Sep 9 2011
With a recent post about the crash of a new top secret US stealth helicopter, we have decided to dedicate a post to the first helicopter (also American) that utilized stealth technology - the Comanche.
The RAH-66 was so advanced and ahead of its time that there was no place for it in the military.
Being the first in its field of stealth technology (1996), the Comanche utilized several new ways of making itself 'invisible' to the radar. To reduce its RCS (radar cross section), engineers at Boeing and Sikorsky implemented the use of RAM (radar-absorbent material) and topped it off with infrared-suppressant paint applied to its faceted surface.
These technologies yielded the Comanche's radar cross section (AKA invisibility on the radar) to be 360 times less visible than the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
To add to the stealth gains, this helicopter's noise signature is noticeably smaller than others in its class; this was partly achieved through the fitting of a special all-composite 5-blade main rotor, along with a special tail rotor assembly.
Its fuselage was made of composite materials, which greatly reduced the weight and increased fuel efficiency. The airframe, strangely enough, was derived from a F-22 Raptor airplane. This was done in order to fit more easily onto transport ships, enabling it to be deployed to hot spots quickly.
The Comanche was specifically designed to the role of an armed scout, which would in time replace the U.S. Army's current armed scout helicopter, the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
U.S. Army initially planned to acquire over 1,200 helicopters at the end of their contract with the manufacturers. In 2002 the army decided they required only 650 of these helicopters.
Only two prototypes ever got built before its cancellation in 2004 when the U.S. Army announced their decision. The cancellation was due to cost overruns and other planned projects such as UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles).
At the time of its cancellation, the program for the Comanche had spent US$6.9 billion. Contract termination fees were estimated to total US$450-680 million for Sikorsky and Boeing.
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