The Chilean army has released an informal request for information (RFI) for new or modernised used attack helicopters. But questions remain about Chile's ability to fund a programme following the air force's Lockheed Martin F-16 purchase. There are also doubts about the US government's willingness to sell precision-guided weapons to arm the helicopters.

Industry sources say Chile has circulated a briefly worded RFI to identify options. The army is understood to be seeking up to 12 machines, but has budgeted only around $250 million, making most new types too expensive. Kuwait's recent deal for 16 Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbows is worth $2.1 billion.

Chilean attention is focused on the AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta, Bell AH-1 Cobra and Eurocopter Tiger, but it is also looking at refurbished AH-1s and Eurocopter AS565 Panthers.The US Army has more than 250 AH-1Fs in store, which a number of companies have looked at to modernise and sell, including Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Bell has promoted the MH-1W "defanged Cobra" in South America for several years. To comply with US government restrictions the MH-1W has no guided weapons and is armed only for defensive escort missions. "We're looking for more information to evaluate and until then we can't say what we could do," says Bell.

Source: Flight International