Army Says New Disaster-Relief Helicopter Overheats

The Army is spending 2.6 billion dollars on hundreds of European-designed helicopters for homeland security and disaster relief that turn out to have a crucial flaw. An internal report obtained by The Associated Press says the choppers aren't safe to fly on hot days.

The Army is scrambling to fix the problem - potentially adding millions to the taxpayer cost.

A least one high-ranking lawmaker is calling for the whole deal to be scrapped.

During flight tests in Southern California in mild, 80-degree weather, cockpit temperatures in the UH-72A Lakota soared above 104 degrees, the point at which the Army says the communication, navigation and flight control systems can overheat and shut down.

The report says no cockpit equipment failed during the nearly 23 hours of testing for the Army in July. But it concludes that the aircraft "is not effective for use in hot environments."

The Army told the AP that to fix the cockpit overheating problem, it will take the highly unusual step of adding air conditioners to many of the 322 helicopters ordered.

The ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Duncan Hunter of California, told the AP the lightweight helicopter will still have too many weaknesses. In a letter to the Army Secretary, Hunter is calling for an end to the planned buy of 322 Lakota helicopters in favor of additional Blackhawk helicopters.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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