Another decade, another multi-billion $ Army helicopter program cancelled

| February 9, 2024 | 16 Comments

Sikorsky S-97 Raider, the company was planning on basing its FARA candidate on this airframe

The Army has once again sunk a massive amount of money into a new helicopter program only to cancel it. Does this story sound familiar? It should. They do it every decade or so. Here’s a brief history of US Army attack helicopter programs and their dispositions;

  •  AH-1 Cobra – Successfully entered production, though only as a stopgap until the AH-50 could be produced.
  • AH-50 Cheyenne – Intended to be the Army’s main attack helicopter. Cancelled just before entering serial production.
  • AH-64 Apache – Replaced the AH-1. Still in service as the service’s front line armed helicopter.
  • OH-58 Kiowa – A lightly armed reconnaissance helicopter. Fielded from Vietnam until 2013.
  • RAH-66 Comanche – Was to be the replacement for the AH-64. Was the result of a project started in the 80s. Two prototypes flew and it was cancelled in 2004 just before entering production. It was to combine the roles of the AH-64 and the OH-6, and OH-58.
  • ARH-70 Arapaho – After losing the Comanche, the Army started the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program. The Arapaho was the result. Was to replace the OH-58. Cancelled just before main procurement.
  • Armed Aerial Scout – After the end of the ARH program, they started this one. Then cancelled it in 2013.
  • Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft – The subject of the latest cancellation. Program started in 2018. Supposed to replace the OH-58.

If you’re paying attention, we’ve fielded three successful attack/reconnaissance helicopters. The AH-1, AH-64, and OH-58 (though the OH-6 Cayuse/Loach and its derivative, the MH-6 Little Bird, could also fit the category). Both the Cobra and Kiowa were designed in the 60s. The Apache was a product of the mid-70s. All airframes have been advanced several times over the years, but we’ve been trying to replace Vietnam-era platforms with something more modern for more than 40 years, have spent several billion dollars on the effort, and once again are coming up short.

At this point it seems like it’s a hobby for the Army to enter a multi-year development program only to cancel it, usually at the last moment, right as the project’s goals are about to be reached.

From Army Times;

But Thursday, the Army’s top acquisition officials described a new vision and major aviation overhaul. In addition to ending FARA, the Army plans to get rid of its entire Shadow and Raven unmanned aircraft fleets, said Doug Bush, the service’s acquisition chief.

It will also stop fielding its new replacement for UH-60 Lima-model Black Hawk utility helicopter — the Victor-model — to the Army National Guard and instead field UH-60 Mike-models, the latest variant used in the active force, Bush said.

Finally, the service will delay procurement of its next-generation helicopter engine, which was set to be used in all UH-60s, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters as well as to power FARA.

Instead, Bush said the Army will spend the newly available money on Black Hawks, the latest variant of the CH-47F Block II Chinook cargo helicopter, the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft and research and development efforts to accelerate its unmanned aerial reconnaissance capability.

Category: "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Army, Government Incompetence

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USMC Steve

Hey. those beltway bandits ain’t gonna get rich all by themselves.

Roh-Dog

Screwing the American taxpayer by way of graft from the DeedOhDee is Connecticut’s number one export!
Sikorsky, Electric Boat, Pratt & Whitney, Colt…

Only ‘bested’ by NoVA.

Deckie

Sigh…

gorman
Andy11M

Don’t forget the Army loves doing the same with armored vehicles. The last 40+ years are littered with replacements for the Brad, the 113, countless promises of a light tank that was air dropable. My brigade commander back in 2002 was telling me he was on some committee at the Pentagon looking into what the future armored vehicles should be, and he said with all seriousness that they had considered hover tanks. HOVER fucking TANKS. Like in sci fi movies.
My other brigade commander was in the Pentagon when the Army killed that airborne tank, the mobile gun system? He said some congress critter came in to talk to his boss. They honestly thought the Army was killing it to get congress to give them more money for other projects and asked the General how much more money the Army wanted.. He said the congressman’s jaw hit the floor when the General told him that no, the Army really wanted to kill it and move in a different direction and it wasn’t a budget ploy.

MIRanger

Well, it looks like they will field the Booker (New Light Tank for the Airborne). As for the Bradley replacement….well it looks like something that is “optionally manned”
https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2023/12/27/big-moves-ahead-on-light-tank-bradley-replacement-and-robot-vehicles/

Andy11M

The Army is only on the hook to buy 24, with a option of 70 more? It would be a Army move after all these years and billions spent to only buy 24 then kill it, leaving the 82nd as the only operator like with the Sheridan tank.

Prior Service

The plan is to field one battalion of Bookers per light / airborne infantry division. Will they? Not sure…

The “optionally manned” fighting vehicles are supposed to be built with the idea that a manned one has an unmanned one maneuvering with it. Personally, not a fan of that idea.

5JC

The Comanche was TWO DECADES in development hell. (89-2004) You could have served a 15 years of a 20 year career doing nothing by working on it. In fact the reason it was cancelled was because it was obsolete by the time it was ready to be built. It cost $27B total and they could have simply bought Sikorsky for far less money. I think the design was based on the TV show Airwolf.

The ARH 70 was a Bell 407, a handy little police helicopter that costs about $3M brand new out the door back in the 90s. By the time the Army was done “fixing” it was $10m and up. For the amount the spent developing it they could have bought Bell or a whole fleet of the off the shelf helicopters.

Andy11M

Well those defense contractors do know how to slap the side of the slot machine to keep it paying out.

David

I remember when the Army chose to modernize to 9mm Berettas. Colt had an offer on the table to modernize every 1911 in inventory to like-new condition for only $135 per gun
New springs, barrels, sears etc. included.

Anonymous

Would’ve been sweet.
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Last edited 11 days ago by Anonymous
2banana

And the Russians have exceptional combat helicopters.

Much less expensive, more rugged, operational availability much higher, combat proven and much easier to fix.

Maybe it’s us.

KoB

Seems as if I remember a line in TC’s “Red Storm Rising”. It was a quote from an Afghani made during their war with the Russians. “We do not fear the Russians…We do fear their Helicopters.”

2banana

When America replaced all the MI-8 Hips with Blackhawks in Afghanistan…I thought it was a joke.

Turns out…the joke is on the Taliban now.

A Terminal Lance Coolie

A silver lining to the farce that was our withdrawl?

Anonymous

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