Study contracts for the US Coast Guard's Integrated Deepwater System re-equipment programme are scheduled to be awarded within the next two weeks, according to bidders.

Just three of the four bidders are expected to move forward into the first phase of the programme to replace the Coast Guard's Deepwater force, which includes fleets of aircraft and surface vessels. The four teams which submitted bids are led by Avondale Industries, Halter Marine, Lockheed Martin and Science Applications International (SAIC).

Shipbuilder Avondale is teamed with Boeing and Raytheon Systems; Lockheed Martin with Bell Helicopter Textron and shipbuilder Ingalls; and SAIC has joined with Sikorsky.

Under the initial 16-month concept development phase, the contenders will be asked to draw up recommendations for modernising the Coast Guard's deepwater force, including options for financing the programme. Following a second phase, intended to produce more detailed cost estimates, the Coast Guard plans to award a production contract in January 2002.

Bell, meanwhile, is to demonstrate the XV-15 tiltrotor research aircraft at the Coast Guard's Mobile, Alabama, aviation training centre later this month in support of efforts to market its Bell 609 civil tiltrotor for the Deepwater mission. Amockup of the proposed HV-609 search and rescue variant will also be displayed.

As the "aviation lead" on Lockheed Martin's Team Deepwater, Bell is evaluating the 609 tiltrotor in addition to other manufacturers' aircraft.

At the same time, the company is supplying information on the 609 to the competing teams. Bell believes its tiltrotor has the potential to replace the fixed-wing Dassault HU-25s, as well as the Eurocopter HH-65 and Sikorsky HH-60J helicopters operated by the Coast Guard.

Source: Flight International