The U.S. Army retired its last Kiowa scout helicopter last year, nearly 50 years after Kiowa first joined the force. But the Army didn’t have a dedicated armed reconnaissance helicopter to replace the venerable airframe, because three attempts to find a successor had been canceled. Instead, it ended up modifying Apache tank-killers, which are not ideal for the armed recon role and cost much more to operate. The Army is kicking off a fourth attempt to find a Kiowa replacement this month, called the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). At this point the service must understand pretty much everything that can go wrong in such an effort, and yet it says it needs ten years before a new scout helicopter will become operational. That is too much time. There are ways of compressing the development schedule. If soldiers can’t get FARA faster, they may never get it at all. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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