Airbus Helicopters has been awarded a £122 million ($152 million) contract to supply six H145 light-twin helicopters to the UK for troop transport duties in Brunei and Cyprus.

Originally part of the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) procurement to replace now-retired Bell 212s and 412s, FlightGlobal revealed last November that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) would instead acquire H145s for the mission.

Jupiter HT1-c-Crown Copyright

Source: Crown Copyright

UK helicopter crews already train on H145-based Jupiter HT1

UK helicopter crews already train on a fleet of seven H145s as part of the Military Flight Training System programme, where the type is known as the Jupiter HT1.

No delivery timeline for the German-built helicopters has been disclosed, but the MoD says it expects the Jupiter HC2s to “take over aviation duties in Brunei and on Cyprus during 2026”.

That role has been performed by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) fleet of Puma HC2 helicopters in Brunei since 2022 and Cyprus since 2023.

Minister for defence procurement James Cartlidge says purchasing the H145s – effectively and off-the-shelf product – will avoid “unnecessary over-speccing, and overspending”. The MoD says it will also benefit from greater commonality across the UK defence inventory and from a large installed global fleet.

Baseline H145s are being acquired rather than the dedicated military M-model variant which is capable of being armed. Modifications for the Brunei and Cyprus missions will be carried out at Airbus Helicopters UK’s site at Oxford airport.

However, the H145s will be military-registered and flown by both RAF and army aircrew. 

The RAF’s Pumas are also due to be replaced under the NMH programme. A support contract with Airbus Helicopters runs until 2025, but the MoD last year said it intended to trigger a three-year extension.

With the winning NMH platform unlikely to enter service before 2027, based on contracting and delivery timelines, it is unclear whether the MoD will trigger the full three-year extension or potentially tolerate a short capability gap.

The MoD says that work continues to determine the optimum retirement date for the Puma fleet.

Despite the removal of the Brunei and Cyprus missions from the NMH requirement the MoD says it remains committed to the programme and “there is no change to the scope of the advertised New Medium Helicopter contract notice”.

The most recent contract notice – published in May 2022 – says the UK will acquire “up to 44 platforms” for a total budget of as much as £1.2 billion, excluding VAT.

Contenders for NMH are the Airbus Helicopters H175M, Leonardo Helicopters AW149 and Sikorsky S-70M.