- For alternate meanings, see Comanche (disambiguation)
|Manufacturer||Boeing Helicopters/Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation|
|Primary user||United States Army|
The Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was an advanced U.S. Army military helicopter intended for the armed reconnaissance role, incorporating stealth techniques. Had it entered service, it would have been the first U.S. helicopter specifically designed for the all-weather armed scout mission and the first 'stealth' helicopter, but it was cancelled in February 2004.
The U.S. Army currently has an armed scout helicopter in its fleet — the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior — but that aircraft is an upgraded version of a Vietnam-era observation helicopter. In contrast, the Comanche was specifically tailored to the role of armed scout. It is smaller and lighter than the Apache gunship — 43 feet (13.1 m) long and 7,700 pounds (3500 kg) vs. 58 ft (17.7 m) and 11,400 pounds (5200 kg) – and its composite material airframe incorporated stealth features to avoid detection, such as retractable weapon stations and main gun, faceting and RAM. It has the capability to remotely guide a missile launched by an assisting jet to its own target. The Comanche's noise signature is noticeably smaller than others in its class.
The Comanche's very sophisticated detection and navigation systems were intended to allow it to operate at night and in bad weather. Its airframe was designed to fit more easily than the Apache into transport aircraft or onto transport ships, enabling it to be deployed to hot spots quickly. If transport assets were not available, the Comanche's ferry range of 1,260 nautical miles (2330 km, 1553 Statuate Miles) would even allow it to fly to battlefields overseas on its own.
The U.S. Army planned to purchase almost 1,300 Comanches to fill the scout and light attack roles, with the first craft to be brought into the U.S. Army in 2004. Flight qualification tests and evaluations were conducted for the two DEM/VAL (Demonstration and Validation Phase) prototypes. The first of those prototypes was rolled out of the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation's helicopter production facility in May 1995 and had its first flight in December 1995.
Upon successful completion of the DEM/VAL phase, the program entered the Engineering Manufacturing and Development (EMD) phase. During EMD eight additional aircraft were under construction, with a first flight planned for June 2006.
However, on February 23, 2004, the U.S. Army announced their decision to cancel the Comanche helicopter program in view of the need to provide funds to renovate the existing helicopter fleet of aging attack, utility, and reconnaissance aircraft. Also a factor was the growing popularity in the military of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance purposes – in addition to tests, UAVs had proven their worth in Afghanistan and Iraq. About US$8 billion had already been invested in the Comanche program at the time of its termination and an additional US$450-680 million was required in contract termination fees to main program partners Sikorsky and Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
Technology developed for the Comanche will be integrated into the Apache and other U.S. military helicopter developments. Some of its roles will be taken over by the ARH-70, an off-the shelf armed reconnaissance helicopter.
Currently both prototype airframes 95-0001 and 94-0327 are at the Army's Aviation Missile RDEC at Redstone Arsenal, AL. They now belong to the Engineering Support Division, though there are plans to return 95-0001 to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, AL in 2007.
- Crew: 2
- Length: 43 ft 4 in (13.22 m)
- Rotor diameter: 39 ft 0 in (11.90 m)
- Height: 11 ft 1 in (3.39 m)
- Empty weight: 7,495 lb (3,402 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 17,175 lb (7,790 kg)
- Powerplant: 2× LHTEC T800 turboshafts, 2,688 hp (2,004 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 204 mph (328 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 184 mph
- Range: 1,125 miles ()
- Rate of climb: 1,180 ft/min (6 m/s)
- 1x 20 mm XM301 three-barrel cannon, 500 rounds
- Internal bay: 4x Hellfire and 4x Stinger (ATAS)
- Total: 14 Hellfire / 28 Stinger or 56x Hydra 70 70 mm air-to-ground rockets
- RAH-66 Comanche - Globalsecurity.org
- RAH-66 Comanche - Federation of American Scientists (as of 1999; discusses the project in the present tense)
- RAH-66 Comanche - Army Technology
YAH-63 - AH-64 - HH-65 - RAH-66 - TH-67 - MH-68 - ARH-70
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