Lockheed Martin unveiled the final shape of its team for the 28-aircraft Canadian Maritime Helicopter Programme (MHP) at Paris yesterday and announced a new designation for its NH90-based bid.
The aircraft will be known as the NH90-C, focusing on Lockheed Martin Canada's position as the only home-grown prime contractor in the field.
That field is now slightly narrower, with confirmation that NH Industries has withdrawn its NFH version of the NH90 from the selection process and will instead back the Lockheed Martin Canada proposal as the airframer.
The NH90-C team also includes NH Industries partners Agusta and Eurocopter, plus Thales Systems Canada, which will partner Lockheed Martin on the mission system for the aircraft.
The complex acquisition, worth an estimated C$3.1 billion ($2.3 billion) is currently in the pre-qualification phase.
The Canadian government has asked all bidders to meet a demanding list of more than 3,000 technical requirements as the key to reaching the next phase, due to begin in August. Surviving bids will then be assessed on a lowest cost basis.
The drive for lowest cost acquisition has been criticised in some quarters, with fears that the mission capability requirements were being eroded in favour of a cheaper acquisition cost.
Rod Skotty, vice-president for business development at Lockheed Martin Canada, dismisses that suggestion, saying: "The requirements haven't changed.
"We are absolutely convinced that our bid offers the best platform and the best package of industrial regional benefits (IRB).
"We have approached our solution by finding the best mission system and then marrying that to the right airframe, not the other way round.
"We believe that is the right approach."
Lockheed Martin Canada is stressing the Canadian content on its bid and the fact that 50% of the 20-year in-service support work will be performed by Canadian suppliers.
It has also welcomed Aboriginal companies to the team as a further statement of its commitment to Canadian participation.
Skotty adds that the NH90 represents the best fit for the aircraft's deployment, which will be on board the Canadian fleet of Halifax Class frigates.
Lockheed Martin Canada delivered and supports the combat system for the frigates and argues that this synergy also adds weight to its bid.
A final selection is expected next April, just weeks after Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien leaves office.
Chretien cancelled the original order for 50 EH Industries EH101s in 1993, sparking a decade of delays and political wrangling.
Source: Flight Daily News