The US Army has decided to stick with Bell’s ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), rather than cancel the programme because of schedule delays and increased costs.

A special Army Systems Acquisition Review Council meeting on 18 May considered options for the replacement of aging Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, and decided to continue with Bell as the prime contractor for the ARH.

 Bell ARH
 Bell's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter

In March, the Army ordered Bell to stop work on the troubled ARH programme and gave the company 30 days to come up with a plan to overcome spiralling costs and delays.

The army said cost estimates for development and initial production had grown by more than 50%, while the date for the first unit to be equipped had slipped from September 2008 to December 2009.

Bell submitted its recovery plan to the army on 20 April. No details of the plan have been released so far. The US Army intends to buy 512 ARH-70As.

The ARH team restarted development testing on company funding, and Bell says it is making progress, completing two of three events required for approval of low-rate initial production: demonstrations of digital connectivity and air transportability.

The third event, a limited user test by the US Army, is tentatively set for late this year. This will use two of three ARH development aircraft now flying.

The fourth development ARH-70A crashed on its first flight in February. Investigators concluded fuel flow to the engine was blocked by a plastic pipe cap left in the fuel tank.

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