Though the program for the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche was cancelled before major production even began, this recon and attack aircraft was still considered advanced due to the incorporated advanced sensors and other newly designed stealth technologies.
Development of the Comanche
In the early 1980s, the US Army was seeking a replacement for some of their lighter helicopters, but when the official request for proposal was issued in 1988, the Army was looking instead for a reconnaissance helicopter. Boeing-Sikorsky received the contract to build prototypes for the Army to evaluate. The first prototype did not roll off the assembly line until May of 1995 and its maiden flight did not take place until January of 1996 due to structural problems and software issues.
The Comanche was designed as a stealth helicopter. Multiple radar reducing techniques were incorporated to its overall visibility, including an outer coating which was not only faceted, but was coated with a radar-absorbent material and infrared-suppressant paint. Steps were taken also to reduce the noise of the helicopter.
The RAH-66 was also equipped with (at that time) state of the art navigation and detection systems, intended to permit both night time and bad weather operations. Additional sophisticated equipment was incorporated into the design which would allow the Comanche to locate designated targets for attack helicopters.
The design on the Comanche underwent additional changes in the year 2000 in an effort to reduce the overall weight of the aircraft by approximately 200 lbs. (empty weight). In January of 2002, after 318 flights and more than 387 flight hours, the testing phase and career of the first prototype came to an end.
The second prototype, whose initial flight occurred on March 30, 1999, accrued 93 flight hours and just over 100 sorties by May of 2001. This prototype was eventually equipped with additional mission equipment and a more powerful engine with testing continuing until 2003.
- Crew: 2
- Maximum Take-off Weight: 17,408 lbs.
- Main Rotor System: 5 blades
- Maximum Speed: 102 miles per hour
- Cruising Speed: 190 miles per hour
- Total range: 302 miles
- Combat Radius (on internal fuel): 173 miles
- Climbing Rate: 895 feet per minute
- 1 x 20mm XM301 three-barrel cannon
- 6 x AGM – 114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles (or)
- 6 x AIM – 92 Singer air-to-air missiles (or)
- 24 x Hydra 70mm air-to-ground rockets
Program Is Cancelled
After an initial investment of close to $7 billion, the US Army decided to earmark its remaining dollars for the program ($14.6 billion) to purchase additional helicopters (including Black Hawks) and to upgrade the aircrafts already in their fleet. On February 23, 2004, 22 years after the introduction of the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, the US Army cancelled the program.