comments during a media breakfast in Nashville, Tennessee, prior to the start of the Army Aviation Association of America’s Mission Solutions Summit.
The US Army’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal calls for the service to retire its entire fleet of single-engined OH-58 armed scouts and related TH-67 Creek trainers.
Under the plan, which requires Congressional approval, the army would transfer the Kiowa mission to Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and conduct training on more-advanced twin-engined Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakotas. The army would buy 100 more Lakotas as part of that transition plan.
Garrison reiterated Bell’s position that single-engined trainers are ideal for beginner pilots.
“Despite what has been said about the need for two-engined trainers, most of the world still believes that single-engined trainers are a great way to start,” he says.
A few minutes after Garrison’s remarks, army Vice Chief of Staff Gen John Campbell stressed the service’s intention to execute the plan, saying the army’s future will involve “manned and unmanned Apaches and UAVs.”
Campbell made the comment during an opening speech to convention attendees.
Garrison says Bell is interested in pitching its models as trainers if the plan moves forward and if the service decides to hold a trainer competition.
He calls Bell’s 505 Jet Ranger X, a civilian model under development, a good option for an army trainer.
“We think the 505 would compete very favourably as an initial training helicopter,” Garrison says. “Training helicopters are a big market.”
Bell would likely compete with AgustaWestland, which last week said its AW119Kx civilian helicopter would be a “common-sense solution” as a military trainer.