Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

The Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche scout/ attack helicopter programme has been restructured once again, this time to align development with US Army plans to demonstrate "digitisation" of the battlefield.

The team had planned to deliver six early operational capability (EOC) Comanches for field tests in 2002. Instead, under the new plan, six "fully capable" pre-production prototype (PPP) aircraft will be delivered in 2003, three of which will participate in the Army's Force XXI Corps '04 digitisation exercises in 2004.

Boeing Sikorsky says the restructuring recognises the key role that the RAH-66 will play on the future digital battlefield. Under the previous plan, the EOC Comanches would not have been able to participate in the 2004 exercises because the mission equipment package (MEP) would not be ready.

The new plan does not change the overall funding or production profiles, but accelerates development of the MEP. Other changes include accelerating installation of the fire-control radar (FCR), from production Lot 6 in 2010 to the initial operational capability aircraft in 2006. One in every three RAH-66s will receive the FCR.

The US Army, meanwhile, may conduct a competition to supply the Comanche FCR, rather than adapt the Lockheed Martin/-Northrop Grumman Longbow radar from the Boeing AH-64D Apache, as originally planned.

Boeing Sikorsky has been instructed to perform a market analysis to see what is available before awarding a contract to develop the Comanche's lightweight, low-observable FCR.

Source: Flight International