PROSPECTS for civil sales are improving, but the military-helicopter market remains oversubscribed. India's Hindustan Aeronautics, with its Advanced Light Helicopter, and Kawasaki, with its OH-X armed scout now in development, are two of the more recent entrants. Kawasaki is also considering offering the OH-X to meet the Japan Air Self-Defence Force's requirement for an attack helicopter.

In the European market, McDonnell Douglas (MDC) triumphed over Eurocopter in the Netherlands' and the UK's attack-helicopter competitions. Both opted for the AH-64D in preference to the Bell AH-1W and Eurocopter Tiger.

Subsequent to these competitive losses, the Tiger project has come under increasing budgetary pressure in France and Germany, with procurement numbers and delivery timetables being re-examined. Another key Franco-German helicopter project, the NH90 military utility helicopter, has also come under budgetary pressure.

Westland, Europe's other helicopter manufacturer, has fared better in the defence sector. Teamed with MDC, it will provide 67 WAH-64s for the British Army Air Corps. After much haggling, the UK Ministry of Defence has also ordered the Westland/Agusta EH101 for the Royal Air Force, despite the RAF's preference for the Boeing Chinook.

Westland is also looking to launch a revamped Super Lynx maritime helicopter on the back of Australian and New Zealand requirements, where it is in competition with Kaman.

In the USA, the Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche attack/reconnaissance helicopter was flown for the first time early this year. An in-service date of 2006 is now projected for the RAH-66, three years later than originally intended.

Russia's army aviation is faced with an ageing fleet of Mil Mi-24 Hind armed-support helicopters, while its intended next-generation combat helicopters have been produced in minimal numbers. Only a handful of Mil Mi-28 Havoc attack helicopters have been built, with around 20 of the single-seat Kamov Ka-50 Hokum being produced.

Mil and Kamov are working on upgraded variants, the all-weather night-attack-capable Mi-28N, and the two-seat millimetre-wave-radar-equipped Ka-52.

South Africa's Denel at last secured an order for its CSH-2 Rooivalk from its own armed forces earlier this year. It is also aggressively pursuing an export order from Malaysia.

Source: Flight International