EADS North America and Lockheed Martin will modify three Eurocopter EC145s into technology demonstrators this year in advance of a potential competition to replace the US Army's Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors.
The newly rebranded AAS-72X (formerly AS645) project seeks to build on EADS's success with the army's UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter. The service has already agreed to buy 345 UH-72As, accepting the EC145 in civil configuration for non-combat missions only.
To compete for the potential requirement to replace the OH-58D armed aerial scout, EADS must modify the EC145 to meet the army's military airworthiness specifications.
© EADS North America
The first AAS-72X demonstrator will be modified and tested in two phases. The first series of tests at American Eurocopter's facility in Grand Prairie, Texas, will focus on a new communications and navigation suite. For the second phase, EADS will integrate a mission systems package, including pylons and weapons.
The aircraft also will receive Lockheed Martin's tactical automated sensor system targeting package now used by the US Marine Corps' Bell AH-1Z fleet.
A second demonstrator aircraft will be based in Germany. Its role will be to test the structural modifications necessary to meet a military airworthiness specification, which includes armouring and ballistic protection.