Studies of the US rotorcraft industry commissioned by the US Department of Defense (DoD) have concluded there is little or no competition between helicopter manufacturers and there is little prospect of changing this without injecting fresh funding for new research and development (R&D) programmes.

"The studies concluded that we don't have as much competition in the helicopter industry as we would like and because of that we're not innovating enough," says Pete Aldridge, DoD undersecretary acquisitions, logistics and technology. "We're beginning to think about what we can do in this industry that is essentially defined as three - Bell, Boeing and Sikorsky," he adds.

Of the new military rotary-wing programmes now in development, both are collaborative efforts that have been under way since the 1980s. Competitiveness has been further undermined by the growing number of helicopters that are returning to their original manufacturers for modernisation.

Aldridge was briefed on the studies ahead of having to decide on the fate of a number of these programmes that were in breach of the Nunn-McCurdy Act on cost overruns. One of the criteria for exemption from the Act is the absence of any cheaper alternatives. While none currently exist, the investigations did highlight the needfor more R&D money for new programmes.

Source: Flight International