AgustaWestland has reiterated its belief that a new military helicopter can be designed and built at its Yeovil, UK facility – but only with the backing of the country’s government.

Discussions between senior company executives and the UK administration have taken place, says an AgustaWestland source.

“We told them that investing for the future with old platforms doesn’t make much sense, or being too reliant on US technology.”

The airframer is targeting a potential long-term requirement to replace the AW101 Merlin HM2s operated by the Royal Navy and the Airbus Helicopters Puma HC2s in the Royal Air Force inventory. Under current Ministry of Defence proposals these could be retired at the same time, in around 2035.

Earlier this year, AgustaWestland chief executive Daniele Romiti suggested that the UK and Italian governments should work together to launch a new transport helicopter platform.

“We are open to any solution coming from the MoD,” says the source. “We want to give a role to Westland: it cannot just be a maintenance centre, or we will have to size Yeovil for that.”

The company wants to ensure that the site in Somerset retains its design capabilities, “but it needs a new programme on the desk, otherwise you can’t protect the design expertise”, the source says. “I think a solution can be found, and we are working on that. [Minister of state for defence procurement] Philip Dunne is open to solutions.”