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Army developing new Fixed-Wing Aircraft

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The U.S. Army is refining an initial capabilities
document for a new Fixed Wing Utility aircraft designed to replace more than
112 airframes with a common platform able to perform a range of key mission
sets and service, officials said.

"We manage 73 different series of aircraft and more than 40 different
designs. A common cockpit and platform will reduce the amount of resources
needed to train pilots and sustain the aircraft. Moving to one common fleet
will reduce the manpower needed and allow us to gain efficiencies by
reducing the number of contracts," said Col. Brian Tachias, Project Manager,
Fixed Wing, Program Executive Office Aviation.

PM Fixed Wing, established in October of last year, was stood up to create a
central hub to manage the Army's fleet of fixed-wing aircraft. As many as 37
different fixed-wing aircraft programs are now consolidated and centrally
managed under the purview of the Project Office.

" Centrally managing Army Fixed Wing aircrafts will help to achieve
improvements in safety, airworthiness certification, configuration
management and aircraft maintenance. We will also gain efficiencies by
reducing the number of contracts where it makes sense," Tachias said.

The Army has a current fleet of approximately 377 fixed-wing aircraft
spanning a range of functions. Plans to develop a new Fixed Wing Utility
Aircraft emerged out of a fleet wide Army assessment of fixed-wing aircraft
conducted by PM Fixed Wing and the TRADOC Capability Manager - Lift, Tachias
added.

"The Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft Initial Capabilities Document is now in
staffing at the Pentagon. Once this is finalized, we will start an Analysis
of Alternatives. We are teaming with the Army's Aviation school house and
Military Intelligence school house to build one common aircraft able to
perform a range of functions such as ISR, utility and transport missions,"
he said.

The Analysis of Alternatives will, among other things, examine the costs
associated with sustaining older aircraft compared with buying new ones.
The new utility aircraft program is designed to address obsolescence issues
within the fleet and engineer a common platform for the future.

While specifics related to the acquisition of the new aircraft are still
being evaluated, the initial notional plan is to begin procurement in the
next POM cycle. Tachias explained. With this in mind, the Army has stood up
a special Fixed Wing contracting division at Army Contracting Command,
Redstone Arsenal, Ala., in order to consolidate contracts for fixed-wing programs.

Alongside the effort to build a new Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft, PM Fixed
Wing will also manage a wide range of Army aircrafts, such as the
now-in-development Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance
Systems (EMARSS); which are King Air 350 planes engineered with high-tech
cameras, sensors, data link and surveillance equipment able to gather and
distribute key, combat-relevant information. Four EMARSS aircrafts are
slated to deploy to Afghanistan as part of a forward operational assessment.

In addition, PM Fixed Wing is making progress to procure new UV-18C Twin
Otter Short Take Off and Landing utility aircraft for the Army's prestigious
Golden Knights Parachute team.

PM Fixed Wing is also teaming up with the Air Force in an effort to acquire
four new T-6B Texan II aircraft designed for use in testing with the Army's
Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC). The aircraft will be T6 Hawker
Beechcraft two-seater planes configured with mounted cameras and sensing
devices designed to measure testing events.

"The Air Force has allowed us to participate in their ACAT 1C program. This
is saving the Army money because a lot of their sustainment is already in
place" Tachias explained.

Article by Kris Osborn, ASA(ALT)