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Contenders for New Presidential Helicopter Lining Up

Earlier this century the Pentagon started a program managed by the Navy and Marine Corps to replace the existing helicopters used to transport the President. Currently a mix of Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), made VH-3 and VH-60 aircraft are used. Some of them are now over 40 years old. It was felt that a new system was needed that was more efficient, capable and equipped with modern communication equipment. This was the VH-71 program.

The VH-71 planned to use an aircraft from Augusta Westland modified by prime contractor Lockheed Martin (LMT). The program was to proceed in two stages with a few aircraft bought early to test and integrate modifications. This proceeded with several aircraft purchased and modified. The problems arose as the requirements for the second effort changed considerably over time leading to schedule and cost growth. By 2009 the program was several billion dollars over budget and was cancelled by the Obama Administration as part of their defense reforms.

A draft RFP was released this week for the new program. It plans to save money and manage schedule by requiring the use of an existing, in production aircraft which will be modified. It is requesting that the bidders plan to minimize changes to expensive parts of the aircraft such as the power train, transmission, structure and rotor system. A communication system is being developed separately that will be integrated onto the new aircraft.

The VH-71 suffered as the requirements meant new major systems had to be developed and integrated to meet power, range and hovering capability requirements. The RFP is for 23 aircraft at a cost of just under $1 billion with the first ones entering service in 2020.

Currently teams made up of Sikorsky and Lockheed and Augusta Westland and Northrop Grumman (NOC) are interested. Boeing (BA) may propose after doing analysis as to whether their large CH-47 or V-22 tilt rotor aircraft may meet the requirements.

The VXX program is aggressive in that it hopes to contain cost, schedule and technical creep. As the VH-71 program indicated it may be hard to do this. With the expected defense cuts coming up the contract is very attractive not only due to its size but also the prestige. As with other large aviation programs the winner may also expect several decades worth of support contracts which could be worth billions.

Photo from dailymatador’s flickr photostream.

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SAIC (SAI) Wins Contract to Support Japanese Mine Warfare Efforts

EH101 operated by the Italian Navy.

SAIC (SAI) has been awarded a contract by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) to provide software system to aid in sea mine clearance operations. The JSMDF contract did not have a value reported but is related to the purchase of the Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library(MEDAL) system along with training support.

The JMSDF operates Augusta westland AW101 helicopters for this mission. The varient they use is referred to as the MCH-101.

MEDAL provides a system to design mine clearance missions as well as evaluation and training support. It contains data on water depth, bottom characteristics, current as well as seawater physical properties. A discussion of MEDAL may be found in this paper from the Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources.

The Japanese has equipped their MCH-101 with a set of sensors to support mine warfare including side scan sonar, laser detection and acoustic minesweepers. Under the agreement with AW the aircraft are assembled in Japan and major components are manufactured there. Japan as a maritime nation does face a mine warfare threat as demonstrated by the U.S. in 1944-1945 with an aerial mining program.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Gunner’s flickr photostream.

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Indian Aviation Modernization Moving in Fits and Starts

The Indian government has been trying for several years to procure new helicopters for its Army and Air Force. Some of the attempts have failed due to contract issues including problems with corruption. The supplier base has also been expanded as India has changed its offset laws and made it easier for U.S. companies to participate. This has allowed contracts to be awarded beyond the traditional U.K. and Russian contractors.

Recently it was announced that Boeing (BA) would receive a contract for 15 CH-47 cargo helicopters and 22 AH-64 attack helicopters. This could be worth up to $2.4 billion for the Chicago based aerospace and defense contractor. The CH-47 have seen a great deal of use in Afghanistan due to its capability at high altitude. The addition of the CH-47 and Apache attack helicopters represents a significant improvement to current capabilities.

At the same time a contract for a new utility helicopter is facing cancellation. Augusta Westland, a Finmeccanica subsidiary was awarded a contract for 12 AW101 helicopters for VIP transports. Now this contract award is under investigation in Italy. As part of this it came out that an officer involved in the new tender which is now reaching the point of near award intervened on Augusta’s behalf to make the requirements more palatable. AW was eventually eliminated. Currently a Eurocopter and Kamov aircraft are in contention.

