AgustaWestland and Bristow Helicopters have teamed up with two other suppliers to replace the US Navy’s fleet of 117 Bell Helicopter 206B3 basic trainers with an upgraded version of the AW119 aircraft on a fee-for-service contract.
Since August 2013, the USN has been evaluating options for replacing the TH-57 SeaRanger fleet that entered service 47 years ago. Bell stopped building the 206B3 in 2010, leaving the navy to confront a long list of obsolesce issues as the fleet ages.
The AgustaWestand/Bristow led team, along with Rockwell Collins’ simulators and Doss Aviation’s training services, is offering to introduce 80-85 AW119s over a four-year period for a cost no greater than the navy is already spending to operate the aging TH-57s.
“The response [from navy officials] has all been positive,” says AgustaWestland North America chief executive Robert LaBelle. “It’s something different so it takes a little while to digest and understand.”
The proposal includes a plan to upgrade the single-engined AW119 with avionics and wiring eligible for instrument flight rules (IFR) certification, LaBelle says. As a single-engined variant of the twin-engined A109, the AW119 already is equipped with the dual hydraulic systems needed to meet IFR certification, LaBelle says.
The IFR-certificated AW119 also generate additional sales in the commercial market, LaBelle says. AgustaWestland assembles the AW119 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The AW119 offer would most likely face competition from Airbus Helicopters. The LUH-72 Lakota, a derivative of the twin-engined H-145, is already selected by the US Army to replace a similar fleet of 180 Bell 206 trainers, which the army has designated as the TH-67.
Airbus also is offering the light, twin-engined H-135 and the single-engined H-125 under a conventional procurement arrangement.