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US Army keeps faith with Bell

The US Army is to stick with Bell's ARH-70A armed reconnaissance helicopter rather than cancel the troubled 512-aircraft programme, a special Army Systems Acquisition Review Council decided on 18 May.

In March, the army ordered Bell to stop work on the ARH programme, citing a more than 50% increase in cost estimates for development and initial production activities and a slippage to its first unit equipped date from September 2008 to December 2009.

Bell submitted a recovery plan to the army on 20 April and says it has completed two of three events required for approval of low-rate initial production, demonstrating digital connectivity and air transportability. The third event, a limited user test, is tentatively set for late this year and will use two of the three development aircraft now flying. A fourth development ARH crashed during its first flight last February. Investigators concluded that fuel flow to the engine was blocked by a plastic pipe cap left in the fuel tank.

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