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US Army pushing new light reconnaissance helicopter

The US Army has confirmed its pursuit of a light reconnaissance helicopter that will assume the role left vacant by the retirement of the Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

Army military deputy for acquisition, technology and logistics Lt Gen Michael Williamson suggested the army might move quicker on its Future Vertical Lift-Light (FVL-Light) programme because it might be more achievable in the near term.

“I think what you’ll find is there’s still a requirement for us to have a light reconnaissance helicopter, so as we looked at the dollars that are available and the timing to get to a platform, we saw the light helicopter probably gave us the most in terms of schedule,” Williamson said at a conference on US fiscal year 2017 defence programmes in Washington DC on 10 March.

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US Army

The army is moving forward with FVL by funding a “medium” category programme in its latest spending submission, but recently released two separate industry surveys seeking ideas on potential platforms in the light and medium categories. The light category would perform a similar role to the armed Kiowa Warrior, which is being retired under the army aviation restructure initiative (ARI), whereas the medium category will succeed the Sikorsky UH-60 and Boeing AH-64.

Sikorsky says it will offer a version of its experimental S-97 Raider for the light reconnaissance role if the army launches an acquisition.

The light attack/assault rotorcraft must at a minimum carry up to six heavily equipped troops over 229nm at 200kts, according to the 18 February request for information. It would be fielded in the 2030s.

The army’s interest in future vertical lift comes as it cuts funding for helicopter procurement in its 2017 submission.

Army procurement official Lt Gen John Murray says aviation took the biggest hit in the army's latest funding submission to protect accounts for ground vehicle modernisation. However, he hopes to restore aviation procurement if the army’s fiscal situation improves.

“Our intent is to get back to where we were in aviation procurement as quickly as we possibly can,” he says.

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