First Comanche Helicopter Prototype Unveiled
Stratford, Conn., May 25, 1995 -- The U.S. Army took a significant step into the 21st century when the first RAH-66 Comanche helicopter was unveiled here today.
Nearly a thousand spectators cheered as the prototype rolled through hangar doors and into the spotlight. The event was a major milestone in the Comanche program, which will provide the Army with a replacement helicopter for its current Vietnam-era scout helicopter fleet.
The Comanche is being developed by a team of companies led by Boeing Defense & Space Group, Helicopters Division, and the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan told the audience of military and industry representatives that the Comanche "represents a revolution in the application of technology to the goal of domination on the 21st-century battlefield.
"Comanche," Gen. Sullivan said, "is the key to winning the information war, owning the night and ensuring defeat of America's future enemies."
Designing, testing, building and delivering Comanche helicopters will, he said, "fulfill our sacred pledge to provide this nation's fighting men and women with the best equipment possible to carry out their heroic missions and return safely to their homes and families. We can do no less."
Sikorsky President Gene Buckley praised the teamwork between the Army and industry that had "made the vision of Comanche a reality."
"We literally rewrote the book on designing and tooling and manufacturing to meet the demanding requirements for the RAH - 66 Comanche. By combining the latest technology with the skills, intelligence and commitment of thousands of civilian and military personnel," Buckley said, "we overcame every challenge."
Denton Hanford, Boeing Defense & Space Group, Helicopters Division vice president and general manager, noted the importance of the Comanche program to the future of the U.S. aerospace industry.
"We believe," Hanford said, "the manufacturing processes created for the Comanche program, and our new ways of doing business, will help to change America's aerospace industry for the better, and ensure the continuing superiority of America's high-tech industry sector."
The two-person Comanche helicopter employs computer-aided design and manufacturing, and advanced composite materials technology to make it more difficult to detect with radar and heat-seeking weapons. The Comanche's next-generation night pilotage and target-acquisition systems and its digital communications equipment will make it the primary tactical reconnaissance information source for Army ground units and attack helicopters, as well as for the Air Force and Navy.
By providing more precise target identification at greater ranges, the Comanche's systems will serve to avert fratricide.
The Army awarded the Comanche contract to the Boeing Sikorsky team in April 1991. Since that time, the program has undergone a number of changes in response to modifications in funding. The current contract calls for the first prototype to fly in November 1995. A second prototype is scheduled to begin test-flying the Comanche reconnaissance mission equipment package in September 1998.
Six evaluation aircraft will be delivered in 2001. The Army will use those helicopters to exhaustively field-test the Comanche's design and performance. Production should begin in 2005, with the first complete Comanche unit fielded in 2006.