Company set to team with Eurocopter for PRV programme

Northrop Grumman intends to team with Eurocopter to contend for a major US Air Force contract with the NH90 medium-lift helicopter, according to sources.

The proposed team would challenge the Sikorsky S-92 and the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland US101 for the Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) programme, launched this year to replace the USAF's ageing combat search and rescue Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.

The USAF has unveiled plans to buy at least 66 traditional helicopters, with an in-service date as early as 2010.

The plan also projects a requirement for a follow-on order for another 66 aircraft with far greater speed and endurance, exceeding the limits of existing helicopter technology and suggesting the performance of tiltrotor aircraft.

Northrop Grumman is seeking to bid as a prime contractor, and has been actively seeking an alliance with an established helicopter manufacturer. An industry source says that a Northrop Grumman/Eurocopter team would be led by the Integrated Systems unit based in Melbourne, Florida, which also is the prime for the Airbus A321-based Alliance Ground Surveillance system being ordered by NATO.

The partnership would set up a third clash between the three rival helicopter designs, which most recently competed for Canada's Maritime Helicopter Programme, awarded last week to Sikorsky. The NH90 bid was disqualified by Canadian authorities last December as a non-compliant design.

The air force launched the PRV competition in early February, establishing a programme office at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. Northrop Grumman representatives attended an industry day event near the base in early March, at the time focusing on bidding as a subcontractor to either Sikorsky or the US101 team. Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems Sector is still working to join all three teams in the competition.

The NH90 bid must take shape soon. A request for proposals is expected to be released later this year. The air force has scheduled one-on-one meetings later this month with both Sikorsky and the Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland team, but has not listed plans to meet the NH90 bidders.



Source: Flight International