AgustaWestland out of contest to supply coastguard with new large helicopters

The Japan Coast Guard is evaluating the Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma and Sikorsky S-92, but has ruled out the AgustaWestland EH101 in a competition for new large helicopters.

Industry sources say the coastguard is reviewing data submitted by Eurocopter and Sikorsky and will make a selection within the next two months. A contract for two aircraft to be used for ship interception is expected to be signed late this year. A second contract for at least another four aircraft in search-and-rescue configuration will probably follow a few years later.

Sikorsky is looking for its firstS-92 sale in Japan after it failed to convince the Japan Defence Agency (JDA) to consider the S-92 for its AS332 Super Puma VIP helicopter replacement programme. The JDA earlier this year decided to acquire EC225s without evaluating the S-92 or EH101 to ensure it has three new helicopters operating before the 2010 G8 summit meeting, to be held in Japan (Flight International, 19-25 April).

“Considering the time constraints until the summit meeting and the efficiency of training pilots and mechanics, we selected the EC225 to replace the older [Super Puma] versions,” the JDA says.

The JDA is also acquiring Kawasaki-assembled EH101s for navy mine-countermeasures and Antarctic support missions. Kaw­a­saki and AgustaWestland have been trying to sell the EH101 for other missions in an effort to boost the production rate, which will average about only one aircraft annually over the next few years. But sources say the coastguard has decided against the EH101 because it is too large for its requirement and too expensive given the budget it has been allocated.

The coastguard is also seeking to replace an S-76 that crashed and is evaluating a proposal by Sikorsky on a new S-76C++. It is also evaluating the new S-76D and Bell/Agusta AB139 to replace its fleet of nearly 30 Bell 212s. Manufacturers expect this procurement to be launched in 2006 or 2007.

  •  The S-92 and Super Puma are competing for a Chinese requirement for at least two large search-and-rescue helicopters. China’s ministry of communications, which operates S-76s, has been evaluating the S-92 for the last two years. Sources say China has expressed interest in acquiring S-92s without holding a formal competition, but Sikorsky is not yet authorised to sell the aircraft in China.

Sikorsky is waiting for the US State Department to decide that the S-92 does not require special licensing as it has no defence content. Eurocopter, supported by European politicians, is lobbying China to release a formal tender.


Source: Flight International