Boeing and Sikorsky have decided against bidding for a contract to help South Korea develop a new 6,800kg (15,000lb) utility helicopter, leaving AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter and Eurocopter to target the Korean Helicopter Programme (KHP).
Industry sources say Boeing and Sikorsky do not believe the programme presents a viable business case as it is currently outlined. The firms last year submitted bids for the earlier Korean Multi-role Helicopter (KMH) programme, but their proposals were not shortlisted as they did not comply with the now scrapped requirement. Sources suggest the companies participated last year to appease Seoul, but have now decided not to submit another non-compliant proposal.
Bell also is understood to be questioning whether there is a business case to pursue the contract given the current terms and conditions of the programme. The manufacturer has not yet decided whether it will submit a proposal next month, but if it does so, this is likely be non-compliant.
Eurocopter seems the most willing competitor to meet the requirement, but sources say South Korea is unhappy that it is being offered a similar package of technology that the European company is now negotiating to sell to China. Beijing last year launched the development of a new 6,000kg helicopter, with Eurocopter viewed as its most likely partner. AgustaWestland is meanwhile considering offering Seoul technology from its proposed militarised A149 version of the Bell/Agusta AB139.
South Korea late last year cancelled its KMH contest, which called for the development of a multirole helicopter with attack and utility variants, after a high-level review determined that the project was overly ambitious. The country has since dropped plans to develop an indigenous attack helicopter, but otherwise the programmes are nearly identical. South Korea is still proposing locally developing 71 items for the helicopter, including its rotor blade, drive shaft and gearbox. Some of the bidding companies believe the indigenous development of such high-technology items is not feasible and that Seoul’s technology transfer requirements remain too high.
Seoul insists on a new design and the flexibility to export the KHP aircraft. But some believe the programme needs another revision and will end up closer to a licence production deal. A foreign contractor is due be selected by October.
Source: Flight International