AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin signed a 10-year partnership agreement at Farnborough yesterday, aimed at breaking the stranglehold of US helicopter manufacturers on the domestic US market.
The US101 deal covers the manufacture, marketing and support of an ‘off-the-shelf' version of the EH101 medium lift helicopter within the USA.
Lockheed Martin will not build the airframe, but will be the prime contractor for an aircraft that the two partners say will be "65% American".
US101 is targeting three potentially lucrative opportunities, which are still emerging.
The USAF has a combat search and rescue requirement believed to cover about 130 aircraft, while the US Coast Guard has a need for civilian search and rescue aircraft. The third contest is for the USMC executive transport.
US101 is likely to go head to head with Sikorsky's S-92 in at least two of the competitions.
Sikorsky executives at the show reacted to the partnership announcement with a smile and a simple message: "We'll see them at the tenders."
Steve Ramsey, vice-president, aerospace systems for Lockheed Martin Systems Integration, says the complete team is not yet defined.
"We've had lots of discussions with suppliers. But if you're asking where the aircraft will be built, we don't know yet.
"That will be determined by what is best for the customer."
A series of supplier conferences will be held in the US beginning in October in a bid to identify which US companies would be an effective fit with the programme.
The partners say they could build and deliver aircraft within 26 months of any firm order, with certain components and systems still being sourced from Europe as part of a low risk approach.
"We are emphasising the low-risk, cost-effective nature of this programme to the US government and taxpayers," says Ramsey. "The aircraft is in service and is a proven platform. We believe it is exactly the right helicopter for the missions in question."
AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin have worked together for more than a decade on the Merlin HM Mk1, the maritime version of the EH101 and Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver 44 Merlin weapons systems to the RN.
Source: Flight Daily News