Leonardo Helicopters has revealed the industrial team that will form part of its bid for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement, as the manufacturer attempts to boost domestic content on the platform.
Featuring more than 70 companies from across the country, Team AW149 UK “represents a cross-section of the best in British engineering and manufacturing”, says Leonardo Helicopters UK managing director Nick Whitney.
If it wins the NMH contest, AW149s for the UK and export would be built at the airframer’s Yeovil assembly line in southwest England.
“We stand by with the ambition, passion and drive to build, maintain and sustain the British helicopter industry,” Whitney adds.
With the blades and transmission already made in Yeovil, Leonardo Helicopters is aiming to increase the proportion of UK content on the AW149 to 60%, including the final assembly activity. The domestic value of through-life support will be at a similar level, it says.
Those 70 companies represent around half of the 60% goal, says Mike Morrisoe, head of UK campaigns at the airframer, adding: “We are looking at further equipment to onshore. We have a list of candidate items and there will be more focused supply chain engagement sessions within the next few months.”
Part of the first cohort of companies to join Team AW149 UK is Marlow, Buckinghamshire-based Chelton – formerly Cobham Aerospace Connectivity.
“Being a British company, Chelton is immensely proud to supply our highly engineered advanced avionic solutions to a platform built here in the UK,” says Luca Pelazzo, business unit manager – antennas. Chelton already supplies equipment for other Leonardo Helicopters platforms including the AW101 and AW159.
Marcus Harland, business development executive at Margate, Kent-based RDDS, adds: “We are hugely pleased to be part of the AW149 team. It builds on the positive connection we have already built with Leonardo.”
Other suppliers highlighted include Abaco Systems, Aerco, Ford Aerospace, Forges Solutions Group, Incora, LFD and Techtest.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced earlier this year that the NMH would by mid-decade replace the Royal Air Force’s Puma HC2 transports, plus three other British Army-operated types.
Details of the NMH requirements have yet to be released, although the AW149 is likely to face competition from the Airbus Helicopters H175M and Sikorsky UH-60/S-70i Black Hawk.
Airbus Helicopters says if selected it would build the H175M at the Broughton site in North Wales, which makes wings for the group’s commercial aviation division.
While denying the NMH contest is “do or die” for the Yeovil plant, Whitney says that should the AW149 fail to be selected it could make the wider Leonardo group question its levels of investment in the UK.
“My concern would be if our own MoD doesn’t show confidence in the rotary-wing provider which is already established in the UK that does lead to questions.”