Bell is pursuing a number of Asia-Pacific opportunities across its defence and commercial product lines.
A major focus regionally is for the AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter. South Korea’s marines are preparing a request for proposals for 24 attack helicopters, and have a separate requirement for two squadrons of utility helicopters.
In addition, the army plans an order of 24 attack helicopters, for which Bell will pitch the AH-1Z. In 2018 Tokyo issued an RFI for 30-40 attack helicopters that need to be able to operate aboard ships, and Canberra plans to obtain 29 new attack helicopters in the next decade.
Javier Ball, international campaign manager, Asia at Bell, points out that the US Marine Corps operates the AH-1Z regionally from amphibious assault ships. Given the emphasis regional militaries are placing on shipborne operations, a common attack helicopter type with Marines offers logistical benefits in a coalition setting.
For Australia, he notes that a pair of AH-1Zs can be loaded aboard the Boeing C-17. Bell is also pitching the 429 for a separate Australian special forces helicopter requirement. It had also pitched the single-engined 407, but sees Canberra leaning toward a twin-engined rotorcraft.
Ball says that a 429 and a AH-1Z can be carried simultaneously in a C-17, allowing a special forces helicopter to be deployed with an attack helicopter that can provide close air support.
The final tender for the special forces helicopter is expected in mid-2020.
All the competitions in which Bell is competing have attracted attention from various other major helicopter players, namely Boeing and Airbus Helicopters.
Patrick Moulay, Bell’s senior vice president international business, sees a number of opportunities on the commercial side.
Seoul continues to assess its options for the TH-X requirement for 41 training helicopters. He feels the Bell 505 remains in strong position despite an earlier deal for the type falling through.
Bell also continues to deliver on orders from China’s Reignwood for a total of 110 505s.
He notes that the 505 is proving a strong seller for the company, with 200 deliveries in the last two years - he declined to discuss monthly production figures for the single-engined type.
As for larger types, the company sees long-term potential from the Bell Subaru 412EPX, the commercial derivative of the UH-1X in development for the Japan Ground Self Defence Force. In addition to being produced in Japan, the 412 production line in Mirabel, Canada will likely transition to the 412EPX within a year.