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Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Program Insider

PROGRAM UPDATES:

Attack-Turkey was expected to finalize its Attack/Tactical Reconnaissance Helicopter (ATAK) competition at last month's Defense Industry Executive Committee meeting, but military officials objected to the short-listing of the Denel AH-2A Rooivalk and AgustaWestland's A129 Mangusta International, further delaying the program. The winning bidder should get a contract for 30 aircraft, with options for 20 more.

Fancraft-Bell Helicopter and Urban Aeronautics anticipate receiving funding from the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research to verify engineering and performance analysis of their vertical-lift X-Hawk.

Fixed-Wing-U.S. Army and Air Force evaluators are to begin "early user surveys" under the Joint Cargo Aircraft program. The CASA C-295, offered by Team JCA, and the Alenia North America C-27J are being evaluated.

Heavy Lift-The contractor teams developing four proposals for the U.S. Army-led Joint Heavy Lift program are continuing analysis of their baseline designs and excursions of it dictated by program officials. The research contracts run through March 2007. The Army currently does not have funding to pursue the program in Fiscal 2008.

Maritime Patrol-Turkey has decided to order 17 S-70 Naval Hawk variants from Sikorsky. Turkey has a longstanding intent to acquire more than a dozen of the aircraft, but the transaction has been held up by disputes over U.S. Export-Import Bank financing.

Trainer-The New Zealand Defence Ministry issued a call for tenders Oct. 17 to supply a fleet of new twin-engine training and light utility helicopters in about three years. The aircraft would replace the air force's Sioux training helicopters and perform much of the work done by its 40-year-old Iroquois helicopters. The project includes supplying a flight trainer and technical and logistics support.

Transport-Greece should take delivery of its first NH90s shortly from NH Industries. Its 2003, 657-million-euro order includes 16 tactical transport and four special-operations variants, all convertible to medevac configurations. Greece also holds 14 options.

UAV-Northrop-Grumman has been forced to slow down production of MQ-8B Fire Scouts for the U.S. Army at its Moss Point, Miss plant while the service sorts out funding for the aircraft. First Navy flight of the Schweizer 333-based UAV version upgraded with a four-bladed prop and new transmission is slated
for December.

 

CSAR-X: Decision Due This Month
CSAR-X The contenders filed their best and final offers with the U.S. Air Force in late September and now await that service's decision on who will win the contract to replace an aging Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet and provide the Air Force with 141 next-generation combat search-and-rescue helicopters.

The Defense Acquisition Board has scheduled a review of the Combat Search and Rescue-X program for Oct. 31 that likely will clear the way for contract award. Some among the three contenders-Team US101 and its EH101-based bid, Sikorsky with its HH-92 (above) and Boeing with its HH-47-speculated at the recent Assn. of the U.S. Army annual gathering in Washington that the selection already had been made and that USAF officials were "crossing t's and dotting i's" with senior members of the Bush Administration and Congress on the selection.

Air Force officials had indicated to some among the contenders that a winner might be announced the first week of this month. But that is considered unlikely since it would come at the peak of a hotly contested election season in Washington. The consensus expectation was for an announcement on Nov. 17, after U.S. stock markets had closed.

The contenders, meanwhile, were trumpeting the attributes of their aircraft and teams (Boeing is both running itself and partnered with Sikorsky) and defending themselves against the disparagement of their competitors. A top AgustaWestland official dismissed arguments that the fact that the EH101 has fuel tanks under the cabin would cause the Air Force concern. Sikorsky officials deflected criticism that the S-92 is not combat-proven. (The EH101 is, but the S-92's fuel is outboard in the sponsons.) Boeing, for its part, seemed to be fighting just to stay in the race, with its officials acknowledging that many folks are speaking of the CSAR-X competition as between the EH101 and S-92.

 

CONTRACTS

Smiths Aerospace has been awarded a contract worth more than $20 million to supply the new large area cockpit display system for the U.S. Marine Corps VH-71A presidential helicopter. The displays will be manufactured by Smiths in Michigan and United Kingdom, with deliveries beginning this year.

Northstar Aerospace, Inc. has won a $14-million contract from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command to manufacture AH-64 Apache transmissions. This includes options for potential orders up to about $28 million over the next two years. Northstar will manufacture the transmissions at its manufacturing plant in Chicago. Deliveries to AMCOM are slated to begin in late 2007.

In support of the AgustaWestland Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) prime contract, Lockheed Martin UK has awarded CAE a contract valued at more than £7 million (C$15 million) over the next five years. This contract will bring the logistics support of the CAE-built training devices within Lockheed Martin's EH101 Merlin Training System located at Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose under the IMOS program.

