Eurocopter has begun talks with potential US prime contractors as it looks at offering the NH Industries NH90 helicopter to meet the US Air Force's Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) requirement.

"We are taking the requirement seriously and decided to answer the RFI [request for information]," says Eurocopter chief executive Fabrice Bregier. "We expect to team with a strong US partner for the RFP [request for proposals]." RFI responses were due at the end of June, with the RFP expected in 2006.

"We have begun talks with potential partners," says Bregier, identifying these only as "big US companies". Previous talks with Boeing on offering the NH90 to meet US military requirements ended two years ago. "They collapsed for a number of reasons," he says.

Bregier adds: "We are looking for a company that can play a leading role and give the US customer value for money when coupled with Eurocopter on mission-system integration." Offering the NH90 for assembly in the USA is in line with parent company EADS's strategy of increasing its North American presence, he points out.

Eurocopter's plan to offer the European-developed NH90 as a US product managed by a US company is similar to the model adopted by AgustaWestland for the US101, the Lockheed Martin-primed, US-manufactured version of the EH101 that is being offered for the US presidential VXX requirement and is also expected to be a competitor for the PRV deal.

Sikorsky is expected to offer its S-92 for the latter requirement, which totals 132 aircraft to be acquired in two phases. An initial 61 helicopters will be delivered from 2011 to replace the USAF's Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawks, with a further 71 higher-speed tiltrotor or other aircraft to be deployed within the next two decades (Flight International, 8-14 June).

AgustaWestland is also a partner in the NH90, but Eurocopter is leading efforts to interest the US military in the helicopter. "They are pushing their 100% helicopter and we are pushing their 30% helicopter. There is a clear understanding," says Bregier.



Source: Flight International