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US Army Scraps Comanche Helicopter 727

Posted by simoniker
from the vaporware dept.
swordboy writes "The US Army just scrapped the Comanche helicopter program - a joint venture with Boeing and United Technologies. After 20 years and billions of taxpayer dollars, it never produced an operational helicopter. Open-source helicopter, anyone?" The article notes: "The Comanche is designed to receive and process intelligence from drones and surveillance aircraft and pass it to ground units. The Army was directed in 2002 to focus its research on producing a reconnaissance helicopter rather than one that can attack as well as scout. The helicopter was intended to counter Soviet weapons."
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US Army Scraps Comanche Helicopter

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  • NOOOOO!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by narftrek (549077) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:37PM (#8367159)
    Oh DEAR GOD NO! Does this mean I have to scrap playing Comanche 4?? I just got into the last Mission set. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!!
  • Bummer.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by otis wildflower (4889) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:37PM (#8367163) Homepage
    ... I was kinda partial to it, ever since LHX came out for MSDOS back in like 1990 or so..

    http://store6.yimg.com/I/hobby-warehouse_1772_82 27 55

  • ok.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <lk_digitus&hotmail,com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:37PM (#8367167) Homepage
    Who is going to break the news to Novalogic?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:37PM (#8367169)
    If it was open source the Russians would have just looked at the code and found out how to counter it. Doesn't sound like a very good military plan to me.
  • I don't care... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:39PM (#8367184)
    Just as long as they don't cancel the A-10. The greatest tank buster ever.
    • Re:I don't care... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by The Dobber (576407) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:54PM (#8367379)
      The A-10 completed its production run eons ago. The Air Farce plans on replacing them with F-16's. I beleive most of em have been shuttled off to the reserves. Typical.

      Loved watching them do thier thing on the Fort Drum gunnery range. Had the fortune of having an Apache do a pop-up over a hill while I was driving by one afternoon. Scared the bejesus out of me.
  • by bc90021 (43730) * <bc90021&bc90021,net> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:39PM (#8367189) Homepage
    ...according to CNN [cnn.com], the cancellation decision is expected to require the Army to pay at least $2 billion in contract termination fees. That is, assuming, of course, that they tell the primary contractors the program is over, considering the Sikorsky people think we are on track and fully funded until we hear otherwise.
  • Boeing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fishybell (516991) <fishybell.hotmail@com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:39PM (#8367193) Homepage Journal
    This isn't that bad of news for the Boeing company, just United Technologies. Because the US is no longer bankrolling the Comanche project, they will have to upgrade existing Apache attack helicopters over time. The Apaches are built by Boeing.
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:39PM (#8367198)
    There was no civillian application for such a copter, it's weapons payload was dwarfed by the Longbow, which can carry racks of hellfires. What purpose did it have? It's operational radius is tiny compared to the unmanned recon vehicles, and with lo radar signature X projects being developed, the future was in remote control surveillance.

    The lesson here is that design to deployment windows have to become shorter, when platforms take time measured in decades, that's just too long. Smaller, quicker, faster, cheaper.
    • The Comanche's claim to fame wasn't its armament. It's wasn't its speed or maneuverability. The Comanche's claim to fame is it's stealth technology. I think it's worth continuing the program, albeit perhaps in a different form, just to continue expanding on the stealth technology. Ideally the stealth tech would then be applied to the Apache and Apache Longbow rather than a new bird. The stealth technology alone is worth the price IMHO. If the enemy can't see our birds, they can't shoot them down. If
  • yet again (Score:5, Interesting)

    by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comcast. n e t> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:40PM (#8367201) Journal
    The army makes a really cool system then either kills the program, or adds things onto it that turn it into a peice of shit (Bradley)

    What I dont get is why NOW did they decide to kill it, they have been developing this thing for years, made a big deal about its stealth capabilities sold the public on its use and THEN decide to kill it.......

    And they wonder why we bitch when they start programs? Here is a perfect example of them wasting away our money on a program that even with it set to go to production, was canceled.

    Are they THAT dumb?

