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New fixed-wing aircraft will replace C-12s

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 11, 2012) -- The Army is looking to replace its fleet of 117 C-12 aircraft with something called a "Future Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft."

The C-12 Huron is used by the Army for personnel transport, intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, as well as carrying cargo.

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"The biggest program that we have got coming up, and of course this is going to replace all the Army C-12s, we're looking at putting a program together called the Future Fixed Wing Utility Aircraft," said Col. Brian Tachias, the Army's project manager for fixed-wing aircraft.

The colonel said a requirements document for that program is now "working in the Pentagon." When that is approved, he said, it will allow the Army to begin an analysis of alternatives, and eventually define the requirements for the program in a capabilities development document. If approved, that will allow the Army "to go out and procure the next fixed-wing utility aircraft."

Tachias spoke last week in Nashville, Tenn., at the Army Aviation Association of America conference there. He heads up the Army's latest project office, focused entirely on fixed-wing aircraft. The Project Office for Fixed-Wing Aircraft stood up in October 2011, and has a "leadership role over all of the Army fixed-wing aircraft," Tachias said.

Before the official stand-up date last year, the office managed about 256 Army aircraft. Today, the office manages about 366 fixed-wing aircraft. The consolidation of those aircraft under the oversight of one project office came after a push by the Army's vice chief of staff to centrally manage fixed-wing aircraft in one office because there are "a lot of efficiencies to be gained by consolidating them under one leadership role," Tachias said.

Tachias said there's been an estimated 10-15 percent cost savings by having the Army's entire fleet of fixed-wing aircraft managed by the office. He also said that managing them in one program means increased safety. The Army, he said, is "managing these programs under one Army standard to make sure we are providing safe aircraft for the pilots to fly, and of course consolidating the configuration management under one system, that way we don't have all these different configurations of all these different aircraft."

The colonel said that since October, the office has conducted 111 airworthiness releases on the aircraft it manages.

Among the aircraft the office manages are those used by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Golden Knights, and the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. The office also handles special operations fixed-wing aircraft and aircraft that do intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance work.

In the near term, the project office is also buying aircraft for the Army Test and Evaluation Command, which has four aircraft that need replacement. The office has also procured new aircraft for the Golden Knights.

Recently, Tachias said, the office has stood up a foreign military sales cell and is working cases with the United Arab Emirates, Columbia, Egypt and Greece.

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