Helicopter manufacturers continue to say the US Army could save a significant amount of money if it sticks with a single-engined helicopter trainer, rather than transitioning to a dual-engined type as planned.
As part of its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, the army says it will save money by grounding its entire fleet of single-engined Bell Helicopter OH-58 Kiowa Warrior scouts, and its related TH-67 Creek trainers. The service plans to purchase 100 new twin-engined Airbus Helicopters UH-72 Lakotas over two years – at a cost of $804 million – and use these as trainers.
Robert LaBelle, chief executive of AgustaWestland North America, told Flightglobal on 5 May that an aircraft like his company's single-engined AW119Kx costs one-half as much to buy as a twin-engined model like the Lakota – and one-third to one-quarter as much to operate.
The army could save $3 billion over 20 years with a fleet of some 200 single-engined trainers, adds LaBelle, speaking during the Army Aviation Association of America's Mission Solutions Summit in Nashville, Tennessee.
The numbers show that the idea of saving money by eliminating the entire TH-67 fleet and its related infrastructure is a "myth", according to LaBelle.
AgustaWestland is pitching its civilian AW119Kx – known as the Koala – as an ideal military trainer, noting that it has redundant hydraulic systems and a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit that is night vision compatible. No modifications would be needed, he adds.
LaBelle says the company will bid on an army contract if the service opens a competition.
In addition, the company is pursuing a deal to sell or potentially lease AW119Kxs to the US Navy.
Meanwhile, Bell Helicopter has made similar arguments about cost, telling Flightglobal last week that training in TH-67s, which have an average age of 16 years, is "better value" for the army.
TH-67s cost $1,000-1,500 less per flight hour to operate than Lakotas, claims Mike Miller, Bell's director of military business development.