Army reviewing alternatives to troubled helicopter project

Army officials acknowledged Tuesday that they are weighing alternatives to Bell Helicopter Textron's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter in anticipation of an upcoming Defense Department decision on the troubled program.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army annual meeting, Army officials would not comment on what aircraft they consider viable alternatives to the militarized version Bell's 407 single-engine light helicopter now under contract. Paul Bogosian, the Army's program executive officer for aviation, said the service is "gathering data" on possible solutions the Army could consider if the program is canceled. Maj. Gen. Walter Davis, the director of Army aviation, said the internal analysis of ARH alternatives is a prudent measure in the event Pentagon acquisition chief John Young cancels the contract with Bell.

Within the next several weeks, Young will decide whether to cancel the program or proceed with Bell's aircraft, which has been plagued by cost overruns. The cost of the plane has risen more than 25 percent -- a violation of the Nunn-McCurdy law that triggers a department review of any program whose price tag exceeds that threshold. Under the law, the Pentagon must terminate any program whose costs grow by more than 25 percent unless the Defense secretary can certify the program is suitable to national security, that no lower-cost alternative exists, that new estimates of total program costs are reasonable and program managers can control costs.

"It's out of our hands," said Maj. Gen. James Barclay, the head of the Army's aviation branch. "OSD [office of the secretary of Defense] is working that."

At a news conference Monday, Army Secretary Pete Geren emphasized that building a manned and armed reconnaissance helicopter is a top priority for the Army. Whatever decision Young ultimately makes on the program, the Army will move as quickly as possible to get the capability to the field, Geren said.

"We absolutely have to get it right this time," Geren said.

Army aviation officials said they do not know when the first ARHs will be ready for combat. In 2005, the Army awarded the Fort Worth, Texas-based Bell a $2.2 billion contract for 368 ARHs, which service officials had hoped to field between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2011. Citing cost overruns and schedule delays on the program, Congress recently appropriated funds to buy only 12 aircraft in fiscal 2009, 16 fewer than requested by the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, the aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, which has been used heavily for manned reconnaissance missions in Iraq, will likely be in service for another 15 years. Congress approved an additional $42 million in fiscal 2009 funding for upgrades to the Kiowa to keep it flying until the ARH comes online.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.