GKN Westland has held informal discussions with the UK Ministry of Defence aimed at resolving the future role of the Lynx helicopter within Britain's armed forces.
Analysts had believed that the MoD's long-term plan was a gradual phase out of the small ship helicopter in favour of a single type - either the EH Industries EH101 or the Bell Boeing V-22.
But Westland is proposing instead an upgrade programme for all British Army and Royal Navy Lynx HAS3 helicopters, which would extend their lifespan by 20 to 25 years.
Although no decision is imminent, such a move would be a marked change of direction toward a fleet based on mission requirements rather than simply commonality.
"This isn't a firm proposal as such," says a Westland spokesman, "but we believe a Lynx upgrade programme is certainly a viable option, especially set against the cost implications of introducing a new type such as the V-22."
Westland executives concede that there is considerable interest within the MoD in tiltrotor technology, but they remain confident in the future opportunities for both the EH101 and the uprated Lynx.
As always, funding restrictions will likely be the decisive factor. No firm requirement has been established for a replacement aircraft for the Lynx and an upgrade programme would seem to provide the most cost-efficient way forward.
The V-22 and EH101 will also be in competition with the Sikorsky S-92 in the merged future support helicopter programmes of the RN and RAF.
It brings together the RN's Future Amphibious Support Helicopter (FASH) programme and the RAF's Future Support Rotorcraft (FSR) project.