Armed Aerial Scout competition draws 7 hopefuls

AgustaWestland, AVX, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter, MD and Sikorsky look to win US Army's AAS award for up to 368 new helicopters to replace Bell's OH58D Kiowa Warrior.

Boeing AH6i

Boeing AH6i is powered by a single 600-shp FADEC-controlled Rolls-Royce 250-C30R/3 engine with advanced 6-blade rotor system. Boeing claims its small and light AH6i has the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class with superior hot-and-high performance.

In Oct 2012, Boeing demonstrated its AH6i light attack helicopter to the Army. The manufacturer eagerly logged over 10 hrs demonstrating an aircraft that now leverages the latest innovations of the larger AH64E Apache.

The modernized Apache roots can be found in the cockpit layout and displays, fire control system and equipment enabling full battlefield interoperability.

Powered by a single 600-shp FADEC-controlled Rolls-Royce 250-C30R/3 engine mated to an advanced 6-blade rotor system, Boeing claims its AH6i has the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class with superior hot-and-high performance capabilities.

US Army Special Operations forces currently operate a number of MH6M "Mission Enhanced Little Birds" (MELBs) —also known as "Killer Eggs."

Boeing designed the AH6i originally as an export version of the AH­6S—a model proposed for an earlier AAS competition—and has found recent success selling the aircraft through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contracts. Launch customer Saudi Arabian National Guard has purchased 36 aircraft, while the Royal Jordanian Army has bought 18 copies.

EADS/Eurocopter AAS72X+

American Eurocopter AAS 72X+ is an armed version of its UH72A Lakota and an advanced militarized version of the EC145. Powered by 2 FADEC-controlled Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines, it also has a fenestron tail rotor. It would be produced alongside the UH72A in Columbus MS. EADS North America/American Eurocopter teamed with Lockheed Martin and Rockwell Collins to offer the AAS72X+. In 2012, at an elevation of 7500 ft, EADS demonstrated both an armed version of its UH72A Lakota and a more advanced militarized EC145 T2 to the Army in Alamosa CO.

The AAS72X+ is based on the EC­145 T2 and is equipped with a Helionix advanced avionics suite, 4-axis autopilot and ballistic protection. Differing from the standard UH72A, the armed AAS72X+ is equipped with 2 more powerful FADEC-controlled Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines and a fenestron tail rotor.

Besides the engine and tail rotor system, the AAS­72X+ will have a high percentage of parts commonality with the Lakota.

According to EADS Spokesman James Darcy, "Since 2006, EADS has delivered [more than] 260 UH72A Lakota aircraft to the Army, National Guard and US Navy. Each aircraft has been delivered on time and on budget."

Also of interest, the UH72A empty weight has been reduc­ed due to improvements made to the civil EC145. Darcy notes, "All of the improvements to the Lakota have been made at no cost to the US Army."

The AAS72X+ would be produced alongside the UH72A at EADS North America's Eurocopter facility in Columbus MS, whose workforce consists of more than 50% US military veterans. Darcy believes that this mostly veteran workforce "is a differentiator and a contributor to the on-time and on-budget deliveries."

MD Helicopters MD 540F

MD 540F is an upgraded 530F for AAS. The airframe is similar to the MD 530F and Boeing's AH6i but it has a more powerful Rolls-Royce 250-C3HU FADEC controlled engine swinging its 6-bladed rotor. It also has an Israeli Elbit weapons system and heavy-duty skid landing gear.

MD Helicopters is proposing its new MD 540F—an upgraded MD 530F—for the AAS competition. In Mar 2011, MD Helicopters won a contract from the US Army for up to 54 MD 530F helicopters to train and equip the Afghan Air Force.

According to MD Helicopters CEO Lynn Tilton, "That contract was the inspiration for the MD 540F... We've long thought about bringing a more powerful scout helicopter to the market."

The airframe of the MD 540F is similar to that of the MD 530F and Boeing AH6i—MD Helicopters builds AH6 airframes through a collaborative production agreement with Boeing—but has a different weapons system and more powerful engine and rotor system.

Israel's Elbit Systems supplies the weapons system and a single FADEC-controlled Rolls-Royce 250-C30HU powers the helicopter. The MD 540F also has a new 6-bladed rotor system (as opposed to the 530F's 5-bladed system).

In addition, a heavy-duty skid landing gear has been added to accommodate a 4000-lb max takeoff—900 lbs more than the 530F.


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