Medium-lift helicopter to be offered for range of emerging US military requirements

Bell, Boeing and Kaman Aerospace are topping the list of potential subcontractors to build the US101 version of the AgustaWestland EH101, which will be offered by Lockheed Martin for a number of US armed forces requirements.

AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin signed a 10-year agreement at last month's Farnborough air show and they now have three months to secure a deal with a US subcontractor to assemble the medium-lift machine locally.

"The objective is to put together a complete team as soon as possible. We're not looking in any one direction, everyone is in play," says Steve Moss, president Agusta-Westland USA. This will be followed by a decision on which engine to offer on the US101, with the company polling potential customers while looking at the growth potential of the incumbent General Electric CT7-8 and Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322.

Each potential airframe builder has its advantages. There is already a strong relationship between Boeing and AgustaWestland shareholder GKN, while the US company's Apache attack helicopter is built by Westland in the UK.

Bell also has strong links to the Italian-UK venture through the Bell Agusta Aerospace Group, but like Boeing is sensitive to anything that could undermine the V-22 tiltrotor.

Kaman is viewed as a neutral option, not having a large enough helicopter to compete against the US101, but it also does not have the same industrial or political clout as Bell or Sikorsky. The latter is another possibility, but it is difficult to see how the company could reconcile building the US101 with its large investment in the smaller, but competing S-92 helicopter.

AgustaWestland is targeting the US101 at several emerging US military requirements, the closest of which is a replacement for the US Air Force's combat search and rescue Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawks. The company is also keen to promote the US101 as an alternative to remanufacturing or building new CH-53E heavylift machines for the US Marine Corps and MH-53Es for the navy.

"Today's US101 does about 80% of the CH-53's mission. In the [vertical onboard delivery] mission we can lift everything apart from one or two pieces of equipment. The US101, furthermore, can grow into a larger aircraft, with an upgraded gearbox, bigger landing gear and plugged fuselage," adds Moss.

Source: Flight International