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Boeing's new Phoenix rises from ARH ashes

Boeing has unveiled two options for the US Army’s revived armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) order – a stretched version of the AH-6 Little Bird and a scout version of the AH-64 dubbed the “Apache Light”.

Both concepts were outlined in Boeing’s response to the US Army’s request for information in November for potential ARH candidates, said Mike Burke, Boeing vice president for business development.

The army cancelled a $6 billion order with Bell Helicopter for 512 ARHs after the Bell 407’s costs tripled and schedule delays topped five years.

Boeing could offer the AH-6S, nicknamed the “Phoenix”, for the new competition. Company officials noted that their offer could change after they see the army’s final requirements.

The AH-6S would be stretched with a 15in plug, allowing the aircraft to extract the crews of other ARHs shot down in combat. The aircraft also would feature a redesigned “pointy” nose similar to commercial aircraft, making room for avionics boxes in the nose and a roomier cabin, Burke said.

The Bell 407, dubbed the ARH-70, was fitted with the army’s common avionics architecture system (CAAS), but Boeing has taken a different approach. The AH-6S cockpit instruments would be derived from the AH-64 Block III system, with 75% of the software directly ported to the scout helicopter, Burke said.

Boeing would also offer a composite main rotor blade originally developed for the AH-64 Block III. Also featuring an improved tail rotor and uprated Rolls-Royce 250-CE30 engine, the AH-6S is listed with a 132kt dash speed.

If the army prefers a twin-engine scout helicopter, Boeing has also prepared the AH-64 “Apache Light”.

The ARH competition is on hold while the army seeks to recertify the aircraft’s required capabilities. A formal decision by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council is expected in February or March, Burke said, followed shortly by a request for proposal.

The AH-6S would be offered exclusively to the US Army. In October, Boeing unveiled the AH-6I for international customers, which retains the configuration of the AH-6 mission enhanced little bird with some improvements.

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