The US Army is reviving long-dormant plans to buy a lightweight precision-guided munition for its scout helicopter fleet.

The army is seeking information from contractors about the possibility of testing and fielding a "limited" number of air-to-surface munitions for the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.

A market survey released on 28 August by the army's joint attack munition systems office says that high-altitude conditions require the army to trade the number of "stowed kills" on board an aircraft in favour of adding extra fuel.

"This undesirable trade is believed to be unnecessary given recent developments by industry on lightweight precision munitions," it adds. "Industry efforts have resulted in a number of semi-active laser (SAL) munitions that may have the potential to satisfy army aviation's need for a lightweight, precision munition."

OH-58 Kiowa
 © US Army

The army plans to conduct a first assessment in fiscal year 2010, leading to an initial fielding two years later. A second assessment is also planned for FY2012, which will not be limited to the same bidders to have participated in the first round.

The army dropped plans to buy a similar weapon in 2007 after a tumultuous, four-year pursuit. After awarding a General Dynamics/BAE Systems team a contract to adapt the 2.75in (70mm) Hydra rocket with a SAL seeker, the army cancelled the deal in 2005. It solicited bids from BAE, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon for a re-competition called the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) II in 2006. But Congress withdrew funding the following year, and the weapon's development was transferred to the US Marine Corps.

Lockheed continued to develop its APKWS II offering independently, and confirms that it plans to respond to the army's new market survey with the direct attack guided rocket (DAGR).

Raytheon also continued to develop a guided 2.75in rocket with funding from the United Arab Emirates. Thales has also developed a similar munition for lightweight precision strikes by helicopters and unmanned air vehicles.

Source: Flight International