Another helicopter program with cost overruns

By Joseph Normandin

Posted by John McHale

Once again a military helicopter program is making headlines for its excessive costs. Both sides of the political aisle are questioning not only the cost of the new presidential rotorcraft and its helicopter avionics , but its necessity as well.

Reports were all over the Web about how during a recent economic summit Sen. John McCain was questioning President Barack Obama over the cost overruns associated with the Marine One presidential helicopter program, which is led by Lockheed Martin.

According to an article from Defense Industry Daily the program had a "50 percent + cost overrun."

Obama reportedly responded by saying the one he has now works just fine. Is this a sign that another helicopter program may be canceled or severely cut back?

The last military helicopter program to get nailed for being way over budget was the Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), which was canceled last fall.

The ARH, produced by Bell Helicopter, was slated to replace the aging Kiowa Warrior. According to an Army release the ARH program exceeded initial cost estimates by approximately $583 million and had delivery pushed out four years from 2009 to 2013.

During a press conference I attended in October, Army Aviation leaders stressed that even though the program was canceled, the requirement it represented -- "to relieve pressure on the Kiowa program" -- remained.

Army officials have stated that in the absence of a new platform they will focus on upgrades of the Kiowa and other helicopters such as the Apache.

Yet, is upgrading the Kiowa enough? It seems more of a band-aid than fulfillment of the requirement that the ARH was designed for.

However, Department of Defense leaders need to examine why these major programs cannot stay on budget before they award a new one -- even before they chart new upgrade paths for the Kiowa. Success for U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq depends heavily on efficient helicopter platforms.

ARH promised to be a game changer before it was derailed by what appears to be poor planning.

Let's hope lessons learned are applied and the next platform succeeds on time and on budget to give U.S. warfighters the advantage they need.

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

December 17, 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

December 10, 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

December 3, 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

November 26, 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

November 19, 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

November 12, 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

November 5, 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

October 29, 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

October 22, 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

October 15, 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

October 7, 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

October 1, 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

September 24, 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

September 17, 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

September 10, 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

September 3, 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

August 27, 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

August 20, 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

August 13, 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

August 6, 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

July 30, 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

July 23, 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

July 16, 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

July 9, 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

July 2, 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

July 2015
Volume 26, Issue 7

All Access Sponsors

Download Our Apps




Connect with Us


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles