The US Army has selected a Raytheon sensor to re-equip the 530-aircraft Bell Helicopter ARH-70 Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) fleet, even after the sensor was originally rejected by Bell and was beaten in an army-sponsored fly-off.

Raytheon's common sensor payload (CSP) will replace infrared and electro-optical (IR/EO) sensors flown on the ARH-70 and the General Atomics RQ-1C Sky Warrior unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The new sensor may displace EO/IR payloads already selected for both aircraft types.

The CSP is a derivative of the Raytheon DAS-2 sensor already selected for the 130-aircraft RQ-1C extended-range/multipurpose (ER/MP) fleet.

But Raytheon's CSP poses a threat to the status of the FLIR Systems Britestar II, which is under contract with Bell for 40 low-rate initial productions systems for the ARH-70.

Bell originally selected the FLIR sensor over the Raytheon alternative in 2004, but the army has repeatedly challenged that decision. The army subsequently staged a fly-off between the payloads, but the Britestar II was not ousted.

But the competition was not over. The CSP requirement emerged in April 2006. The army's solicitation attracted five bids, but again pitted the Britestar II against the Raytheon system, which is a derivative of the multi-spectral targeting system-A equipped on the General Atomics RQ-1 Predator.

The path forward to integrate the CSP, however, is not entirely clear.

Raytheon expects to be ready to deliver the first CSP unit within 10 months, says Neil Peterson, Raytheon director of strategy and business development for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

But the ARH and ER/MP programmes are funded independently of the CSP contract, and it was not immediately clear if either would be forced to switch payloads.

If the programmes follow through, the CSP could become a candidate for a new baseline payload for the wider US Air Force RQ-1 fleet, which is expected to be merged with the army's RQ-1C into a common platform.

The ARH-70, meanwhile, was scheduled to enter a limited user testing phase on 9 November.

© Bell Helicopter
Bell's ARH-70 could receive a new EO/IR payload

Source: Flight International