Because of the potential corruption in the process India might be forced to abandon it and try again. Augusta Westland also faces a ban on bidding on future contracts. This will lead to a delay in the delivery of the aircraft as well as limit those vendors. The VIP aircraft contract is currently planned to continue.

Corruption has historically been a problem with arm sales, especially those overseas. The U.S. has very strict laws governing it but not all country’s do.

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Turkey Buys Sikorsky

Foreign countries wanting to acquire United States weapon systems or technology have different avenues available to them. They may do a strait Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case where they contract through the U.S. Department of Defense with suppliers to provide the same or similar equipment that the U.S. is buying. Another option is to directly contract with a company to get a unique piece of equipment that in some cases has never been used by the U.S. military. Turkey has chosen this route with the announcement that they will buy over one hundred S-70 Black Hawk aircraft from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (SAC). SAC is a subsidiary of United Technologies (UTX) and is based in Connecticut.

The S-70 is the commercial market version of the UH-60 Black Hawk aircraft which is the core medium lift system for the U.S. Army while also being used by the Navy, Air Force and other U.S. government agencies. The Black Hawk has also seen robust FMS sales across the globe including users like Australia, various Gulf States and most recently Sweden.

Turkey’s contract is initially valued at about $3.5 billion. Like many Turkish defense programs the aircraft will have substantial portions of it built in Turkey in this case by Tusas Aerospace Industries. This will allow rapid expansion of the contract if Turkey decides as well as an option for them to make the aircraft for foreign sales themselves. SAC will provide parts, assemblies and technical assistance to help the Turkish production and assembly facility.

The S-70 has seen some sales to other countries as well as U.S. agencies. The T-70 will be equipped with specific Turkish equipment and modifications most likely to include the radio suite, armament and other equipment. By doing it this way Turkey does not necessarily limit itself to equipment that has been used on the UH-60 and qualified by the American government. At the same time, though, they lose some of the efficiencies of the large U.S. production contract with SAC.

Italy’s Augusta Westland, part of Finnemechanica (FNC:MI) , was also bidding on this contract.

Photo form David Jackmason’s flickr photostream.

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AgustaWestland Debuts AW139M U.S. Military Helicopter — Press Release

AgustaWestland Debuts AW139M U.S. Military Helicopter

Offers U.S. Air Force Considerable Acquisition and Operational Savings for CVLSP

PR Newswire

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 17, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — AgustaWestland North America, Inc. today introduced its AW139M military helicopter for the U.S. military market.

AgustaWestland customized the military version of the multi-role, off-the-shelf AW139 medium-twin helicopter, integrated with proven U.S. military technology for the U.S. Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Program. The AW139M is being featured at the AFA Air Warfare Symposium, Feb. 17-18, 2011.

“AgustaWestland meets every U.S. Air Force CVLSP mission requirement while offering substantial acquisition and operational savings,” said R. Scott Rettig, chief executive officer, AgustaWestland North America. “The innovation and investment made by AgustaWestland ensures the lowest risk, most cost effective replacement for the CVLSP platform.”

Manufactured in the company’s Philadelphia, Pa. facility and tailored with U.S. military technology from suppliers across the nation, the AW139M includes a high-definition FLIR, self protection equipment including infrared detection and countermeasures, avionics and heavy duty landing gear. For military missions, the AW139M features a low thermal and acoustic signature and is available with a full ice protection system, allowing all-weather operation at the U.S. Air Force’s northern-tier missile bases.

The AW139M CVLSP also includes dedicated equipment such as armored seats to improve crew protection; ballistically-tolerant, self-sealing fuel tanks; and an external stores system for carrying gun pods, missiles and air-to-ground rockets. With unrivaled range and the highest power-to-weight ratio in its class, the AW139M sets standards of multi-mission performance in hot and high conditions and with a cruise speed of 165 knots. The AW139M provides 30 percent more cabin volume and 50 percent more payload than the legacy CVLSP platform, while maintaining a similarly-sized external footprint.

AgustaWestland manages an active, highly efficient AW139 production line in the company’s Philadelphia, Pa. manufacturing facility. Used in multi-mission roles by 135 customers in 50 countries, more than 300 AW139s are operational today, flying demanding missions for government customers such as the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Republic of Ireland, the UAE Air Force and others.

