Links forged and proposals due within next month for AEW&C and KMH competitions

Manufacturers are racing to forge possible partnership agreements for South Korea's airborne early-warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and indigenous Korean Multi-role Helicopter (KMH) competitions.

Proposals are due at the end of this month for South Korea's four-aircraft AEW&C requirement. Boeing and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) were the only two companies to sign up in March to submit proposals, but industry sources say IAI is still trying to complete a partnership arrangement with L-3 Communications. L-3 would integrate the mission system and Gulfstream supply the platform - a G550 business jet. L-3 is believed to be pushing IAI to cede its prime role because it would only be responsible for supplying the aircraft's Phalcon radar.

Boeing's proposal is more straightforward, mirroring the 737 platform with Northrop Grumman Mesa radar already sold to Australia and Turkey. A contract was to be awarded this year, but industry sources say a delay until next year is now likely because of budget constraints.

On the KMH programme, sources say Boeing discussed forging a consortium with Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky, but has rejected any teaming before the mid-June bid deadline. Sources say the three manufacturers, which are questioning the viability of pursuing the programme, instead will discuss possible teaming after the late July downselect.

The viability of the KMH, which calls for an indigenous aircraft to be delivered from 2010 with local manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) acting as prime, is being questioned because of South Korea's demands for heavy in-country investment and technology transfer.

Sources say US manufacturers also fear some of the requested technology transfer will not be approved by the US government, but may be more feasible for the two European manufacturers in the competition - AgustaWestland and Eurocopter.

Kaman Aerospace and a Russian consortium led by Rosoboron-export have also signed up to submit bids, but Kaman is seeking a teaming arrangement and the Russians are considered a long shot.

Bids are also due in July from AgustaWestland and Sikorsky for the supply of three large VIP helicopters to be operated by the Korean air force. The manufacturers expect a contract to be awarded in the fourth quarter of this year for delivery in 2006. An additional three aircraft may be acquired later.


Source: Flight International