Taiwan has expanded its competition for nine firefighting helicopters to include aircraft equipped with water buckets and will also issue a new tender for three search and rescue (SAR) helicopters.
Industry sources say Taiwan’s National Airborne Service (NASC) plans to issue a new request for proposals (RFP) in May for both firefighting and SAR helicopters because not enough manufacturers were able to meet the firefighting requirement outlined in the preliminary RFP issued in December. The NASC has already begun evaluating the Kamov Ka-32 and Sikorsky S-70A Fire Hawk, both of which are equipped with belly tanks. But sources say Sikorsky could not meet the proposed budget and is also unsure it can supply an aircraft because of the forthcoming closure of its Fire Hawk production line, which it has offered to shift to Taiwan, but only if S-70s are also acquired by the defence ministry.
To avoid a sole-source contract with Kamov, the requirement has been revised to allow AgustaWestland to offer the AW139, Bell its 412EP and Kazan the Mi-17, all of which can only be equipped with water buckets. Sources say Sikorsky is unlikely to submit any bid while Eurocopter is considering offering the AS332 Super Puma, but is not yet sure if it can meet the programme’s budget.
The RFP also will also seek bids for three large maritime helicopters with a minimum range of 650km (350nm).