Douglas Barrie/LONDON

BRITISH AEROSPACE is attempting to head off possible political pressure to select the Westland bid for the UK attack-helicopter programme by offering it a significant work package on the BAe-led Eurocopter Tiger contender, should it win.

The move, which will be highlighted in a letter BAe is writing to Members of Parliament, which attempts to calm concerns over damage to Westland should its bid with the McDonnell Douglas AH-64D be unsuccessful.

In what some officials see as a re-run of the competition to meet the Royal Air Force support-helicopter requirement (for which Westland's EH101 bid is head-to-head with the Boeing CH-47 Chinook), there is heavy political pressure to protect the Yeovil-based helicopter manufacturer by making a split purchase. This is despite the cheaper cost of the Chinook and its closeness to the RAF's requirements.

Sources close to the BAe bid indicate that the letter will make it clear that, should the Tiger be selected, BAe will go to considerable lengths to ensure Westland's involvement in the programme.

As part of its industrial agreement with Eurocopter, BAe would "manufacture" 20% of all European Tiger orders.

The company says that this production work would be put out to competitive tender with, says one source, Westland the likely winner of any "competition".

In trying to refute the BAe argument that effectively Westland cannot lose - even if the Apache is not chosen - the company argues that it might not respond to an invitation to compete for Tiger work-share, a suggestion which industry analysts eye with incredulity.

GEC-Marconi Avionics, which is teamed with Bell, is offering the AH-1W Cobra Venom. Although its bid is based on final assembly of the Cobra at its Rochester site in Kent, company officials admit that Westland would be likely to carry this out.

The last, best and final bids, for to meet Staff Target (Air) 428 for the attack-helicopter procurement, were submitted by 21 February.

It is thought that as few as three companies might provide fully updated bids: Westland, BAe and GEC-Marconi.

Source: Flight International