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Monday, December 9, 2013

US Army Plans To Scrap Kiowa Helo Fleet -- By Paul McLeary and Michelle Tan, Defense News

Time To Go: US Army OH-58D Kiowa helicopters are staged in South Korea before inspection in October. The Army has wanted to replace the helicopters with a new armed aerial scout, but now has plans to use Apaches to temporarily fill their role.US Army leaders are considering scrapping its entire fleet of Bell Helicopter OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters, while pulling the National Guard’s Boeing AH-64 Apaches into the active-duty force to fill the scout helicopter role as the Army seeks to fulfill its longer-term requirement of a newly developed armed aerial scout, according to several Army and defense industry sources.

The plan also calls for giving active Black Hawk helicopters to the Guard, while taking half of the Guard’s Lakota fleet, using them as active-duty trainers and scrapping its Jet Rangers.

While a final decision has yet to be made, the industry sources had the impression that the deal was all but done.

The deal would be done in the interest of cutting costs and reducing the number of different helicopter types in the Army, but questions remain about the affordability of using the Apache to fill the scout role. Army leadership had already rejected the idea in the early 1990s in favor of the now-canceled Comanche, and expressed doubts about it in a 2011 analysis of alternatives (AoA) document.

The December 2011 AoA for the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program — which until last year was envisioned as the eventual replacement for the Kiowa — concluded that fielding the AH-64D Block III to the service’s armed reconnaissance squadrons to replace the Kiowa would be “at least 50 percent more expensive than the currently programmed [recon squadrons].”

The Army also concluded that the AH-64 requires “significantly more maintenance personnel than the other mixes analyzed.”

What’s more, a study conducted by the Logistics Management Institute recently estimated that in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, if the Army used an Apache in the Kiowa scout role, it would have cost an additional $4 billion in fuel, maintenance and operating costs.

Still, “the Army is in a difficult position,” one defense industry source said. The Armed Aerial Scout AoA “said that the most affordable and capable option was Kiowa linked with the Shadow UAV. But the AoA also said that the most capable immediate solution is an Apache, so there’s two sides of this argument. So the Army really is making decisions around cost.”

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