Flight testing required to support an April decision to proceed with development of the US Army's RAH-66 Comanche scout/attack helicopter has been completed, says the Boeing/Sikorsky team.

Approval to move from the protracted demonstration/validation phase into the $3.1 billion engineering and manufacturing development programme is contingent on the RAH-66 meeting key "exit criteria", including vertical rate of climb, radar and infrared signatures and sensor performance. "We are in good shape," says Boeing/Sikorsky Comanche programme manager Art Linden.

Two prototypes have accumulated more than 200 flying hours. The first has flown with a reshaped main rotor pylon and a revised horizontal tail incorporating endplates. A production redesign will increase the area of the vertical tail, move the horizontal tail down and add the endplates, Linden says.

The Comanche is due to fly in mid-year with an aerodynamic dummy of the Longbow mast-mounted fire-control radar, after modification of the inboard parts of the rotor blades to match up with the new hub fairing and antenna. Linden says windtunnel testing has been accomplished with the radar, revised tail and increased-diameter main rotor planned for the production Comanche.

Source: Flight International