    • Re:yet again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by embedded_C (653649) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:47PM (#8367282)
      Perhaps they decided to cut their losses at this point, and just go with upgrades and maintenance on the Apache helicopters, rather than bank on the Comanche program somehow turning itself around rather than committing itself to an unknown amount of additional time and money to get the Comanche program deployed.
    • by ignipotentis (461249) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:48PM (#8367298)
      Are they THAT dumb?

      Your new to american politics, aren't you?

    • The Bradley (Score:5, Informative)

      by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:58PM (#8367443) Homepage Journal
      So the Bradley is a piece of shit?

      What makes you say that? I'm curious. If you're upset because the Bradley doesn't go up well against MBTs, you're barking up the wrong tree, because the Bradley wasn't designed for that purpose.

      If you're saying that the Bradley suffers as a personnel carrier because of its armament, I'd be interested in your sources. I'm not saying this with sarcasm - I've just never heard anyone badmouth the Bradley since the infamous 60 Minutes piece back when the Bradley was still under development.

      I have heard mech guys talk about how much they love their Bradley, including one track commander whose Bradley took a T-72 round and kept fighting.

      • Re:The Bradley (Score:3, Interesting)

        by falcon5768 (629591)
        I say that cause every book and acidemic paper on it says so... many written by people who know a LOT more about these systems than you or me or the grunt on the front line would know. It was developed as a personnel carrier.. that was it, then they decided to add tow missles and machine guns and anti-tank arrmament and BAMB we have a jack of all trade master of none. It has been fixed somewhat, but even my sisters fiance who was a scout in bosnia said that they cringed when they got assigned bradleys for
      • Re:The Bradley (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rsmah (518909) <rmah@pQUOTEobox.com~ minus punct> on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:29PM (#8367742)
        The problem with Bradley's is not that they are a "piece of shit"...I'm sure they're fine machines. The problem is that the Bradley is a hybrid vehical that is unjustifiably expensive.

        The Bradley was designed to fullfil two dual roles: armored personel carrier and light tank. It does neither well. For 1/10'th the cost of each Bradley, we could use improved M-113's and M-151 Sheradins.

        Most people do not realize the magnitude of US military spending. Sure, we should have the most powerful military in the world. Maybe even spend more than the next 3 or 4 adversaries combined. But today, we spend more than the next 25 nations in the world *combined*. At the current rate of increase, the US will soon be spending more on its military than the rest of the world *combined*. That is, IMO, a bit too much.

        Cheers,
        Rob

        • Re:The Bradley (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xptical&gmail,com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:53PM (#8367978) Homepage
          The reason we spend so much is BECAUSE the rest of the world spends so little. This might be considered a good thing. Do we really want another Germany or Japan giving us a run for our money?

          IMHO, it's better to spend lots of money on a big army than to have tens-of-thousands die trying to take out the next dictator.

          BTW, I think we should choose WHERE to spend the money a little better, but I'm fairly happy with the size of our military.
          • Re:The Bradley (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MobileC (83699) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:07PM (#8368742) Homepage
            Do we really want another Germany or Japan giving us a run for our money?

            Or even a US giving us a run for our money?

            South Africa was sanctioned for doing things the US is getting away with today.

          • Re:The Bradley (Score:5, Insightful)

            by demachina (71715) on Monday February 23, 2004 @11:45PM (#8370107)
            "The reason we spend so much is BECAUSE the rest of the world spends so little."

            That is the silliest thing I've heard in a while. This old saw worked when there was a Soviet Union to at least maintain the pretense of holding up the other end of an arms race. There is really no good reason to run a race when you are the only runner.

