Boeing’s [BA] AH-6 light attack/reconnaissance helicopter is on an accelerating path to its first customer–the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG)–and more demonstrations in coming months.
A Letter of Agreement with the SANG was developed last year, and Boeing is progressing on developing the aircraft working with Army offices in Huntsville, Ala.
“We expect 24 aircraft to be sold,” said David Koopersmith, Boeing vice president, Attack Helicopter Programs, during an Oct. 22 briefing at the Association of the United States Army in Washington, D.C. The agreement is likely to be completed around the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, Koopersmith said, the company is “making good progress with other potential customers.”
The AH-6 leverages what was learned in the development and innovations of the AH-64E Apache, such as the integrated digital cockpit, crew station design, software compatibility and technologies. The AH-6 has “the look and feel” adapted from the E-model Apache cockpit, Koopersmith said.
Koopersmith said the debriefing was "successful" after the AH-6 flew in an invitational demonstration for the Army’s potential Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) program, though the service is still mulling the next steps on the program.
But the pressure on budget and on Army aviation means Boeing “will continue to aggressively pursue the international market” as AH-6 has “significant lethality at a fraction of the price of an AH-64E.”
“As the AH-6 comes on board we’re developing a supply chain structure, ” Tim Sassenrath, Boeing director, Apache World Wide Support, said. It would be similar to the Boeing Sikorsky Aircraft Support (BSAS) 50-50 joint venture that supports special operation aviation—the MH-47E and MH-60K.
It gives them a leg up, Sassenrath said, to use Apache-like performance based logistics processes, he said. Support also would include training to provide maintenance or whatever the customer needs.
Mike Burke, Boeing director, Attack Helicopters Business Development said after several demonstrations this year, where it "performs outstandingly," the demo AH-6 is in the Middle East. The aircraft is now prepping for more demonstrations at the Dubai Air Show in mid-November. More demonstrations and air shows are planned for the aircraft in 2014.
Boeing will produce the AH-6 at its Mesa, Ariz., site, leveraging the AH-64E Apache production processes and supply chain also based there.
Production starts in the first half of next year, with supply partners such as MD Helicopters Inc., L-3 Communications [LLL] Rolls Royce, and Northrop Grumman [NOC].