Boeing is now pitching the AH-6S helicopter as a less costly alternative for the US Army than upgrading 330 Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scouts.
The provocative claim challenges a plan to install a new avionics suite and a nose-mounted sensor on the OH-58D, and reflects rising doubts about the army's commitment to replace the Kiowa Warrior with an armed aerial scout helicopter.
"An upgraded Kiowa Warrior will not beat the operational performance of [the AH-6S]," says Mike Burke, Boeing's director of strike rotorcraft business development.
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Boeing is pitching its AH-6S as a less costly alternative for the US Army than upgrading its 330 Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scouts (above)
Burke, speaking at the Association of the US Army's annual convention in Washington DC, claimed the six-bladed rotor system on the AH-6S allows the aircraft to fly faster at low altitudes and achieve the army's new standard for hovering at 6,000ft (1,830m) on a 35°C (95°F) day.
Even with the current upgrades proposed for the Kiowa Warrior, Burke believes the OH-58D will still not be able to hover at 4,000ft in hot weather.
Bell is internally investing to re-engine the OH-58D with the 50% more powerful Honeywell HTS900-2.
The new AH-6S also includes a more powerful engine, stretched fuselage and 84% commonality with the cockpit software of the army's Boeing AH-64 Apache Longbow Block III attack helicopter.