Comanche Helicopter Makes First Flight
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Jan. 4, 1996 -- A major achievement in aviation history was recorded here today when the prototype RAH-66 Comanche helicopter lifted off for the first time.
The Comanche, developed by a team of companies led by Boeing Defense & Space Group, Helicopters Division in Philadelphia, and Sikorsky Aircraft, Stratford, Conn., took off at 1:05 p.m. from Sikorsky's Development Flight Test Center located in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Army Comanche Program Manager Brig. Gen. James Snider said the Comanche's first flight "is a major step forward for the program and for the Army's 21st Century modernization plans."
Sikorsky test pilot Rus Stiles and Boeing test pilot Bob Gradle were at the controls for the maiden flight, which lasted for more than an hour. During the first flight, the pilots carried out a number of maneuvers, including hover, left and right hover turns and forward flight.
Team director Jim Morris said today's flight "is a tribute to the teamwork among all of the Comanche Team companies and our most important team member, the U.S. Army. Thousands of men and women have dedicated their lives to making this moment a reality."
The Comanche prototype will be put through a series of flight tests in 1996 designed to develop the helicopter's full flight capabilities. In a process known as "opening up the envelope," the aircraft will be flown faster and maneuvered more aggressively in the weeks and months ahead.
When fielded early in the next century, the RAH-66 will fly faster and outmaneuver every other combat helicopter now flying or under development. But speed and agility are only a small part of the improved performance that the Comanche will bring to the 21st Century battlefield.
The Comanche's design incorporates features that will make it difficult to detect with either radar-guided or heat-seeking weapons. The helicopter's advanced electronics will allow it to automatically scan the battlefield in seconds, locating and prioritizing enemy targets, as well as identifying friendly units to avoid fratricide. The Comanche crew will use state-of-the-art communications to digitally share information with all elements of the combined arms team, including the Air Force and Navy units.
Designed to replace the Army's current Vietnam-vintage scout and light attack helicopter fleet, the Comanche will provide U.S. forces with a major advantage in any future conflicts by supplying them with accurate, timely tactical battlefield intelligence.
The Army awarded the RAH-66 development contract in April 1991 to the Boeing Sikorsky First Team. Major team member companies include: Hamilton Standard, Harris Corp., Hughes Link Training Division, Kaiser Electronics, Lear Astronics, Litton, Lockheed Martin, Moog, Sunstrand, TRW Military Electronics & Avionics, Westinghouse Electronics Systems Group and Williams International. Allison Engine Company and AlliedSignal Engine Company are co-developing the engines for the Comanche.
Boeing Defense & Space Group, Helicopters Division, is a unit of The Boeing Company of Seattle. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation, Hartford, Conn.