Success in engine competition could bring additional sales as helicopter likely to be chosen for SAR and CSAR needs

The Japan Defence Agency (JDA) is preparing to select an engine for14 AgustaWestland EH101 helicopters being acquired by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) from 2006.

Victory in the powerplant competition could open the door to significant additional sales. The EH101 is seen as the front runner to win follow-on orders from the JDA for the JMSDF's pending search and rescue (SAR) helicopter requirement, and to meet the Air Self Defense Force's combat search and rescue aircraft (CSAR) need. The initial helicopters will be used for mine countermeasures and Antarctic support duties.

Best and final engine offers have been submitted by Ishikawajima-harima (IHI) and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI), fronting offersof the General Electric T700/T6A1 and Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322, respectively.

Although the JDA has yet to announce selection of the three-engined EH101, AgustaWestland and local partner (KHI) won the tender by default as Sikorsky and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries decided not to bid the twin-engined H-92. The JDA was due to confirm the order in May, but this has been repeatedly delayed and may slip to December, say industry sources.

Sikorsky says it plans to compete for the SAR and CSAR requirements with the H-60 or H-92 and the manufacturer hopes there will be overlap between the Japanese CSAR requirement and a potential US Air Force procurement.

IHI has already produced significant numbers of T700s and KHI would licence-assemble RTM322s if selected. Industry sources suggest the RTM322 has an advantage because it is equipped with a full authority digital engine control.

AgustaWestland delivered two A109LUH light utility helicopters to the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration FMV on 10 September. The machines are the first of 20 ordered by Sweden in June last year, for delivery between now and 2007. Sweden's joint service helicopter wing will use the aircraft - designated HKP15 - for advanced training (12) and naval operational training (eight). The company has also flown the first A109LUH for the South African Air Force. Five will be built at Agusta's Vergiate, Italy, plant with another 25 to be built by Denel in South Africa.


Source: Flight International