Westland has secured a contract to continue development of the advanced rotor-blade tips in service on the AgustaWestland EH101 and Super Lynx. The programme is intended to improve whole-life costs and helicopter operational capabilities.

The UK-based company says the contract is the third and final phase of the British Experimental Rotor Programme IV (BERP IV), with the UK Ministry of Defence and Westland each contributing £8 million ($13million).

Westland says BERP IV phase 3 is due to last until mid-2007 with the first flight of an EH101 equipped with the new blades planned for 2006. Specific BERP IV aims include reducing first and life cycle costs, while reducing vibration and improving hover and cruise performance.

During phase 3, the aim is to harmonise technologies into a single BERP blade suitable for EH101 and Lynx developments. BERP IV phase 1 ran from 1997 to 2000, investigating potential technologies for new blade designs. Phase 2, which ended last year, matured selected technologies including aerodynamics, dynamics, materials, structural design and test techniques, and manufacturing processes.

A more efficient blade will allow a helicopter to hover using less power, but the design must be carefully managed to retain the cruise performance.

Part of Westland's work has been to study ways to improve cost of ownership, an issue with composite blades, and ways to make it easier to repair damage.

Westland says it will act as prime contractor overseeing a team that includes UK research company Qinetiq.

The BERP programme began in 1975. Westland says the BERP allows the Royal Navy's EH101 Merlins to have a compact rotor system requiring the same storage volume as the Westland Sea King, despite the Merlin being 40% heavier.

Source: Flight International