            When the rest of the world came to its senses and wound down the money they wasted on arms it was insane for the U.S. to accelerate its already massive defense spending. All of our weapons are a decade or more ahead of the rest of the world already. Most of these weapons are borderline useless:

            - in a war against guerillas in the mountains of Afghanistan
            - They work great against a feeble military like Iraq's except most army's have learned by now the best strategy is to melt away when the American's actually start their war and then pick them off one by one during the occupation when the only weapons the American's have that matter are body armor and M-16's. For all the money the U.S. spend the U.S. Army in Iraq has next to no real superiority over the insurgent army they are fighting

            There are only a couple explanations why we keep up this massive spending, neither of them good:

            - The U.S. government has adopted a policy of overwhelming military superiority which is designed to make sure no one will dare challenge the U.S. or attempt to start a new arms race because they will be so far behind. It might be OK if the U.S. had this overwhelming superiority if our government could be trusted to use it sparingly and wisely. Recent events suggest they can't be trusted. You may be concerned about the "next dictator" who dares to challenge the U.S. The entire rest of the world is gravely concerned about an out of control, dangerous, American President. In everything coming out of Russia in recent weeks it appears they are going to try to restart the arms race precisely because the U.S. never stopped and is now abusing its power at ever turn.

            - Boeing and Lockheed, among others, are very dependent on this spending for their profitability. They require a continuing stream of these exhorbinant defense contracts to remain profitable. The fact is EVERY contract has massive cost overruns and is massively behind schedule because these companies are milking every contract for all they can get out of it. Since half the generals in the Pentagon take lucrative jobs at these contractors when they retire they have zero incentive to keep these contracts under control. These Defense contractors are also huge benefactors of the Republican's in particular and they get paid back a million times over for the campaign contributions. You just have to look at the sordid underbelly of the 767 tanker deal to realize the DOD is there primarily to transfer tax money to big defense contractors.

            The big plus about all these defense contracts is they are a stellar jobs program, and defense jobs are among the very few which are somewhat harder to outsource than the average.
        • Re:The Bradley (Score:5, Informative)

          by Unordained (262962) <unordained_slash ... @pseudotheos.com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:19PM (#8368213) Homepage
          Have you guys simply not seen the movie "The Pentahon Wars"? It's primarily about the development of the Bradley. Amusing movie, VHS only (no DVD available) -- wonderful movie about scope creep for us engineers who can still laugh about it.

          ["How much has it cost so far?"]
          "14."
          "14? Million?"
          "...illion."
          "What did you say, general?"
          "Billion."
          "With a 'B'?"
          "With a 'B'."

          The movie describes a troop carrier that went from carrying 11 men plus a driver (quickly) to the front line ... to a troop-carrier for 6 men, plus a canon, optics, anti-tank-missile-launchers, and still practically no armor.

          The movie is admittedly an exageration, based on the book written by an officer in charge of checking the Bradley for safety. Grains of salt are appropriate.
    • by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:59PM (#8367447) Journal
      During the Iraq invasion, attack helicopters tended to be awfully fragile. So fragile in some cases, they were intentionally withheld because copters were being downed by coordinated rifle fire.

      Meanwhile, the Warthog [google.com] showed it could go into battle, get banged up and survive. Take a look at the wing photo to see what I mean.

      • by bobbozzo (622815) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:18PM (#8367621)
        The A10 is more resilient, but planes are also much harder to hit than helicopters as they travel much faster.
    • Re:yet again (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wellspring (111524) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:01PM (#8367475)
      This happens all the time. Look, when the copter was first designed, it was the mid-80's and we were expecting twenty more years of Cold War or more. Then, in the 90's, we weren't sure how the post-Cold War period would play out. Or which technologies would work out and which wouldn't.

      So after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we realize that drones are effective, useful and reliable. And cheap. So now that we have proof, we cancel the project. It would be more wasteful to cancel programs willy-nilly without a combat test of the alternatives.

      If it's any consolation, most of the technological advances that went into the program (improved usability, reduced radar cross section, engine reliability, data aggregation, etc) are not lost. They'll find their way into other projects soon enough-- including drones.

      Look, these systems take decades to finish. The whole time you're guessing about the future and what it will look like. Production is much more expensive than R&D usually (in the quantities the DoD buys in). So you do what you can.

      The Paladin artillery system was cancelled for similar reasons. I'd rather have a weapon ready if it's needed then have to wait ten years to invent it. And I'd rather cut my losses if it turns out to be unnecessary than buy it just because I already have money on the table.
  • No longer needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:40PM (#8367203) Homepage Journal
    The current Apache and (much older) Cobra Z revs. can do what the Army will be tasked to do over the next little while given the demise of the Soviet Union and the war on terrorism. So, why spend another 2 billion on a program that *cough*cough* B-2 bomber* cough*, no longer has a mission?

