Following a Voluntary Flight Demonstration (VFD) for the U.S. Army in late September and early October, EADS North America took its AAS-72X+ on a cross-country tour through mid-October, ending up at the AUSA exposition this week in Washington, D.C. The AAS-72X+, a derivative of the UH-72A Lakota, is one of the suitors for the Army’s potential Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) competition.
The Army will decide after conducting VFDs with a number of manufacturers whether to proceed with the formal AAS competition. Other entrants include the AgustaWestland AW139M, Bell OH-58F, Boeing AH-6, MD Helicopters 540F and Sikorsky S-97 Raider. EADS officials invited Army pilots from AAS centers at Fort Riley in Kansas, Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Campbell in Kentucky and Fort Bragg in North Carolina to fly the AAS-72X+ from Oct. 9 to Oct. 19. The tour followed the VFD, which for EADS took place in the mountains of Colorado near Alamosa in order to showcase the AAS-72X+ in hot and high conditions.
EADS AAS-72X+ and Eurocopter EC145T2. Photo courtesy Eurocopter.
“It’s time for a competition,” said Sean O’Keefe, chairman and CEO of EADS North America. EADS has fielded “an affordable, low-risk solution that can close the operational gap between the demands of the Armed Aerial Scout mission and the limited capabilities of the current single-engine, Vietnam-era aircraft,” he added, referring to the Bell OH-58 Kiowa.
Plans call for American Eurocopter to manufacture the AAS-72X+ at its plant in Columbus, Miss., which is also the same production line that has built 240 Lakotas. EADS says that the helicopter would be ready to enter service with the Army as early as 2016.
Related: Aerial Scout News