Kit #AA2085. 1/72 scale. This is
a highly-detailed resin kit of the Lockheed
AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter, complete with decals.
In the mid-1960s, under the
influence of Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, the US military “fell in
love” with high-tech aircraft designs that ultimately didn’t work out, at least
as planned. These included the Navy’s version of the TFX, later known as the
F-111B, the over-engineered C-5 Galaxy – which included tactical features
inappropriate for such an expensive strategic airlifter – and, for the Army,
the AH-56. Part of the AH-56’s problem
was simple – designers didn’t know if they were designing a low-insurgency
attack aircraft for Vietnam, or a high-tech world-beater to face down the
Soviets in Central Europe.
In 1965, the U.S. Army requested
proposals for what was called the Advanced
Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS). The goal was to design and build a
technologically advanced attack helicopter, one that could replace the A-1 in
its “Sandy” missions in Vietnam while becoming the premiere tank killer over
Germany’s Fulda Gap. Those were two incompatible missions which led to many of
the design’s problems.
In 1966, Lockheed's design, AH-56 Cheyenne was selected as the
winner, and Lockheed was given orders for ten engineering development airframes
and 375 production aircraft. The first prototype of this half-and-half aircraft
– half helicopter, half winged-aircraft with a pusher tail prop – first flew in
1967 and reached speeds of over 240 mph.
Highly agile, it was a very capable weapon system. However, it featured
many new and unproven technologies, which led to cost and time overruns. Soaring
prices and a viable alternative, Bell's AH-1G Cobra, led to the entire program being
cancelled in 1972.
The same year the Cheyenne was canceled, the Army began the process that led to
the development of the Apache tank-killer, still in use today. As with other high-tech solutions that didn’t
work, the Cheyenne was a generation ahead of its time.