NFA expected to open bidding for possible 12-rotorcraft deal in fourth quarter

Taiwan's National Fire Administration (NFA) has begun seeking information from manufacturers for the potential purchase of six medium and six heavy helicopters.

Taiwanese industry officials expect the NFA to formally open a competition for the estimated $160 million programme in the fourth quarter, following government funding approval, and select two types in the first half of next year.

For the heavy portion of the requirement, preliminary information is being sought on the Eurocopter AS332L2 Super Puma, Kamov Ka-32, Kazan Mi-17 and Sikorsky S-70A Fire Hawk. So far the four types in contention for the medium-size competition are the Bell Agusta AB139, Bell 412, Eurocopter EC135 and Sikorsky S-76.

The NFA wants to replace its fleet of about 20 ex-Taiwanese army Bell UH-1H Hueys to improve its capability for emergency medical services (EMS), search and rescue (SAR) and firefighting missions. The heavy helicopters will be used to fight fires in forests and urban areas and to help the medium helicopters in some EMS and SAR missions.

The government voiced its support for new NFA helicopters after an earthquake in 1999, which confirmed a requirement for more overland search and rescue helicopters. The Huey fleet has struggled to meet some high-altitude missions and was briefly grounded in March after two crashes.

Budget constraints have held back the start of the procurement process until this year, however. NFA has asked manufacturers to provide comparative information and hopes to release a request for proposals by October.

Source: Flight International