Japan's defence ministry is unlikely to reverse its decision to award a major procurement contract to a combined Bell Helicopter/Fuji Heavy Industries team - at least in the view of Bell chief executive John Garrison.

Rival Airbus Helicopters - whose losing clean-sheet bid was made with local partner Kawasaki Heavy Industries - had earlier this week suggested that Tokyo would reconsider its selection of the Bell 412EPI-based solution for its UH-X programme dismissing it as an old platform with little export potential.

However, speaking at the Helitech show in London, Garrison pointed to the defence ministry's evaluation process which had seen its offer ranked first in six out of seven selection criteria.

"Frankly it wasn't even close," he says. "I'm not quite sure I see their argument."

Fuji has already signed a contract with Japan for an initial 150 examples of the helicopter which will be used to replace the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force's aged fleet of Bell UH-1 Hueys.

Improvements over the current iteration of the 412EPI include state-of-the-art avionics, upgraded transmission, and an increased maximum gross weight.

The Japanese-built helicopter - currently referred to as the 412EPI+ - will also be offered to the export market, although Bell will retain the ability to manufacture it in the USA if required, says Garrison.

Deliveries are due to begin in the 2021 timeframe, with initial design work already under way.

Source: FlightGlobal.com