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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bell Helicopter Focusing On V-280 In Light Of Army Aviation Restructuring

By Pat Host

Bell Helicopter is focusing on its V-280 third-generation tilt-rotor aircraft in light of the Army's aviation restructuring and its decision to use UH-72A Lakota helicopters in training.

Company CEO John Garrison told reporters on Monday, though, he didn't agree with the Army's decision to go forward with its massive Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI), the company is adjusting.

"I was very honest, we don't agree with it," Garrison said here at the Helicopter Association International's (HAI) Heli-Expo conference. "That decision has been made, so we're focused on the future and we're focused on the V-280."

The Army is moving forward with its controversial ARI, which would retire Bell's OH-58 Kiowas, move the reserve component's AH-64 Apaches to the active component while sending the Army's UH-60 Black Hawks to the Army reserves and Army National Guard. The Army would also retire its TH-67 trainers, also made by Bell. Congress blocked the transfer of Apaches in the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but allowed the Army to try again this fiscal year.

Garrison said Bell did not have the opportunity to bid for the Army's new training aircraft, but when asked by a reporter if the company would have bid, given the opportunity, Garrison said only that Bell's 429 helicopter was a "comparable" aircraft.

The Army in August selected the Bell with its V-280 and a Sikorsky-Boeing partnership for the technology and flight demonstration phase of the envisioned Joint Multi-Role (JMR) helicopter, the precursor to Future Vertical Lift (FVL). Bell V-280 Program Director Keith Flail said in August the goal of JMR technology and flight demonstration is to build and fly a demonstrator aircraft.

Garrison also said he's concerned about the affects of ARI on the helicopter industry as a whole. Bell, he said, is working "very closely" with the Army in terms of the impact of excess defense articles, specifically around the OH-58 and TH-67.

"We've got a very open, transparent dialogue now with the Army," Garrison said.

Bell Helicopter is a division of Textron [TXT]. The Army did not respond to multiple requests for comment by press time.

Related: Military News

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