Industry officials have welcomed the US Army's release of a draft request for proposals for the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), yet many are still puzzled about the service's intentions for the project.

Equipped with a target acquisition sensor suite, machine guns, rockets and laser-guided Hellfire missiles, the ARH assumes the role of the terminated Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche - an armed scout to replace the Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. The army's plan to buy 368 ARHs has attracted an international mix of potential bidders, but the draft RFP does little to narrow their options. "The army has left the opportunity for us to go in several directions," says Stephen Moss, president of AgustaWestland, which has four candidates - A109 Power, A119 Koala, the T800-powered A129 international variant and the twin-engined AB139. Moss says AgustaWestland wants to know if "the army's emphasis is going to be on armed or is it going to be on reconnaissance?"

Boeing plans to offer a concept based on an upgraded MD Helicopters AH/MH-6 Little Bird design already ordered by US Special Operations Command. MDHI has teamed with Boeing to offer the MD 530-based Little Bird, but the agreement is on hold pending new financing arrangements, says MDHI chief executive Henk Schaeken.

Bell Helicopter is planning to offer a military variant of the Bell 427, says Alan Moffatt, Bell's ARH programme director. The draft RFP, released on 24 September, provided the first evidence that the army had overcome objections from an appropriations panel in the US Congress.

EADS North America intends to reveal its ARH plans this week. Sikorsky also says it is reviewing the requirement.



Source: Flight International