  • by HappyCitizen (742844) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:40PM (#8367207) Homepage Journal
    I can't believe your still running Commanche! I'm running Apache! seriously, 20 years and billions of dollars without a working product. Its tough stuff, but with that type of input and no working output, all I can say is ouch and scrap it.
  • RPG's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Flozzin (626330) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:42PM (#8367226)
    We are way better off without the program. Most of our helecopters in iraq and other places( Somalia ) have been shot down by unguided rpg's. The Comanche was going to be a low radar signature helecopter. But how much good does that do when its 20 feet off the ground half the time?
  • Good move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:42PM (#8367229) Homepage Journal
    This is probably a good move. Incremental changes in weaponry tend to have better long term pay-off than super-weapon development. Especially since most super-weapons are reliant on hundreds of untested systems. Plugging in upgrades to current systems and revising the platform as time goes on, allows failed systems to be backed out. With super-weapons, you have to throw away the entire weapon. (Hundreds of billions potentially down the drain!)

  • by Snagle (644973) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:43PM (#8367235)
    Haliburton must have offered to do it for twice the price.
  • by ^BR (37824) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:43PM (#8367239)

    The Tiger [army-technology.com] attack helicopter.

    The Tiger may well be the last manned combat helo, the battlefield of the future belongs to drones it seems...

  • The Teutels (Score:5, Funny)

    by Wedge1212 (591767) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:44PM (#8367247)
    I bet ol Paul and Paul Sr. are gonna be pissed....look for a fight in a episode next seasn
  • Good for them. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_skywise (189793) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:45PM (#8367269)
    20 years, no working product? Think about that. That's 1984. That's before web pages, before the internet, before Microsoft "took over the world". That's Commodore 64, Atari and Apple days.

    In that amount of time. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

    Interesting link here:
    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040223/D8 0T6HB01 .html

    "The Comanche decision reflects a growing realization in the Pentagon that the military has more big-ticket weapons projects in the works than it can afford, even after seeing the Pentagon budget grow by tens of billions of dollars since 2001. And it the reflects the rising popularity of unmanned aircraft, for surveillance as well as attack missions, in recent years."

    "From the first days of the Bush administration there has been talk of canceling a number of major aviation projects, including the Marine Corps' V-22 Osprey hybrid helicopter-airplane and the Air Force's F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet, but so far the Comanche has been the only casualty."
    • by Sentry21 (8183) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:39PM (#8367835) Journal
      20 years, no working product? Think about that. That's 1984. That's before web pages, before the internet, before Microsoft "took over the world". That's Commodore 64, Atari and Apple days.

      Wow, that's almost like wasting my entire life up until this point. What kind of fool would make a mistake like that?

      Anyway, I'm going back to reading Slashdot, watching Star Wars, and eating pringles in my darkened basement bedroom until it's time to play some D&D. Later guys.

      --Dan
  • by ManicMechanic (238107) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:48PM (#8367295)
    They have just sunk a bunch of money into all the new buildings and support structure here at Ft Rucker for this program, not to mention all of the Commanche portatble cockpits running around and the support personnel and equiptment for those... man what a waste... I guess those rumors about waiting to get the new buildings up before the program was canceled where true.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:48PM (#8367301) Homepage Journal
    Helicopters are rather handy weapons platforms, but they're also vulnerable as hell. Any platform that loiters over the battlefield, no many how many stealthy features you give it, will be vulnerable to small arms fire, missiles, you name it.

    The Army needs helicopters to move soldiers around the battlefield, but with so many other ways of directing fire (much more accurate indirect fire through Paladin [army.mil] systems, for example), and better coordination with the fast-movers (the Air Force and Army have a ways to go in this regard, but they're getting better [theatlantic.com]), the days of the wannabe Hind are over.

    Say what you will about Rumsfeld, but he has at least made the top brass look long and hard at all the systems in the pipeline to be sure they match future needs.

