ANGRY US contractors have tackled Lt Gen Harold Blot, the US Marine Corps' aviation chief, over the suspended Bell AH-1W Cobra Venom attack helicopter Integrated Weapons System (IWS) competition.

Blot, who attended the 18 May industry meeting at the urging of senior USMC officers, told the contractors that cost constraints and safety issues prompted suspension of the AH-1W cockpit-modernisation project, but he failed to disclose efforts being made to merge the USMC project with the British Army's attack-helicopter procurement programme.

Although some IWS bidders knew about the US/UK discussions (Flight International, 24-30 May), they failed to raise the issue with Blot. "There are times you don't embarrass a three-star General," one source says.

The IWS bidders will await the outcome of the UK attack-helicopter competition before deciding on their next course of action.

Informed sources say that Blot gained little in his "damage-control" effort with the IWS competitors, which include Rockwell, Loral/Bell Helicopter Textron, EER/GEC-Marconi, Honeywell, Tracor/Israel Aircraft Industries, Lockheed/Kaman and Teledyne.

It is understood that Blot has suggested a joint cost-sharing US/UK programme involving a common cockpit and dynamic-system upgrade.

In briefing all but one of the IWS contestants, Blot did not mention that the US Navy and the USMC had offered a collaborative programme in a letter to Roger Freeman, the UK's Minister for Defence Procurement, written on 3 May.

Rear Adm Brent Bennitt, the USN's air-warfare director, says: "The USMC has indicated a very strong desire to find a common [four-bladed rotor] solution for the UH-1N and the AH-1W." He also confirms that overtures have been made to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Source: Flight International