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Monday, January 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Program Insider

PROGRAM UPDATES

Attack — Lockheed Martin reports France’s Délégation Générale pour l’Armement (DGA) has successfully fired the Hellfire 2 air-to-ground missile from Australia’s Tiger helicopter. The firing took place at the Woomera Testing Range in South Australia, employing a lock-on-before-launch technique for a direct hit on a target 3.7 mi (6 km) away.

Attack/Transport — The Venezuelan government is considering constructing a factory to assembly and manufacture Russian helicopters. It plans to acquire fleets of Mil Mi-17B-5s, Mi-35s and Mi-26s. Government officials said the contracts include licensed production of sub-machine guns and associated ammunition.

Coast Guard — Having removed World War II-era pipebombs from the Daedalus airfield, the U.K. Maritime and Coastguard Agency is constructing a new SAR helicopter hangar at that base. The first aircraft to use the hangar will be the new generation AgustaWestland AW139, which will be replacing the existing Sikorsky S-61N fleet in early 2008.

Maritime — India is upgrading to six U.S. Navy UH-3Hs for use on the former amphibious transport dock ship USS Trenton, which it is acquiring from the United States. The aircraft will be retrieved from the U.S. military airplane "boneyard," the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. and sent to Helispec’s facility in Brantley Ala., where they will undergo major overhaul and upgrades. The aircraft will then be ferried to the Trenton in Norfolk, Va.

Medevac — AgustaWestland and PZL-Świdnik have formed a partnership to respond to a tender for 23 EMS helicopters by Poland ministry of health. They will offer AgustaWestland’s Grand. PZL-Swidnik already manufactures the complete Grand airframe and if selected, PZL-Swidnik will provide product and customer support services after delivery of the aircraft.

Search and Rescue — The Royal Malaysian air force is upgrading its Sikorsky S-61A "Nuri" fleet to give it auto-hover capability. Heli-One, an operating subsidiary of CHC Helicopter Corp., is under contract from Airod Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s premier aircraft maintenance center, to install Smiths’ SN502 Autohover System in six S-61As over three years.

SAR/Medevac — The national armed forces of the Republic of Latvia are installing L-3 Wescam MX-15i electro-optical and infra-red (EO/IR) systems on their Mil Mi-17 (or Mi-8MTV1) helicopters. Delivery of the first unit was to take place in December 2006, with one unit delivered each year thereafter.

Transport — New Zealand’s Defence Ministry will spend $80 million on a new NH90 military helicopter to use as a source of spare parts for its operational fleet. New Zealand is acquiring eight of the helicopters and decided to buy a ninth because it was about $10 million cheaper than buying the equivalent number of spare parts.

Transport — An Mi-17 helicopter pilot training center was opened Nov. 28 on a Mexican air force base in Vera Cruz on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. At present, Mexico has about 60 such aircraft in service.

VIP — Sikorsky Aircraft modify and instrument a U.S. Marine Corps VH-3A in support of the U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command’s VH-3D Lift Improvement Program.

TURKEY’S ATTACK HELICOPTER

Civilians, Military at Odds; Program Delayed Yet Again

A decade after Turkey launched a competition to buy dozens of attack helicopters, the matter of when its military might actually get the aircraft is again in limbo. The nation’s Defense Industry Executive Committee met Dec. 12, 2006 to select a winner between the two remaining contenders for a $1.5-billion contract to supply an initial batch of 30 new helicopters, with options for at least 20 more.

But the military brass apparently didn’t like the two aircraft short-listed by Turkey’s Defense Industry Undersecretariat — AgustaWestland’s A129 Mangusta International (shown above) and the Rooivalk offered by South Africa’s Denel Aviation. The brass threw its weight around, and the committee deferred its decision. Or perhaps it reversed it. Press reports in Turkey cited National Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül as telling reporters after the meeting: "There was a decision on the attack helicopter program. This decision," he added, "had to be changed because of some hesitations" from the military.

Turkey originally launched the procurement program in the mid-1990s. In 2000, it selected a version of Bell Helicopter’s AH-1Z, but after five years of talks the nation and manufacturer couldn’t agree on pricing and technology-transfer issues. Turkey re-bid the competition in 2005. This time, Bell and Boeing each declined to compete, citing U.S. export restrictions and Turkey’s insistence that it develop the helicopter’s mission computer.

Turkish military leaders now may be looking to Boeing, which is proposing its AH-64D Longbow Apache through a U.S. Foreign Military Sales transaction. Stay tuned.

CONTRACTS

Computer Sciences Corp. in November received a modification to the 2003 Flight School XXI contract to provide rotary-wing, simulator-based flight training and related aviation training support to the U.S. Air Force at Fort Rucker, Ala. With a one-year base period and 12 one-year options, it is valued at $46 million if all options are exercised.

The U.S. Army awarded Boeing a $151.9-million contract for 11 new AH-64D Apache Longbows. The new aircraft, to be built in the Lot 11, Block II configuration, are in addition to the 16 new AH-64Ds already under contract and to the AH-64A Apaches being re-manufactured under a multi-year contract.

The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command in November awarded Sikorsky Aircraft a $237-million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for Conversion Delta of UH-60Ls to -60M and HH-60Ms.

RUAG Aerospace has secured an order worth about 12 million Swiss francs ($10 million) to supply self-protection systems for Swedish air force helicopters. The Emmen, Switzerland-based company’s Integrated Self-Protection System already has been incorporated into the Swiss air force’s fleet of Cougar helicopters.

Helispec has received a contract to paint five CH-47s for the U.S. Army. The aircraft are to be flown from Fort Rucker, Ala. to Helispec’s facility in Brantley, Ala., where they will undergo a complete exterior re-paint and stencil. Helispec has, to date, painted in excess of 40 aircraft for the U.S. Army.

BAE Systems received a $31.6-million order from the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command for 119 portable combat helicopter-refueling systems. The Advanced Aviation Forward Area Refueling Systems are used by U.S. troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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