  • by bergeron76 (176351) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:51PM (#8367332)
    ... unless you work for Boeing or the other defense contractors.

    Ultimately though - the savings that will come as a result of scrapping the project, even with the billions that were already sunk into it, will still save the economy several billions of dollars.

    I'm for it, especially considering that it's replacement are UAVs.

  • Stealth Helo? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) <bittercode@gmail> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:52PM (#8367338) Homepage Journal
    Could somebody here who is smarter than I am. (that's lots of you) explain to me the point of a stealthy helo?

    Here is my problem with it- don't those big blades spinning around on top create a nice big disc that is going to bounce radar right back? Will any rotary wing aircraft ever be very stealthy? I never understood this helicopter.

    • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:17PM (#8367615)

      It really isn't hard at all. All the pilot does is say "Stealth mode, on!" and the helicopter both becomes completely silent and emits nor reflects any EM radiation. Not only that, the pilot can completely see through all walls via high-power high-resolution IR scopes. The main, although top secret, reason the military builds these helicopters is to spy on sorority houses during rush week.

    • Re:Stealth Helo? (Score:4, Informative)

      by gothzilla (676407) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:46PM (#8367914)
      Radar reflection is caused by the material the radar is hitting, not by its movement. Blades made out of radar absorbing material will be "stealthy" whether they are moving or not. If movement did affect radar signature, then stealth bombers would be visible to radar as they were flying.
      The only time movement affects radar is with doppler radar, which can only detect objects moving away or toward it, and an approaching helicopter will be more visible than its blades anyway.
    • by lquam (250506) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:59PM (#8368035)
      The Commanche supposedly had a radar cross section about 66% less than the current scout helicopter (OH-58D--Kiowa Warrior). Actually, in its original mission--back in '83--stealth made sense. The Commanche was supposed to scout ahead of the Apache Attack helos, locate the Soviet armored formations in Germany, and relay this info back to the Apaches who would pop-up from their hide positions and start spewing Hellfire's at the Ruskies. In this role, having some stealth could have saved them from rapid annihilation by Soviet radar-directed gunnery (ZSU-23s) which always accompanied Soviet advanced formations.

      Trouble is, in today's conflicts, a scout helicopter doing it's job is going to be taking all sorts of fire from guerillas or terrorists jumping out of cars and buildings firing RPGs, MANPADS, and automatic weapons. This was a non-issue in a big conventional war in Europe (or Korea for that matter). There's no way to be stealthy flying over a city. Apparently the rotor and engine design was also very quiet, so it might of had some advantage in urban and/or guerilla environments over existing choppers, but you still can't sneak up on anyone in a helicopter (Blue Thunder does not exist).

      At $59M a pop, there was no way the Commanche can be bought (if Congress fights this, I'll be spewing email at my Congress-critters to knock it off). You can't pay that much (nearly as much as a JSF is going to cost) for something that as a previous poster pointed out can be shot down by some phanatic with a cheap disposable rocket.

      The reason it has taken this long to kill Commanche is that Congress, despite their protestations against a myriad of defense programs over the years, doesn't like to cancel projects because the military procurement budget is the single largest jobs program in the Federal budget. Hell, for two decades they've been trying to kill the B-1 bomber and now they're trying to get the AF to put 21 retired aircraft back in service! It's also a matter of prestige and getting their slice of the procurement pie for the services--what will the Army do to recruit kids without cool weapons to feature in commercials. Plus there's been an unhealthy career track in the military for program managers--instead of fighting for a living, alot of military now do R&D for a living. If your project goes down, there goes you chances for promotion (and perhaps even that lucrative private sector job with a defense contractor).

      What the Army needs are some new medium and heavy transport helicopters; something that can get up into the mountains easier in Afghanistan. They can certainly do with some new OH-58s, perhaps with beefier engines and more armor to enable them to take some hits and keep flying. The poor Marine Corps is still flying 40+ year old SH-46 Sea Knights that are only flying because of the herculean effort of Marine mechanics to keep them stuck together. There are a lot of places to spend that $38B that would both increase lethality of our military and better protect our troops.

