The U.S. Army clearly is worried about Bell Helicopter’s ability to deliver ARH-70As as rapidly as the service needs them to replace its aging and overworked OH-58 Kiowa Warriors.
Maj. Gen. Virgil Packett, commanding general of the Army Aviation Warfighting Center and Fort Rucker, Ala., told the Assn. of the U.S. Army Aviation Symposium last January in Washington that the OH-58 is "a tired system" and "we’re having to increase our efforts every day to keep that thing in the air." But "the jury’s still out on the ARH."
Bell and its contractor team is almost a year behind schedule on the ARH-70A. The first unit was to be in service by September 2008; that has slipped to mid-2009. Key technical problems stem from integration of FLIR Systems’ BriteStar 2 electro-optical sensor, which is the "eyes" of the aircraft’s Target Acquisition Sensor System, and Rockwell Collins Common Avionics Architecture System cockpit. Army officials are again considering a Raytheon system developed for the Extended Range Multi-Purpose unmanned aerial vehicle as an option for the ARH-70A.
The delays in that program contributed to Textron’s decision in late January to replace Bell CEO Mike Redenbaugh with 40-year Textron veteran Richard Millman.