Boeing has shifted its approach to the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) contest and is no longer pursuing the requirement as a prime contractor, FlightGlobal understands.
The US firm was one of four companies – alongside Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters and Sikorsky – picked last September to proceed to the next stage of the NMH acquisition, having successfully passed the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) step.
But unlike its rivals in the process, Boeing was not proposing an airframe, instead offering a services, training and support solution, likely in the expectation that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) would contract that requirement separately to the aircraft.
In changing tack, the manufacturer will essentially still be offering the same range of solutions as before but will be approaching the contract in a different manner.
“Boeing continues to follow the New Medium Helicopter procurement with interest and explore how we can best support it, based on the MoD’s requirements and what technology we can offer.
“While we aren’t sharing specific details about our involvement at this time, Boeing has supported the UK armed forces for decades and employs hundreds of people across the country in helicopter sustainment, maintenance and training,” it says.
“We remain committed to understanding how we can continue to add value to the MoD’s existing and future helicopter fleets.”
Contenders for the NMH requirement, which is seeking to replace the Royal Air Force’s Puma HC2 fleet, alongside three other types, include the H175M, AW149 and S-70M Black Hawk.
Bidders are due to meet with UK defence officials on 24 February to receive an update on the procurement timeline.
That is likely to lay out a delay to the acquisition process. The three competitors were due to receive an invitation to negotiate by 31 March but this target now appears to have slipped as the programme office struggles to gain sign-off for the procurement.
“We are working incredibly hard now to secure the necessary cross-government approvals to allow us to launch the second stage of the competition as soon as possible,” said an official familiar with the process, addressing delegates at Defence IQ’s International Military Helicopter conference in London on 21 February.