AgustaWestland North America, a subsidiary of AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, operates as a U.S. company under a special security agreement, responsible for the company’s U.S. government programs. AgustaWestland is a global leader in military and commercial vertical-lift. With more than 100 years of experience in the aerospace industry, AgustaWestland provides an unrivaled range of rotorcraft and vertical-lift products and services for every military, government and commercial application.

www.agustawestland.com

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Turkey and Taiwan Buy Attack Helicopters

Yesterday both Turkey and Taiwan announced new buys of attack helicopters. These type of aircraft have demonstrated their capabilities in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing precision fire support for ground troops as well as engaging high value targets from safe, standoff distances. The U.S., United Kingdom and the Netherlands have all deployed their Boeing (BA) AH-64 Apache aircraft to Afghanistan for example.

Turkey increased their planned purchase of the Augusta Westland (AW) T129 helicopter by nine with a further order worth about $200 million. This will bring the total number of aircraft purchased to sixty. The aircraft will be assembled at the Turkish Aerospace Industries plant in Turkey. The aircraft is still being designed and initial delivery is expected in 2012.

Taiwan went with its U.S. allies’ product the AH-64 by placing an order for at least thirty of the D model. These are part of an arms sale agreement from 2008. The contract also pay for two trainers. The AH-64D Longbow has a millimeter radar and carries Hellfire anti-tank missiles and a 30 mm cannon. It will also be one of the primary platforms for the new Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM) in development by the U.S. Army for its own use and the Air Force’s. The advanced procurement part of this contract is worth a little over $140 million.

The U.S. especially has invested several billion dollars since 2001 in improving and expanding their rotary wing fleet. This includes the UH-60M, CH-47F and the AH-64 Block IIID which just entered production. Other nations have also done this with Boeing, Sikorsky, Eurocopter and Augusta Westland benefiting. The purchase of new helicopters for use by the Iraqi and Afghan governments has also led to orders for the Kazakh based manufacturer of the Mi-17 Hip heavily used by the Russian military and former Soviet Union aligned countries.

Photo from jensen_chua flickr photostream.

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AgustaWestland Features Best Value AW139 for the U.S. Air Force’s CVLSP — Press Release

AgustaWestland Features Best Value AW139 for the U.S. Air Force’s CVLSP

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14 /PRNewswire/ — AgustaWestland North America, Inc. is featuring its AW139 multi-role helicopter for the U.S. Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Program (CVLSP) at the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition in National Harbor, Md.

The militarized, multi-role AW139 is an off-the-shelf, FAA-certified, medium-twin helicopter in military and civil service worldwide since 2003. Used in multi-mission roles by more than 122 separate customers in 46 countries, AgustaWestland manages an active, highly-efficient AW139 production line in the company’s Philadelphia, Pa. manufacturing facility.

“AgustaWestland is excited to offer the AW139 for the U.S. Air Force’s CVLSP,” said R. Scott Rettig, chief executive officer, AgustaWestland North America. “Designed as the modern replacement for the legacy CVLSP platform, the AW139 is the ideal size, at a fraction of the cost of the competition – offering the best value for the U.S. Air Force.”

Currently, there are 490 orders for the AW139 for multi-mission roles that include military and law enforcement use; VIP executive transport; search and rescue missions; environmental and offshore utility monitoring; and emergency medical services.

The AW139 provides 30 percent more cabin volume and 50 percent more payload than the legacy CVLSP platform, while maintaining a similarly-sized external footprint. The AW139 offers the U.S. Air Force a CVLSP helicopter which accommodates a host of combat-equipped personnel in heavy-duty tactical seats or executive passengers in fixed civil-certified seats inside its spacious cabin. Large sliding cabin doors allow easy and rapid loading and unloading.

The baseline AW139 sets new standards of multi-mission performance with unrivaled range and speed for this mission. It features dedicated equipment to meet a range of general and special mission roles. The all-glass, integrated cockpit with state-of-the-art technology minimizes pilot workload, allowing the crew to concentrate on mission objectives.

Hundreds of AW139s are operational today, flying demanding missions in challenging environments, including government customers such as the Republic of Ireland and the United States Department of Homeland Security.

