KAMAN AEROSPACE, Sikorsky Aircraft and a McDonnell Douglas/Westland team are among those bidding for the US Navy's two-month demonstration of commercially operated helicopters for vertical replenishment (vertrep) of naval vessels.

A request for proposals (RFP) was issued by the US Military Sealift Command in May. The USN is studying the feasibility of replacing 75 USN Boeing CH-46D helicopters with civil rotorcraft operated by a contractor.

Kaman Aerospace responded with a bid based around the K-MAX commercial external-lift-helicopter. "The K-MAX offers real opportunities in bringing economy and a new way of doing vertical replenishment," says Charles Kaman, the firm's founder, chairman and chief executive.

Sikorsky Aircraft proposes use of the H-60 helicopter. Eurocopter considered offering the Super Puma, but in the end opted not to answer the RFP.

McDonnell Douglas and Westland are offering the EH101. The US company has an agreement with Westland to market the EH101 for potential marine roles.

Flight International cannot immediately confirm whether there are other bidders, although commercial-helicopter operators are thought to have responded.

The winner will conduct seven field trials, covering different vertrep missions, using two helicopters. Following the feasibility flights, the USN plans a two-year flight evaluation to demonstrate the concept further.

Source: Flight International