The US Army has ruled out cuts to the size of its planned Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche programme as part of its soon-to-be-released aviation modernisation plan.

"Our programme is still good -it still goes on to 2023, with the first unit fielding Comanches in 2008. That programme is still in place, and we've not changed the planned purchase of Comanches," says Maj Gen Anthony Jones, US Army Aviation Center commander.

Concern over funding has generated speculation about the future of the $43 billion RAH-66 programme ahead of the 1 April release of the modernisation plan. Reports suggested that the number of helicopters could be cut to 650, ending production by 2016 (Flight International, 14-20 March).

According to Jones, planning is focused on a total purchase of 1,213 machines. He adds that the thrust of the modernisation plan is not just about equipment, but on improving doctrine and training, and producing more experienced leadership. This will include raising the threshold for battalion commands to more than a 1,000h of flying a year.

Jones indicates that the plan will herald the disposal of Bell Helicopter Textron's UH-1H and AH-1 Cobra helicopters, to bring the National Guard and Reserves in line with regular army units operating Sikorsky UH-60s and Boeing AH-64s. "We're not going to invest in fixing the Cobras and engine upgrades-we're going to move the Guard and Reserves to new modern weapons," he says.

Source: Flight International