The U.S. Army is in talks with Boeing about upgrading 95 older Apache AH-64s at a cost of around $14 million each, the service’s aviation chief, Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt, said.
Mundt said the Army initially planned to simply buy new Apache Block 3s at a cost of about $32 million each. However, upgrades of older Apaches to the Block 2 configuration would be needed in given combat losses and a likely two-year delay in fielding the new Bell Helicopter ARH-70A Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. Mundt said funding for the measure is being sought in a long-term budget plan being drafted for fiscal years 2010 to 2015.
Meanwhile, the critical limited user test of the ARH-70A has now been scheduled for early this month. The test had been targeted for last February but was delayed because of problems integrating the aircraft’s targeting sensor with its avionics suite.
"This is a critical point," said Col. Tim Crosby, the Army’s deputy program executive officer for aviation. "This is what the Congress is looking for, this is what the secretary of Defense is looking for, this is what the secretary of the Army is looking for." The test will focus on performance of the integrated sensor and avionics.
A Defense Acquisition Board review on Oct. 30 is to consider a Bell-Army plan to restructure the ARH program. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee has called for cutting ARH procurement funding from $468 million to $242 million, which would buy 16 aircraft. The recommended shift would fund sustainment of the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet.