What all of the competitors for the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) acquisition seem to agree on is a satisfaction that the U.S. Army team conducting the evaluation of the different proposals is doing a great job.
This has been a three-step process: 1) Request for Information (RfI) 2) Discussions with the army’s expert team, and finally; 3) a voluntary flight demonstration (VFD).
The competitors, which include AgustaWestland (AW169—flight tested AW139M), Bell Helicopter (OH-58F), Boeing (AH-6i), EADS (EC645), MD Helicopters (MD530F) and Sikorsky (S-97 Raider), have all been given the opportunity to discuss and demonstrate what they believe that they can deliver.
This is a curious process to some, as the voluntary flight demonstrations do not represent an evaluation of capability that will be formally considered in an official Request for Proposal (RfP). If it were, then Sikorsky would have been left without anything to show as its S-97 Raider is a good couple of years from its first test flight. Instead they have focused on what AAS program director Steve Engebretson calls proven and existing technologies in which the company has already invested heavily (witness the X2 program).
EADS spokesman James Darcy also drew attention to the financial investment his own organization has made and underlined the fact that the AAS-72X was flown in the Colorado mountains to fully demonstrate its hot and high capability (other aircraft demonstrations took place at company facilities at lower levels). He added that once the Army team had combed through the 1,100-page EADS RfI submission they concluded that the aircraft was rated affordable under its own baseline for certification.
Look for more on the voluntary flight demonstration in the December issue of Rotor & Wing.
Related: Aerial Scout News