Why Comanche?

By Richardson, William R.; Saint, Crosbie E. | Army, August 2002 | Go to article overview

Why Comanche?


Richardson, William R., Saint, Crosbie E., Army


"We've got to get it right or they [Office of the Secretary of Defense] won't have to cancel it; we'll do it ourselves." This was a clear message from Army Secretary Thomas E. White to reporters regarding the Comanche during a luncheon at the Pentagon on March 27, 2002. The message was also for those responsible for the requirement for the Comanche, namely, the Aviation School and Headquarters Training and Doctrine Command, and those whose job it is to field this critical warfighting system-the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology, Program Executive Officer Aviation, and industry's Comanche Team.

The Comanche Program Office has developed a plan to fix the system's problems of weight and system integration and then deliver the first fully equipped Comanche unit to the field in 2009. Unfortunately, this restructuring plan could add as much as $3.4 billion in research and development costs to the current $3.1 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract. According to Secretary White, this restructuring had better put the system on track or that's it for Comanche.

The Comanche has been on the top of the Army's wish list for some time now. It might be worth understanding why it rates so high. In short, why Comanche? Why not continue with the Apache, which proved itself so well in Afghanistan recently, and effeet some type of linkage with a proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at brigade, division and corps levels? Good questions.

First, some background: The Army Aviation Mission Area Analysis conducted in 1981-1982 showed a critical shortfall in Army Aviation's ability to conduct the armed reconnaissance mission. Factors cited included obsolete (1950s' technology) aircraft, low overall combat effectiveness (operational and tactical obsolescence) of the current fleet to do the mission, low projected survivability rates and high logistic support costs.

Throughout its development the need for such a requirement has been revalidated several times. From January 1999 to October 2000 a Comanche Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) was conducted. The final results of the AoA confirmed that the Comanche was the most cost and operationally effective solution to satisfy the armed reconnaissance requirement. In May 2002 the Army completed the revision of its requirements document, and the requirements were approved by the Army Requirements Oversight Council.

The Army Vision outlines a path to transform its current warfighting capabilities into ones that must exist to meet military requirements and threats envisioned in the 20102015 timeframe. That required military capability is known as the Objective Force. This force must have the capability to maneuver out of contact to a position of advantage at the time and place of its choosing. To achieve this capability the Army must transform its ground military operational capabilities with the Future Combat System (FCS), and must transform Aviation to meet Objective Force airground integration requirements. Along with the FCS, the Comanche is a cornerstone of the Objective Force. Together, they allow the Army to be truly transformed into a multidimensional force, giving it three-dimensional control of the battlefield for full spectrum operations.

The RAH-66 Comanche represents the Army's next generation armed reconnaissance and attack helicopter. It supports an Objective Force commander as a survivable, multimission aircraft capable of orchestrating lethal, nonlethal, precision, direct and indirect fires, and extending the tactical reach of corps and divisions beyond that of the current helicopter fleet.

The aircraft is a twin engine, single rotor, two-pilot, all-- composite helicopter designed with exceptional survivability features. The Comanche is unique because of its integrated low-observable design, which incorporates reductions across infrared, radar, acoustic and visual signatures. …

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