      The trouble is that helicopters, like so many defense systems, have just gotten too expensive due to a combination of gold plating, constantly increasing requirements, and reduced procurement. We used to buy thousands of an aircraft, now we buy hundreds. Stated another way, we used to buy Camrys, now we buy Porsches. The Commanche was the ultimate in gold plating of a project. Ask a pilot over in Iraq or Afghanistan what they'd like and I'm sure they'd tell us something that's rugged, reliable, and easy to fly (oh, and has modern anti-missile systems on board). I'm not saying stop buying Porsches when they're called for, but helos are not the place to be spending that kind of scratch. Take that 38 billion and you can completely upgrade all the current helo inventory with modern anti-missile systems and replace the oldest in inventory with new airframes so our kids aren't flying planes twice as old as they are.

      --Len Quam
    • by henryhbk (645948) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:04PM (#8368077) Homepage
      The concept is fairly clear, as just because you are sitting still, doesn't mean that I can shoot you (US tanks didn't move that fast in desert storm, but the enemy had a hard time shooting them in the hail of fire they were under from those tanks). While modern warfare seems to be against the terrorist states, that doesn't mean that they don't have sophisticated weapon systems to try and shoot them down (and yes I realize they can be shot down with simple arms occaisionally).

      Making one (the issue with the rotors) is not that hard (theory, I realize, actually making one is really hard, but so is making a non-stealth helicopter too).

      There are 2 schools of thought in relation to stealth. Absorbtion (very hard, and I can probably overcome it with more transmisison power) and reflection away from you (much easier). There was a test of radar-detectability of cars (car&driver or something) with speed-radars, and the corvette was the lowest (this was some time ago).

      Most people thought it was that the car was fiberglass (not true, as the frame underneath had plenty of metal) but rather that the radiator was tilted way back, which reflected the radar away (up) from the receiver. This is also why the F-117 is all angular, it is very hard to get a radar reflection, as no facet is facing towards you (they also use absorbtive/transparent materials).

      Take a mirror, and lay it flat in a dark room. Shine a flashlight at an oblique angle, and the mirror is almost invisible (but you see stuff past it with the deflected beam). One thing you may see (it's on the stealth airplanes) is covering the intakes/exhausts with deflecting gratings (helps diffuse thermal stuff as well), which will deflect away from the observer, rather than the verticle wall of spinning turbine blades. The mirror trick is how that F-117 was shot down back in the late 90's in bosnia, which was thought to be one radar (the flashlight) shining across, with a receiver across the valley (like standing by the wall and figuring out the deflection of the beam and back-calculating the location of the deflecting object)

      If you look at the apache. you will notice the canopy is angular, which was designed to do the same thing with sunlight (less reflections back to the observer).. The blades can be made of low-radar crossection material (heck fiberglass would be virtually invisible as an example, as would carbon fiber or ceramics), but you also need to make it balistically tolerant (cermaics shatter when shot for instance), and flexible to survive the rigors of hard flying. Making it silent is probably much harder than making it radar low-observable.

      With the proliferation of shoulder fired heat-seaking missles, one also must make your copter heat stealthy as well, and often tricks like blowing the exhaust up into the rotor wash spreads the heat signature out to hide it, and make it hard to lock up.

      Finally for all those who are talking about survivability, the apache is highly balistically tolerant (military speak for armored), and is also designed to allow for survivability of the pilots in the event of being shot down. There is a test film (or marketing PR film) which showed the apache taking direct fire on a test range from a .50 caliber machine gun with no internal damage, or blade damage (I realize it was staged "just so", but none-the-less impressive...).

    • Re:Stealth Helo? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by obeythefist (719316)
      The Comanche, as people have mentioned, is stealthy in the several big important ways.

      Firstly, it's got a much lower radar profile than any other helicopter in use today. Curved surfaces with very few sharp angles keep radar from bouncing off it sharply. Radar absorbing paint, etc etc also help to reduce radar visibility.

