A spate of competitions has energised the military rotorcraft industry, with new opportunities to sell upgraded, remanufactured and new-build aircraft

Slowly but steadily the world’s military rotorcraft fleets are being renewed. Several substantial competitions have just been decided, or will be over the coming months as the industry experiences its most active period in recent decades.

In July, Bell won the US Army’s $3.6 billion, 368-aircraft Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) programme with a derivative of its Model 407 light commercial helicopter. The 407 ARH was selected over the A/MH-6 proposed by Boeing. All 368 helicopters are to be delivered over six years beginning in 2007.

A competition for the US Army’s 322-aircraft Light Utility Helicopter requirement is under way, with award of the $1.3 billion contract due in April. Competing will be Bell, with either the Model 210 or 412, EADS North America with a US-built UH-145 version of Eurocopter’s EC145; and Lockheed Martin, offering MD Helicopters’ MD Explorer. AgustaWestland may offer either its A119 or A109.

Next up will be the US Air Force’s 141-aircraft CSAR-X combat search-and-rescue competition, expected to be worth $11-12 billion. Declared competitors include Boeing with an HH-47 derivative of the MH-47G special-operations Chinook; Lockheed Martin/AgustaWestland, with a development of the US101 that won the $6.2 billion, 26-aircraft VXX presidential helicopter contest in January; and Sikorsky, with an HH-92 derivative of its S-92. Bell Boeing is offering a version of the CV-22 special-operations Osprey in the hope of a split helicopter/tiltrotor purchase.

Elsewhere, the UK Ministry of Defence is gearing up for a £3 billion ($5.4 billion) rotorcraft renewal programme, having selected AgustaWestland’s remanufactured Future Lynx proposal as the preferred solution for its battlefield and shipborne light helicopter requirements. A 70-helicopter medium-lift requirement is likely to be competed between the AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin and NH Industries NH90, but could also draw offers of the Boeing CH-47 and Sikorsky CH-53X.

Turkey is close to deciding a $1.5 billion contest for 50 off-the-shelf attack helicopters, which was expected to attract offers of the AgustaWestland A129 International, Bell AH-1Z, BoeingAH-64D, Denel Rooivalk, Eurocopter Tiger, Kamov Ka-50 and Mil Mi-28N. Turkey has also launched a competition for 52 general-purpose helicopters.

South Korea is due to select a foreign partner for its 245-aircraft utility helicopter requirement in October. Under the Korea Helicopter Programme, AgustaWestland, Bell and Eurocopter have submitted offers to assist Korea Aerospace Industries in developing at 6.8t-class aircraft for delivery from 2011. Having abandoned plans to develop an indigenous attack helicopter, Korea plans to launch a contest in 2008. Taiwan, meanwhile, has delayed procurement of 30 attack helicopters to 2008 because of budget pressures.

India is increasingly meeting its own helicopter requirements, with the indigenously developed HAL Advanced Light Helicopter, Light Combat Helicopter and re-engining of its Cheetah and Chetak. But the country is still seen as a large potential market, with a competition for 197 light helicopters to be decided soon. Bell is offering the 407, Eurocopter the AS550 and Kamov the Ka-226.


Source: Flight International