Throughout the history of aviation, the helicopter has occupied an important niche because of its unique capabilities. An impressive aircraft that has seen varied and numerous use in military and civilian applications, its value as a versatile and powerful or vehicle is appreciated by its pilot, users, or passengers.
Though smaller and with a lesser range than an airplane, its capability to take off and land vertically in small spaces means it can go where most planes cannot, its ability to hover allows it to perform tasks no airplane can.
The helicopter has constantly evolved during its lifetime and will continue to do so with the advancements in technology. One of the most striking examples of its evolution is the world’s first stealth helicopter. This is the story of The Comanche Helicopter: 15 Little Known Details We Just Found Out
15 Cold War Origins
The origins of the Comanche date back to the Cold War period, when military planners determined the need for a new multi-role helicopter that can perform reconnaissance and attack functions as well as act as a target designator for the more heavily armed Apache AH-64.
14 Collaborative Chopper
From this requirement, the U.S. Army launched the Light Helicopter Experimental (LHX) program that was participated by major aircraft companies, all submitting their respective designs. By April 1991, the project announced the joint Boeing-Sikorsky proposal as the winner.
13 Never Been Done Before
With no precedent aircraft to emulate or follow, Boeing-Sikorsky faced many challenges as new, never before design and technologies including stealth technologies, advanced sensors and various weaponry needed to be incorporated in its airframe.
12 The Comanche Rises
By 1993, construction of the first prototype started, and two years later this prototype was formally rolled out at Sikorsky’s production facility, with the plan for its test flight to commence shortly thereafter, but structural and software problems delayed this until 1999.
11 Many First’s
While the F-117 Nighthawk has been in existence since the early ’80s, the challenge in creating a totally new type of rotary/bladed aircraft was immense. This required the engineering team to find solutions (some still classified) to numerous technical setbacks that in the end were overcome, resulting in the first-ever stealth helicopter.
10 Day And Night Warrior
Planned as to be a day or night platform, the Comanche was equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, navigation, and detection systems, allowing it to operate even at night or bad weather.
9 Armed To The Teeth
With its designation as a light attack helicopter, the Comanche was armed with a single chin-mounted 20 mm three-barrel XM301 rotary cannon, which could be pointed rearwards and retracted under its fairings as well as six AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles or twelve pylon mounted AIM-92 Stinger air-to-air missiles.
8 Have A Longbow Too
Part of its detection system was a smaller version of the “Long Bow” radar, an advanced system capable of simultaneous tracking of more than 100 targets and within 30 seconds engaging up to 16 targets.
7 All Seeing, All Firing
Envisioned as the ultimate recon and light attack chopper, the Comanche was also installed with a digital fly-by-wire flight control system. As a two-crew aircraft, each was equipped with a pair of LCD multi-functional displays together with Helmet-Integrated Display and Sight System (HIDSS)
6 Beginning Of The End
In the decade that followed, we received launch, successive delays piled up on the development of the Comanche that ultimately caused its cancellation. Finally, by February 2004, the U.S. Army announced that they had decided to terminate all work on the Comanche program.
5 The Winner And The Loser
As the massive budget overruns plagued the Comanche program, the US army then embarked on a new project called the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program that chose the Bell ARH-70 as the winner, but in a turn of events similar to the ill-fated, Comanche, this program was canceled as well.
4 Heir One
In 2018, the US Army embarked on another helicopter procurement program, this time called the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA), which is essentially a continuation or modified version of the canceled LHX and ARH programs. Interestingly, for the FARA program, former Comanche partners Boeing and Sikorsky submitted their own proposals, with Sikorsky entering their Raider X compound helicopter concept.
3 Heir Two
Another interesting helicopter that was entered in the FARA competition is the Bell 360 Invictus, which when reviewed shares more than a passing semblance with the much older Comanche including the tail rotor design, 2 crew cabin layout, and retractable landing gear.
2 7 Billion, 2 Examples
With a lengthy twenty-two-year research and development period that ultimately cost nearly 7 Billion dollars, the Comanche program was only able to produce two prototypes that are now stored for display and preservation purposes.
1 Its Legacy Lives On
While the Comanche program was canceled, the technological, design, and engineering advancements learned during its development and testing phase has found its way to new aircraft. The stealth characteristics that came from its use of the material and surface design now can be seen in its next-generation brothers, including the classified stealth Blackhawk.
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