US Army again says “no” to Europeans for ARH

European-made helicopters are unlikely to be eligible for a possible recompetition of the US Army armed reconnaissance helicopter (ARH) contract.

Before Bell beat Boeing three years ago to win the original contract, AgustaWestland hoped to propose either the A109, A119, A129 or AW139 and Eurocopter wanted to offer AS550 or EC635.

Both European bidders were disqualified early in the original competition. Neither AgustaWestland nor Eurocopter could meet one of the army’s key performance parameters: the ability to offload and fly two helicopters from a Lockheed Martin C-130 within 15 minutes.

Army aviation acquisition chief Paul Bogosian, speaking to me on the sidelines of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) convention earlier this week, affirmed that requirement remains a deal-breaker for the army if the contract is re-competed.

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4 Responses to US Army again says “no” to Europeans for ARH

  1. Royce 10 October, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    In a completely unrelated development, Boeing announced on Oct. 7 a “new” AH-6 scout helicopter program.

    Don’t we all know whether this is heading? I’m just surprised someone is finally going to manage to kill a troubled Bell program.

  2. Stephen Trimble 10 October, 2008 at 3:17 pm #

    I think we’re still a ways from knowing if that’s really going to happen.

    I remember covering the original competition. It was a shock when the Bell 407 won. The AH-6 was considered the favorite by a mile.

    The army guys thought they were making the prudent choice with the 407. They wanted something that could be easily mass-produced. They obviously didn’t give enough thought to the complexity of converting a military aircraft to a commercial role.

    The biggest knock on the AH-6 was producibility, and probably still is. Remember that MDHI is Boeing’s key supplier on the program, and they’ve had a pretty rough decade. Lynne Tilton, who bought the company a few years, appears to have gotten the supply chain in order, but that’s still got to be the biggest risk area when you think about the Boeing proposal.

    I’d personally like to see the European platforms back in the competition. Both AgustaWestland and Eurocopter would Boeing a run for the money. Kicking them out because of the deployability requirement seems excessive to me.

  3. Royce 10 October, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    When the government is going to buy 300+ helicopters, the supply chain issues can always be fixed. MDHI is on solid footing now, and with a recession here or near, the army is not going to want to get into a political battle over the Pentagon handing another major contract to the Europeans. They already went with Eurocopter on two major helicopter contracts. Taking a third away from Bell and handing it to the Europeans is too much, too soon.

    Besides, the requirements are there and there’s no evidence that the army put them there in bad faith. Congress will not look happily on the army relaxing requirements that are being met by a domestic manufacturer.

  4. Stephen Trimble 10 October, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    True. But some in Congress (paging Senator McCain) like a good competition! But I definitely take your point. I actually wonder if this is more than just ARH and a sign that all European bids post-tanker are headed for the dumpster.

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