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Author Topic: Boeing, Army to ask for at least $350M for Longbow choppers  (Read 5191 times)

Offline tigershark

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Boeing, Army to ask for at least $350M for Longbow choppers
 By Roxana Tiron
Posted: 03/10/08 06:38 PM [ET]

Facing a delay with Bell-Textron’s new armed reconnaissance helicopter, Army aviation officials and Boeing Co. are making their case to Congress for hundreds of millions of dollars to buy more battle-tested Apache Longbow choppers.

The Army has converted most of its older Boeing Apache models, the AH-64 A, into the more capable, high-tech Apache Longbows, or AH-64 D. The Longbow can shoot more rounds, at faster speeds and longer distances, than the earlier models. It is also safer for its two-man crew.

The Army National Guard still employs Apache A models. Four Apache A-model battalions, totaling 92 helicopters, were supposed to be replaced with Bell’s armed reconnaissance helicopter rather than Longbows.

But the Army was sent into a tailspin last year when Bell announced that it was facing development problems that spiked the cost of the reconnaissance helicopter program from $5.3 billion to $6.3 billion. But even as Bell has taken on restructuring the program at its own risk, it will face delays of about two years, according to Army officials.

This delay means leaving those four Apache A-model battalions in the National Guard for at least another nine years. But according to Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt, the Army’s director of aviation, the problem is more pressing than that: The four Apache-A model battalions in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas and Idaho will come up on future rotations to Iraq or Afghanistan.

“I can’t send them with that,” Mundt told The Hill. His options are either to use a spruced-up A-model that would cost about $8 million apiece, or convert those old helicopters into Longbows for $11 million apiece.

“There is a huge [difference] in capability between those two,” Mundt said, stressing that the latter option is the one he prefers. Most Army and National Guard officials, as well as Boeing, share his view.

Boeing, which has already started lobbying lawmakers, not only stands to make more money from the conversion. It can also control a dip in its workforce until it starts work on another modernization phase for the Longbows.

Boeing’s case could also be boosted by another defense giant, Lockheed Martin , which has been building advanced night-vision and targeting systems for the Longbows. More Longbows translate into more targeting systems sold by Lockheed.

Mundt said that he would like to see about $350 million in the Army’s 2009 budget — either through regular funding or war supplemental — to convert one of the four battalions.

The Army leadership and budget officials have not reached a decision yet on whether to convert those 92 helicopters, and the Army has not included any money for converting the A models into Longbows in the 2009 budget request. If Congress funds the conversion of one battalion, it would allow Army Guard aviators to get a leg up while Army leadership works on the budget layout for the next five years.

 Without the high operational tempo of two wars placing demands on the Army helicopters, the delay in the armed reconnaissance helicopter “probably would have not made any difference to anyone,” Mundt said. But now all previous assumptions need to be reconsidered, he added.

The armed reconnaissance helicopter is slated to replace the old Kiowa Warrior helicopters. The active Army would eventually have 512 of the new helicopters on top of the four Guard AH-64 A battalions.



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