Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Helicopter CEOs Believe Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative is Here to Stay
HAI Heli-Expo 2015 Orlando, Fla. - The North American CEOs of two helicopter contractors told Rotor & Wing they believe the Army's controversial Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) is here to stay.
"It seems like, considering the actions the Army's taking, that it's a done deal," AgustaWestland North America CEO Robert LaBelle said Monday here on the eve of the Helicopter Association International's (HAI) Heli-Expo show. "It seems to be the reality."
LaBelle said AgustaWestland missed out on a business opportunity when the Army decided to cancel its armed aerial scout (AAS) procurement in favor of using Boeing [BA] AH-64 Apaches in scout missions. As part of ARI, the Army active component decided to retire its OH-58 Kiowas while acquiring Apaches from from the Reserve and National Guard (ANG) in exchange for its UH-60 Black Hawks.
LaBelle said if the Army decides in the future it wants to procure helicopters for scout missions, AgustaWestland will be ready.
"The biggest thing that was affected by (ARI), from our perspective, was the scout program," LaBelle said ."We were offering the (AW169). The 169 is still there, still available. If the Army comes back around with a program, we'll be ready."
Marc Paganini, president and CEO of Airbus Helicopters, Inc., said Tuesday he believes ARI is "in place" and "working" and that he expects the transfer of Airbus' Lakotas to Fort Rucker, Ala., to be completed by the end of 2016. The Army in 2006 awarded Airbus a contract for Lakotas. As part of ARI, the Army decided to retire its TH-67 trainers developed by Bell Helicopter Textron and, instead, use Lakotas for training.
The Army in February awarded Airbus a $221 million contract modification for the procurement of 41 UH-72A Lakotas and 41 Airborne Radio Communications 231 Radios. This deal was awarded under the original 2006 contract.
Despite the reduction in domestic helicopter procurement due to ARI, Paganini said Airbus is focused on pursuing Foreign Military Sale (FMS) opportunities for Lakota. Paginini said Airbus had specific regions of the world the company was pursuing opportunities in, but declined to provide specifics. The Defense Department announced last September that Thailand requested nine UH-72A Lakotas and associated equipment, parts and support worth about $89 million.
Though LaBelle and Paganini might believe ARI is here to stay, Congress isn't entirely happy with ARI. Lawmakers in fiscal year 2015 requested a report on ARI and will revisit the issue during the FY '16 authorization and appropriation processes. Congress also wants a report on the costs of divesting the TH-67.
The AW169 is a latest-generation, 4.5 ton class, twin-engine helicopter powered by PW210A turboshaft engines developed by Pratt & Whitney Canada. It is marketed for a wide-range of missions, including law enforcement, oil and gas, search and rescue, training and VIP service. Pratt & Whitney is a division of United Technologies Corp.
AgustaWestland is a division of Finmeccanica. Airbus Helicopters Inc. is a unit of Airbus Group while Sikorsky is also part of UTC.