      Secondly, the comanche pumps its engine heat directly through the body onto the tail rotor, which blows and diffuses hot air away from the chopper quickly. If you view a comanche throu
  • Maybe.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by earthforce_1 (454968) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .1_ecrofhtrae.> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:52PM (#8367357) Journal
    They could ask that farmer in Vietnam for help.

    At least he would be interested in buying the prototype.
  • too many changes? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maliabu (665176) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:52PM (#8367358)
    is this outcome the result of too many changes, suggestion, ideas etc throughout the years?

    it's similar to software development. the first idea was pretty cool, then investors want their 'good' ideas to be included, then the 'testers' want their 'cool' ideas in that too, and nothing ever happens.
  • by geoswan (316494) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:54PM (#8367378) Journal
    What is the most invulnerable US weapons system?

    That would have to be the one with sub-contractor in every Congressional district.

  • by Saeger (456549) <farrelljNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:56PM (#8367402) Homepage
    The current generation of vehicles is probably the last to be piloted by humans anyway. From attack craft, to humvees, to choppers, we're almost at the point where we don't need humans in the cockpit to do a smart robot's job.

    Friend of mine is an airline pilot, and even he will admit that it's likely his career will be cut short by advancing tech.

    (OT: and since tech is advancing exponentially [kurzweilai.net], it'll replace many more jobs than it creates, which is too bad if you live a country where welfare is still a dirty word.)

    --

  • Commanche (Score:4, Funny)

    by Spudley (171066) on Monday February 23, 2004 @06:57PM (#8367419) Homepage Journal
    Yay!

    This means that GUI for our-favorite-web-browser-that's-also-named-after a-helicopter won't have to change it's name suddenly and unexpectedly like all those other open source programs that had nothing to do with whatever else it was that had the same name first.

    Uh. Yeah. Good news, that.
  • by i_r_sensitive (697893) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:01PM (#8367476)
    Ummm, I would be hesitant to say that $20 billion were wasted...

    After all, how much of that $20 Billion went into basic research that will still be valid the next time someone wants to build a chopper? Wind tunnel data for example doesn't all of a sudden change without reason.

    How much of that work led to new systems/ improvements to existing systems that either has allteady been deployed to other choppers, or can resonably be expected to show up in follow on versions and refits of existing choppers?

    How much of that money was spent on basic science and engineering whose results will be applied thousands of times in follow-on development projects?

    What about all the various lessons learned during the process of design to prototype, is that knowledge lost because the Commanche never went to production?

    Lastly, the program was scrapped because the environment which dictated the original requirements is gone, and the new landscape tends to militate against a need for the platform as designed. Several people allready identified areas which ought to be addressed in follow-on designs. The choice to shut down the project as opposed to trying to re-invent it midstream is a money saver, not a money loser. The decision as easily could have been to impose new requirements on an existing project (cough cough B2 cough cough) extending the project by another $20 Billion, still with no production model at the end...

  • by scribblej (195445) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:22PM (#8367664)
    That's all I want to know.
  • What a waste (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Performer Guy (69820) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:28PM (#8367718)
    This is what happens when you have feature creep, no competition, overly optimistic technology goals and nobody kicking ass making these guys deliver something. I mean where was the need if 18 years ago they started it and produced nothing deployable in the interval. At least someone had the stones to cancel this boondoggle, geeze after 18 years of work the 2005 budget target was still another $1.2 billion on R&D and $12 million on procurement, i.e. STILL no deliverable units.

    And while we're on the subject, we already have more Apaches than we'll ever use they're all around the country at various units not deployed anywhere.
  • by Devil (16134) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:32PM (#8367770) Homepage
    The Comanche was a red herring. Our helicopters are great and a whole hell of a lot cheaper than the Comanche ever could have hoped to be. Hell, when my dad was flying AH-1J Cobras, the basic cost of a unit (without certain avionics equipment) was ~$800,000.

    Personally, I think the Apache is overpriced ($25 million per unit), too. Remember in the First Gulf War, when they couldn't fly them because the sand damaged their engines? The Cobras flew in that, no problem.

