The European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) company flew its first fully mission-equipped AAS-72X last month, moving it one step closer to an anticipated U.S. Army bid for an armed aerial scout helicopter. Two years ago the Army terminated an earlier program to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior attack scout helicopter, and is now formulating an Analysis of Alternatives for a replacement aircraft.
“The Army put out a request to the industry saying ‘give us a solution if you have one’,” said Gary Bishop, EADS vice president and program manger for the AAS-72X. “As we understand it, they will be done with their analysis next February, and intend to put it out to industry in the April timeframe.” Along with the EADS AAS-72X, other competitors in the program include Boeing, Sikorsky, AgustaWestland and Bell. Bell has introduced an upgraded Kiowa Warrior powered by a Honeywell HTS900-2 engine. Sikorsky has introduced its high-speed S-97 Raider, a coaxial counter-rotating rotor system helicopter with a pusher propeller derived from Sikorsky’s X2 technology program. Boeing is entering the competition with its OH-6 Little Bird.
EADS is prime contractor for the AAS-72X program, with its subsidiaries Deutschland Eurocopter and American Eurocopter involved in the program. Deutschland Eurocopter holds the certificate for the EC145, the airframe that will be used for the AAS-72X, while American Eurocopter will produce the aircraft at its facility in Columbus, Miss. Lockheed Martin Missions and Fire Controls is also a partner in the program and will provide the mission equipment package.
EADS has produced three technology demonstration aircraft (TDA). One is currently in Germany at the Deutschland Eurocopter plant while the other two are at American Eurocopter’s plant in Grand Prairie, Texas. Bishop said that one of TDAs is focusing on the mission equipment package installed, to include integration of it communications and navigation system, and was used for the first flight. A second TDA will focus on airframe modifications and survivability aspects while the third TDA is a show aircraft “that we will take around and do quick performance checks on,” he said. “By Quad A in April, we will have added on pylons, weapons and additional mission equipment package,” Bishop added.
He noted that while the Army dictates what weapon systems the aircraft should have, the TDA will include 50-cal. machine guns, mini-guns, Hell-Fire missiles and 2.75-inch “dumb” rockets “as well as smart rockets that can be lazed in from distant designators.” The aircraft will also have manned/unmanned teaming capabilities developed by Lockheed Martin. The Army has indicated that it is looking at options ranging from a straight manned helicopter to an unmanned UAV or a mixed manned/unmanned interface fleet.
Bishop said that the AAS-72X will have the capability of providing Level 2 to Level 4 control with UAVs. Level 2 allows the aircraft to stream video in real time from the UAV and transmit that down to a ground station. Level 4 will give actual control of the UAV to the AAS-72X pilot to control the flight path of the UAV and direct its sensors onto the target area.
The aircraft was taken out to Colorado last June “to show high altitude capabilities, to include hover out of ground effect at 6,900 ft. density altitude.” These tests included a flight endurance test with a 2,300-lb simulated MEP load.
EADS has also completed a load check, putting five aircraft on a U.S. Air Force C-17. The load check was done using a combination of the TDA and LUH-72As. (From January 2011 Rotorcraft Report)