HERNDON, Va., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- EADS North America has started voluntary flight testing of aircraft offered for the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout helicopter program.
The two AAS-72X+ helicopters are armed derivatives of the Army's UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopter and could be fielded by 2016.
"We welcome this opportunity to prove the superior capabilities of our offering for the Army's Armed Aerial Scout and we're ready to move forward into a competition," said Sean O'Keefe, EADS North America chairman and chief executive officer.
"A competition will ensure the Army gets the combat capability it badly needs at an affordable cost, with the program performance that is a must in today's acquisition environment."
The company said the AAS-72X+ is "cost-competitive" with the upgrades planned by the Army for the Vietnam-era OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.
EADS North said that during voluntary testing its pilots will also fly an EC145 T2 helicopter that demonstrates the performance enhancements offered in the AAS-72X+ configuration.
The EC145 T2 shares the same basic airframe as the UH-72A and AAS-72X but incorporates the more powerful Turbomeca Arriel 2E engines and other enhancements.
"These elements of the AAS-72X+ will offer the Army greater power, range, endurance and payload capacity when operating in 6,000-foot altitude and 95-degree environments, commonly known as "6K/95 high/hot" conditions -- the most demanding environment for rotary-wing operations," the company said.
The aircraft, if selected, will be manufactured at the company's American Eurocopter facility in Mississippi.