Modified business aircraft can often satisfy military needs
From AEW to command and control, civil sector OEMs provide COTS solutions for government roles.
The result was a more COTS-like HH65 —one that was reliable and safe for the mission.
The latest military COTS helicopter program—the US Army's Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) program—was launched to replace the aging OH58 Kiowa.
In 2006, Eurocopter was awarded the production contract to build 345 EC145s as the UH72 Lakota. Already, the program begins to sound eerily reminiscent of the Coast Guard's HH65 experience.
This time, government procurers felt the Army didn't need the EC145's air conditioning system, as their wisdom holds that Army personnel apparently do not need the luxury and it would be a cost savings to remove it from the aircraft.
Never mind that air conditioning is an extremely important system on the EC145, cooling, among other things, the avionics.
As UH72s were being delivered, field trials with the aircraft were showing that the avionics couldn't handle the heat and were subsequently failing at an alarming rate. Predictably, the Army went back to Eurocopter to request the aircraft be re-engineered.
It seems they want the air conditioning system installed after all. Irony can be humorous, yet this example came at huge and preventable expense—one that would not have been incurred had the aircraft been left COTS.
Independent experiences are largely dictated by the procurement process of the day, not the COTS aircraft itself. Generally speaking, if a particular aircraft type is popular in the private sector, chances are it will make a good COTS aircraft for a related military application.
Civil aircraft manufacturers have created an incredible array of mission-specific aircraft for the private sector, and the world's governments and militaries are now the beneficiaries of that labor.
Douglas Wilson started as a lineman at JGG (Williamsburg VA). An active pilot, he now serves as director of business development and marketing for Galvin Flying Services at BFI (Boeing Field, Seattle WA).