The $6 billion programme for the US Army is under severe threat after a recent audit found a 40% cost overrun, sparking a mandatory recertification to confirm that the aircraft remains vital for national security.
Boeing is waiting in the wings with its AH-6 Little Bird if the programme is terminated, despite the aircraft losing out to the Bell 407-based ARH-70A in the initial procurement.
Bell’s head of military programmes Bob Kenney says that programme cost has been affected by two key issues – the complex military ‘missionisation’ and the more rigorous military certification process. But he adds: “Our costs are pretty much exactly where they were a year ago.”
Kenney says he expects the programme review to be completed well before the end of the year. Under examination will be whether an alternative aircraft can offer equal capability for lower cost, whether new cost estimates are credible and whether the right management structure is in place to prevent future cost overruns. Bell says the current unit cost of the ARH-70A is $9.5 million, in 2005 dollars.
US Army vice chief of staff Gen Richard Cody spoke during a launch event in for Boeing’s AH-64 Apache Block III helicopter in Mesa, Arizona, but would only say: “We need an ARH.”
The ARH programme is due to deliver 512 aircraft over the next decade to replace the US Army’s fleet of Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters.
Source: Flight International