Bell has been asked by the US Marine Corps to study building new airframes for the H-1 upgrade programme, as an alternative to remanufacturing the existing helicopters as now planned. "We have been asked to look at the potential for phasing in all-new helicopters," says chief executive Mike Redenbaugh.

The study follows the US Navy's decision to build all-new Sikorsky MH-60Rs rather than remanufacture SH-60s, and Boeing's recent move to manufacture new airframes for US Army Chinooks being modernised to CH-47F standard. The main driver behind the study is the USMC's need to keep as many of its UH-1N utility helicopters deployed as possible, rather than taking them out of service for remanufacture to UH-1Y standard. Redenbaugh says building new airframes should also be cheaper.

All-new airframes are also being considered as an alternative to the planned remanufacturing of the USMC's AH-1W attack helicopters to AH-1Z standard. This would help Bell's efforts to sell the upgraded Super Cobra internationally by providing a "hot" new-aircraft production line, Redenbaugh acknowledges.

Source: Flight International