Meanwhile, Taiwan studies Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow for attack rotorcraft need

Bell has signed a contract with Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) covering the supply of tail booms for US Marine Corps (USMC) AH-1Zs and UH-1Ys ahead of the acquisition by Taiwan's army of 30 new attack helicopters.

Taiwan is evaluating both the AH-1Z and Boeing's AH-64D Apache Longbow for the requirement and the country is expected to select a helicopter in the second half of this year.

In mid-February the USMC submitted price and availability (P&A) data on 30 AH-1Zs; the US Army submitted similar information on 30 Apache Longbows last year.

Both Bell and Boeing claim they have the inside track for the procurement. Taiwan is not planning to release a formal tender and instead will negotiate a contract based on the P&A data provided. Sikorsky says it is still pitching armed Black Hawks for the requirement, but acknowledges that Taiwan has not asked for P&A data.

Boeing says it expects Taiwan "at some point" will stop requesting information on the AH-1Z and only discuss the Apache. "We don't consider this a competition," says Boeing director of Apache business development Charles Burke.

But a Bell official says: "We believe we're still well positioned and have a good relationship on the industrial side."

As part of a move to enhance its long-standing partnership with AIDC and give it the edge in the attack helicopter competition, Bell has been negotiating with AIDC a contract to supply tail booms, which are now sourced in the USA (Flight International, 20-26 January). Bell says it is unclear if the contract, signed in Taipei on 27 February, would count towards Taiwan's offset requirement, should the army select the AH-1Z.

Source: Flight International