Agreement to provide network expertise for modified H-92 gives manufacturer third foot in competition

Sikorsky has selected Boeing’s Air Force Systems division as mission-system integrator for its HH-92 entry in the planned US Air Force Personnel Recovery Vehicle (PRV) competition. The agreement will be exclusive unless the USAF elects for a high-low mix of aircraft to meet the combat search-and rescue requirement.

The proposed HH-92, based on the MH-92/CH-148 maritime helicopter under development for the Canadian Forces, is expected to face competition for the 146-aircraft requirement from the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, Boeing MH-47 Chinook and Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland/Bell US101.

The USAF plans to buy 141 PRVs, plus five test aircraft, in an initial Block 0 standard to replace its Sikorsky HH-60s from 2008, followed later by 141 kits to upgrade the aircraft to a more sophisticated Block 10 configuration. But the PRV has yet to be approved by the US Department of Defense, and the USAF may be forced by Congress to conduct an analysis of alternatives next year to see whether the requirement can be met by upgrading existing helicopters.

If the PRV requirement is approved, a final request for proposals is expected in July, leading to contract by February/March next year, with the selected type to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) in 2011.

Bell Boeing says the USAF’s CV-22 special-operations tiltrotor, set for IOC in 2009, is the baseline for the Block 0 version of its proposed PRV-22, and is “60% compliant with PRV Block 10”. More expensive than a helicopter, the PRV-22 could be delivered earlier, and fewer of the faster tiltrotors could be required to fulfil the mission, says Bob Carrese, executive director, V-22 business development.

The need to network PRVs with other systems to provide real-time threat updates is behind Sikorsky’s decision to team with Boeing’s Airborne ISR unit, which is developing the Block 40/45 upgrade of the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System. “We do platform systems integration; Boeing brings network systems integration,” says Paul Martin, Sikorsky senior vice-president.

  •  Lockheed has awarded General Electric a $50 million contract to provide CT7-8E engines for the VXX presidential helicopter programme. The uprated engines will power three US101 demonstrators – modified EH101s. The 23-aircraft VXX fleet is to achieve IOC in 2009, and the development programme will support Lockheed’s PRV bid, says Steve Ramsey, executive vice-president for helicopter systems.

Source: Flight International