By R&W Staff
Was it bureaucratic muddling or crafty bureaucratic and political maneuvering worthy of Machiavelli?
The Pentagon’s Nov. 7 announcement of an $800 million contract to Raytheon to develop and field common sensors for the U.S. Army’s ARH-70A Arapaho armed reconnaissance helicopter and RQ-1C Sky Warrior extended-range/multi-purpose drone caught many by surprise, not the least of them being members of the Bell Helicopter-led ARH-70A contractor team. That team already has a target acquisition sensor system, provided by FLIR Systems and based on its BRITEStar 2 sensor turret. Or had.
FLIR has been fighting to stay on the ARH since Bell won the contract in July 2005. That was followed by a re-competition between FLIR, on the Bell team from the start, and Raytheon and its AN/AAS-52 Multi-Spectral Targeting System. FLIR seemingly cleared that hurdle, and overcame problems trying to integrate the sensor suite and Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System cockpit. Army officials recently declared themselves satisfied with the Bell team’s progress. In fact, that team was to start a critical limited-user test to prove the FLIR-Rockwell problems were solved — on Nov. 9.
Some Army officials have agitated for the Raytheon system since before the ARH contract award, and now seem to have prevailed. The Army’s ARH program officer says the FLIR sensor ball will stay on the Arapaho — at least up until the first full-rate production lot. After that, it’s Raytheon. At least for now.