Airbus Helicopters remains confident that it can persuade Japan’s defence ministry to reconsider its decision to select a combined Bell Helicopter/Fuji Heavy Industries bid for its UH-X contest over the European manufacturer’s own clean-sheet proposal.
The Bell/Fuji team was in July chosen by Tokyo to produce around 150 examples of their Bell 412-derived UH-X offering to replace the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force's fleet of UH-1 Hueys. In addition, the partners are likely to target the export market with the new model.
However, Airbus Helicopters, which was teamed with long-time local partner Kawasaki Heavy Industries, had proposed a “brand new platform” in the 4-5t-class for the contest, says chief executive Guillaume Faury.
He says the company will “continue to push” the defence ministry to rethink its choice, arguing that the 412 – which he describes as “a very old platform” - does not offer Japan the basis for a helicopter that will be an export success and which features modern technology, two of the key objectives for the procurement.
“I have expressed my surprise that this platform has been selected,” says Faury. “I have some reservations on the potential for the selection chosen by the ministry of defence to fulfill these objectives.”
Airbus Helicopters is, however, not seeking a replacement national partner to develop the new rotorcraft, says Faury. “We are not looking for alternatives.”
Little detail has emerged on the new design, but some commentators have speculated that it could be the manufacturer’s X9 programme, previously assumed to be destined for its Donauwörth, Germany site.