    The Comanche was a perfect example of feature creep, a bloated over-thinking of the helicopter's function as a weapon. The cost-per-copy, too, would simply have been too big a burden. Simple, durable, well-designed inexpensive weapons (like the Cobra or A-10 Warthog) are much more effective weapons than machines costing tens or hundreds of millions of dollars per copy, because if it is damaged--or if you lose one--it is far cheaper to repair or replace.
  • by joshuaos (243047) <ouroboros@@@freedoment...com> on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:35PM (#8367789) Journal
    was a very similar story, and someone involved in the project wrote a book about it, and it was made into a hilarious movie called The Pentagon Wars with Cary Elwes and Kelsey Grammar. Had me laughing out loud! Alas, I have been totally unable to find this movie on any p2p networks. :( [rottentomatoes.com]
  • "Next generation"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by queequeg1 (180099) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:35PM (#8367794)
    More than 20 years to develop the next generation of recon helicopter? If they took much longer they would have been forced to admit that it was really a "next next" generation helicopter or that their generational frame of reference was something longer lived than humans (perhaps turtles or parrots).
  • by spikeham (324079) on Monday February 23, 2004 @07:40PM (#8367848)
    The Comanche is the poster child for enormous pork barrel government defense projects.

    Maybe it's an awesome machine, but to spend $8 billion over 20 years and still not be in production is indefensible. It's only a helicopter. You can be sure that if the Army really needed it, it would only have taken a few years to start production.

    Back in 1992, I was almost hired by Sikorsky to work as a co-op on this project. They already had an airframe back then. What have they been doing in the 12 years since then? Busy work to keep those multi-million dollar payments coming.

    Beyond that, the experiences of the US military in Kosovo and Iraq suggest pretty strongly that the whole attack helicopter concept is flawed. They are too slow, too low, and too vulnerable.

    Probably the whole reason the Army ever came up with attack helicopters is that they are forbidden to operate fixed-wing aircraft.
    • Beyond that, the experiences of the US military in Kosovo and Iraq suggest pretty strongly that the whole attack helicopter concept is flawed. They are too slow, too low, and too vulnerable.

      *BZZZRT* Oh I'm sorry. That's incorrect. Here have this loving parting gift of Rice-a-Roni [ricearoni.com] "The San Francisco Treat".

      In Kosovo, the army didn't use Apache helicopters. NATO only used fixed wing aircraft. That's it. Just attack jets. No men. No boats. Definatly no helicopters. Gen. Clark (SACEUR at the time)
  • by koinu (472851) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:05PM (#8368088)
    After 20 years [...] it never produced an operational helicopter. [...] The helicopter was intended to counter Soviet weapons.


    The 20 year-old Soviet weapons must be damned good!


  • by Mulletproof (513805) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:40PM (#8368451) Homepage Journal
    "Open-source helicopter, anyone?"

    What was the point of that comment? Can you name me one "open source" helicopter that has ever succeeded in a tactical role, or did you just feel the need to slip that in there in order to feel more trendy here on slashdot? It's hard to suck-up to your audience more blatantly than that... Why didn't you just add "Imagine a beowulf cluster of those!" while your adding popular, yet ultimately pointless slashisms?

    As far as the expendature goes, I'd rather them spend the money, even if it did ultimately fail to turn out a uselful end product. It's the cost of doing business when your looking for the ideal tactical advantage. Some will cost money and fail, while others, like the Tomahawk, Predator, F22 Raptor and JSF succeed. Don't get your panties in a bind, it happens. It sucked so they shut it down. And even in failure I'm sure they surmounted a number of engineering difficulties in designing the thing, stuff that can be applied to other projects that will succed because of Comanche's development. trying to stealth a helicopter has got to teach you something useful, which can be applied to existing helicopters.
  • by Bull999999 (652264) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:45PM (#8368519) Journal
    Future projects like this can be out sourced to India so when it gets canceled, it would've wasted millions of tax payer dollars instead of billions.
  • by JonMartin (123209) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:44PM (#8369126) Homepage
    G2mil published this editorial [g2mil.com] on the Comanche last month. Excellent reading (as G2mil usually is). Some good responses to it on this month's letters page [g2mil.com].

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