The Sikorsky S-97 prototype.

The company that built the first workable helicopter¬†rolled out a (potential) revolution in chopper technology yesterday: Sikorsky’s high-speed S-97 Raider. A year ago, Sikorsky made a splash at the huge¬†Association of the US Army conference with just a life-size mock-up. Now, just in time to talk it up at AUSA 2014, they’ve built a working… Keep reading →

Sikorsky, Boeing signed Jan. 13 teaming agreement for 1st phase of Army’s Joint Multi-Role (JMR) tech demo, part of Future Vertical Lift ColinClarkAol

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: Degraded Visual Environment, or DVE, is jargon for the problem helicopter pilots face when their rotors kick up blinding clouds of dust or other debris. DVE also describes the problem the entire rotorcraft industry is facing as it tries to anticipate what new aircraft the Army can actually afford in this blindingly uncertain federal budget situation. At this week’s Army Aviation Symposium, hosted outside Washington by the Association of the United States Army, the future was obscured by the fog, not of war, but of funding.

“We’re trying to see 20 years into the future, really,” said EADS. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Army aviation leaders thought they had a plan to start developing a new Armed Aerial Scout all teed up for the vice chief of staff’s approval last month. But Gen. Lloyd Austin III said, “no.”

It was the latest twist in a 21-year (and counting) saga to replace the Army’s aging OH-58D Kiowa Warriors, a Vietnam-vintage design. The interminable effort to build a new reconnaissance helicopter has started to resemble the legendary quest for the Holy Grail. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: Reports that the Army has finally figured out whether the Hamlet of aircraft programs, Armed Aerial Scout, should be or not be are greatly exaggerated. Army aviation acquisition officials have looked at what birds in hand industry can offer to replace the service’s aging OH-58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters and have decided they’d prefer to go after a bird in the bush. They’re still trying to decide, though, whether they can actually afford one.

The Army has been struggling for more than 20 years to come up with an aircraft to replace the Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. OH-58, which first went into service in 1969 and has been upgraded several times. Rumors were reported last week that a decision had been made to buy a new Armed Aerial Scout after a Pentagon meeting. At that session, Army aviation officials briefed the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, Heidi Shyu, on the results of flight demonstrations of helicopters manufacturers could offer for the armed scout role. They also presented options and a recommendation, but no decisions were reached. Keep reading →

AUSA: Visitors to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.’s display at this year’s Association of the United States Army meetings in Washington can hardly miss an eye-popping marketing video the company is showing. Running on a huge flat screen hung at the entrance to the company’s spot on the show floor, the video uses simulation imagery of XBox quality to show how Sikorsky’s conceptual S-97 Raider – a compound helicopter based on the X2 Technology Demonstrator the company flew in 2010-2011 – would perform Armed Aerial Scout missions for the Army.

It’s a great show. Zooming through canyons at what looks like the S-97’s projected cruising speed of 220 knots – an impossibility for ordinary helicopters – a Raider in a formation of five uses a video downlink from a Predator drone to take out a group of heavily armed insurgents with laser-guided rockets, firing before the enemy can hear the helicopters coming. Then, at the request of ground troops, another Raider uses its mini-gun to kill six insurgents hiding in a tree line. Keep reading →

Sen. Grassley presses Panetta on ‘egregious waste and misconduct’ at DoD dug up in Inspector General reports. colinclarkaol

Great Falls, Mont. – A UH-1N helicopter assigned to the 40th Helicopter Squadron delivers a Tactical Response Force team to Launch Facility I-04, near the Big Belt Mountains, May 19. The primary mission of the 40th HS is to provide missile field security, which can include quickly bringing specially trained airmen from the 341st Security Forces Group to an asset that is in danger. (U.S. Air Force photo/ John Turner)

ORLANDO: The nation doesn’t need to rush out and buy the Common Vertical Lift Support Platform, designed to rush troops to nuclear sites or to evacuate senior lawmakers in event of a strike against the capital, because security at missile and other facilities has improved. And there’s not much money around to buy it with. Keep reading →

CORRECTED WASHINGTON: The Navy’s venerable Scan Eagle unmanned drone could go global if service leaders can lock in agreements with a number of key European and Mideast allies.

Navy leaders are considering foreign military sales of the Scan Eagle to Kuwait, Pakistan and the Netherlands, according to a presentation by Marine Corps Col. James Rector, head of the small tactical unmanned aerial systems division at Naval Air Systems Command. Aside from the U.S. Navy, the Scan Eagle is being flown by naval forces in Colombia, Tunisia, Poland and Iraq, according to PowerPoint slides from Rector’s speech at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review in Washington yesterday. He could not comment specifically on where the Pentagon was in the negotiations, noting that all FMS talks were still preliminary.

If the Navy can secure deals with Islamabad, Amsterdam and Kuwait City, the Scan Eagle will be one of many pieces of U.S. unmanned hardware heading to allied forces. Australia and Japan are reportedly in informal talks with the Air Force over a potential purchase of the service’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. International interest in the high-altitude unmanned drone is still strong, despite the Pentagon’s failure to secure a deal with South Korea for the aircraft late last year. NATO’s already secured a deal to buy the Block 40 version of the Air Force drone for their forces.

To that end, Australia has already agreed to buy the several copies of the Navy’s newest version of the MH-60 combat helicopter, joining Thailand as the two foreign militaries to fly the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin built rotorcraft. South Korea and and Saudi Arabia also considering deals to buy the Navy helo. The rise in foreign military sales highlight a trend among American defense industry firms, who are reaching out to growing markets in Asia and the Middle East to keep their spreadsheets in the black.U.S. defense firms are entering a “about a five- to seven-year window of opportunity that only comes along once in a while in the international arena,” Boeing military aviation chief Chris Chadwick told Breaking Defense earlier this year.

The potential sales that could be pushed through that window, he added, will be largely focused on Asia and the Middle East. However, industry continues to be hamstrung by excessive export restrictions on U.S. hardware, particularly unmanned technology. The Pentagon and White House are moving ahead with efforts to help alleviate those restrictions, since the U.S. will become more dependent on its allies in future conflicts.

*The corrected story above has been changed to accurately reflect the information relayed by Col. James Rector. The original piece incorrectly identified the Fire Scout as the unmanned drone garnering interest from European and Mideast allies. We apologize for the error Keep reading →