AgustaWestland is close to announcing a teaming partnership in the USA to produce the EH Industries EH101 helicopter for domestic military and coastguard applications, in a move that could herald a further round of consolidation in the rotary wing industry.

"There has been a lot of dialogue and not all of it initiated by us, which suggests there is market need for a helicopter like the EH101. We have been talking with all parties except Sikorsky and hope to sign an initial agreement in time for the Paris air show," says Ron Jones, AgustaWestland business group director.

The company sees a potential US market for at least 250 EH101s and possibly as many as 500 spread across a range of different military and government agencies. The General Electric T700-powered version of the helicopter has over 35% US content, and it is estimated a local production line would generate up to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Bell has already acknowledged interest in the EH101 as a complement to its V-22 tiltrotor and is teamed with AgustaWestland to compete for Canada's Maritime Helicopter Programme. Agusta furthermore has a joint venture with Bell to develop the BA609 civil tiltrotor and AB139 medium size helicopter.

Jones says that discussions are not limited to just helicopter manufacturers, but aerospace companies in general. Boeing, as an integrator, is also part of the Canadian EH101 team and has licensed Westland to produce the WAH-64D Apache AH1. Other potential partners include Lock-heed Martin, which took over integration responsibility for the UK and Italian EH101 helicopters.

AgustaWestland is looking for a partner well positioned to compete for emerging requirements for a US Air Force Sikorsky HH-60G replacement, the US Marine Corps' future executive transport, the US Navy's vertical onboard delivery role and the US Coast Guard's Deepwater re-equipment programme. Equity is not a consideration in finding a EH101 partner, but any tie up will likely lead to an anticipated further round of industrial consolidation. "I can't see that we're going to stay as we are for any great period of time. The business has another step to go. There are too many players over here and one too many in Europe," Jones says.

Source: Flight International