FLIR Systems is rejecting claims its targeting sensor has driven delays to the US Army's Bell ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH). Bell was ordered to stop work on the programme last month and given 30 days to produce a plan to overcome cost increases and schedule delays.

"The target acquisition sensor system is ready for LUT [limited user test]," says Bill Sundermeier, president, government systems. Bell, FLIR and Rockwell Collins, which is adapting its common architecture avionics system to the ARH, have completed the 300h flight testing at the army's Yuma proving ground in Arizona, Sundermeier says.

He says the team has had only nine months to integrate the target acquisition sensor system because of the US Army's decision to recompete the sensor. Bell had selected FLIR's Brite Star II before it was awarded the ARH development contract in June 2005, but the army ordered a "fly-off" against a Raytheon sensor in early 2006, which FLIR also won, he says, adding: "We were not on contract to start integration until July 2006."

Because of the delay, "we have had nine months to work through the integration issues on 13 major functional features", says Sundermeier.

He says unique features of the Brite Star II include a diode-pumped laser designation/rangefinder, which permits power to be provided to the gimbal through the slip ring, enabling 360º surveillance. The system also has its own inertial measurement unit, enabling in-flight boresighting of the sensor.

FLIR, meanwhile, faces a proposal to stage another recompetition, this time for a common sensor for production ARHs and the US Army's General Atomics Warrior unmanned air vehicles. But the solicitation for this has been delayed several times, the company says.

Source: Flight International