BOEING AND Textron are believed to be studying a merger of the two companies' respective military-helicopter businesses.

The proposed teaming, which would herald the long-awaited restructuring of the US helicopter industry, would be based largely on the structure developed for the development and manufacture of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.

Boeing Helicopters and Textron's Bell Helicopter Textron subsidiary have been linked since the early 1980s in the development of the tilt-rotor programme for the US Department of Defense.

According to senior US defence sources, the negotiations are at "an advanced stage", and cover the establishment of a new company which would operate as a separate entity. Boeing and Textron would jointly hold shares in the company with the Seattle-based Boeing Defense and Space Group expected to hold the majority. Bell's commercial helicopter operation, based in Quebec, Canada, is believed to be unaffected by the plan.

Bell's current military helicopter activity, based around Fort Worth, Texas, is concerned mostly with manufacturing the AH-1W SuperCobra and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. Fort Worth is also the assembly site for the V-22. Boeing Helicopters, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is engaged in production of the CH-47 Chinook, as well as development work with Sikorsky on the RAH-66.

Boeing and Textron have declined to comment on the studies, news of which follows the publication on 4 August of a Pentagon report forecasting consolidation within the industry. The Industrial Assessment for Helicopters study points out that, by 2000, the current five military helicopter production programmes will be succeeded by just the V-22.


Source: Flight International