Lord Corp. has won a delivery order as part of an $11.4-million, firm, fixed-price contract for rod-end bearing for the UH-60 Black Hawk. Work will be performed in Dayton, Ohio, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2011.

EFW, Inc., an Elbit Systems of America company, has been awarded multiple contracts to supply the U.S. Coast Guard with an Aviator's Night Vision Imaging System/Head Up Display to extend the border patrol, vessel identification and search and rescue capabilities of HH-65 and HH-60J helicopters. These initial contracts are valued at $815,000.

Lockheed Martin has won an $18.1-million modification to a firm, fixed-price contract for target acquisition designation sight electronic displays and controls for the AH-64 Apache. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2010.

 

BUSINESS: Eurocopter Head Bregier Eyed for Airbus Post
Media reports out of Europe at press time speculated that the head of Eurocopter, Fabrice Bregier, was destined to take a top post at problem-plagued Airbus.

The reports originated with the Parisian daily La Tribune and indicated Bregier would be named Airbus' chief operating officer as early as Oct. 20.

That paper speculated Bregier would be succeeded at Eurocopter by Lutz Bertling, the head of Eurocopter Germany.

Airbus is going through a major crisis. Earlier in October, its chief executive, Christian Streiff, quit after just three months in the job and delays in its high-profile A380 superjumbo have hit the shares of its parent company, EADS, and seriously dented its earnings outlook.

Streiff was replaced by EADS co-chief Louis Gallois.

 

BUSINESS: Bell Sues Iran Over Helicopter Production
Bell Helicopter has sued Iran, accusing it and two state-owned companies of making counterfeit helicopters. Bell filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., saying the Iranian government, Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Co. and Iran Helicopter Support & Renewal Co. are using trade secrets, trademarks and patented designs to make helicopters that resemble six Bell models. It asked the court to order the Tehran-based companies to stop making the helicopters, the Shahed 276 and Shabaviz 275, and award damages. The dispute traces back more than 30 years, to when Bell agreed to help develop Iran's helicopter industry four years before the overthrow of the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

MILITARY: Australia Approves MRH90 Support Facility
Australia's Parliament has approved development of an Australian $20-million center to support operations, training and maintenance activities for the Multi-Role Helicopter 90 (MRH90).

The MRH90 is Australia's version of the NH Industries NH90. The nation initially ordered 12 of the aircraft to fill the requirement for additional troop lift capability. It has ordered 34 more. The first aircraft are scheduled for delivery in late 2007.

The "Facilities for Troop Lift Helicopter" project for the Australian Army's 5th Aviation Regiment, based at RAAF Townsville, combines the reconfiguration and refurbishment of existing facilities at Townsville with construction of new, purpose-built facilities to support introduction of the MRH90.

 

MILITARY: Rolls-Royce, Turbomeca Extend RTM322 Collaboration
Rolls-Royce and Turbomeca have extended Europe's longest-running aerospace joint venture by renewing their collaboration on the RTM322 helicopter engine.

The RTM322 turboshaft engine powers the three-engine AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin and two twin-engine military helicopters, the NH Industries NH90 and the AgustaWestland WAH-64D Longbow Apache.

The RTM322 has been selected for more than 90 percent of the NH90 fleet and about 60 percent of the EH101 fleet. It powers all the British Army's
Apache helicopters.

So far, about 1,600 RTM322 engines, including orders and options, have been announced for NH90, WAH-64 Apache and EH101 helicopters.

 

CHC, Groen Brothers Founders Gone West
Craig Dobbin, founder, controlling shareholder and executive chairman of CHC Helicopter Corp., died Oct. 7 after a brief illness. He passed away in Beachy Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, surrounded by members of his family.

CHC had announced that Dobbin was taking a leave of absence just a day before his death.

Dobbin founded Sealand Helicopters with one small aircraft in 1977. He launched CHC 10 years later when he headed a group that bought Okanagan Helicopters and Toronto Helicopters and merged them with Sealand. He then took CHC public through an initial public offerring on the Toronto stock exchange.

CHC today flies in more than 30 countries and considers itself the world's largest provider of helicopter services to the global offshore oil and gas industry.

Deputy Chairman Mark D. Dobbin, his son, assumed the duties of chairman until CHC's board of directors meets to elect a new chairman.

Also lost last month was Jay Groen, chairman of Groen Brothers Aviation. He died Oct. 9 at his home in Washington following a two-year battle with cancer.

With his brother David, he founded Groen Brothers Aviation in 1986 to develop modern autorotative aircraft. He was instrumental in initiating important contacts in governmental and aerospace industry sectors. The company was recently awarded a major research contract by the U.S. Defeense Dept. to advance their rotor-wing technology.

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