A cabin demonstrator of the AW139 CVLSP is on display at booth 901 at the Air Force Association’s 2010 Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, Sept. 13-15, 2010.

AgustaWestland North America, a subsidiary of AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is FOCI mitigated and responsible for the company’s U.S. government programs. AgustaWestland is a global leader in military and commercial vertical-lift. With more than 100 years of experience in the aerospace industry, AgustaWestland provides an unrivaled range of rotorcraft and vertical-lift products and services for every military, government and commercial application.

Source: Agustawestland North America

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New Presidential Helicopter Takes a Strange Twist for Boeing

Boeing (BA) has announced that for their entry into the new Presidential transport helicopter they will license and build the Augusta Westland AW101 aircraft. Augusta Westland of course is part of the Italian Finmeccanica (FNC:MI) group of companies. Lockheed Martin (LMT) had teamed with the overseas supplier on the canceled VH-71 program originally intended to replace the current fleet of VH-3 and VH-60 aircraft used to move President Obama and his predecessors around.

The VH-71 was canceled due to cost and schedule growth caused primarily by the massive increase of requirements once the original contract was let. The new aircraft was designed to take into account the changed threat since 9/11 and required complex communications and defensive systems as well as high performance requirements. This meant that the program to build less then twenty-five aircraft ended up costing billions of dollars.

The Navy plans to launch a new contest soon for this critical system. Lockheed this time around has already announced that they will team with Sikorsky rather then Augusta on their new proposal.

Boeing certainly has their own aircraft such as the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter and even the V-22 Osprey tilt rotor that could be used. It seems that this decision is being made because the size of the aircraft will be one of the factors considered. The footprints of the CH-47 and V-22 are much larger then a single rotor systems like the EH101 or the Sikorsky S-92 aircraft.

The twist of all this though is that Boeing has spent the last four years arguing that EADS‘ (EADS:P) participation in the new KC-X aerial tanker contract is not only bad for America’s economy and jobs but even for its security. It now seems a little ironic that Boeing is doing what Northrop Grumman (NOC) did for the last failed attempt at awarding this contract. Boeing even argues like EADS that the aircraft will be assembled in the U.S. thus creating jobs here.

It might be a little difficult for all of the “Buy American” Boeing supporters in Congress to swallow something like this. Lockheed and Sikorsky are able to make the same arguments that Boeing has done over the KC-X. Even in the complicated world of international defense contracting this move while it makes perfect sense may be a hard sell for the U.S. aircraft manufacturer.

Photo from charlo.be flickr photostream.

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AgustaWestland North America Awarded U.S. Navy Contract — Press Release

AgustaWestland North America Awarded U.S. Navy Contract

RESTON, Va., Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ — AgustaWestland North America (AWNA) is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a $17.35M U.S. Navy contract to provide depot level maintenance on three Egyptian Mk-2 variant H-3 helicopters. The contract provides full funding for this effort, which began in November 2008, and calls for complete refurbishment of the aircraft structure and all aircraft components. AWNA will also complete all safety checks to ensure the aircraft are flight ready.

Work will be carried out at the company’s 88,000 square foot maintenance repair and overhaul facility in Hagerstown, Maryland. Up to 20 new employees are expected to be added to the existing staff of 26 at Hagerstown Airport. All work on the H-3 helicopters is estimated to be completed in December of 2010.

“AgustaWestland North America is honored to receive this contract from the U.S. Navy,” said AgustaWestland North America Chief Executive Officer, R. Scott Rettig. “I am proud of our team and our close working relationship with the U.S. Navy. I look forward to future growth and successes of our Hagerstown operations, as we continue to expand our U.S. footprint and meet the specific needs of the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense.”

AgustaWestland North America, a subsidiary of AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is FOCI mitigated and responsible for the company’s U.S. government programs. AgustaWestland is a global leader in designing, manufacturing and supporting the world’s most technologically advanced helicopters. With more than 100 years of experience in the aerospace industry, AgustaWestland provides a full range of rotorcraft for every commercial, government and military application, and an unrivalled capability in training and support solutions.

For further information please contact:
Michael Lugo
Office: 703.373.8019
Mobile: 571.435.4430
Email: [email protected]

Source: AgustaWestland North America

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House Moves To Keep VH-71 Increment One Alive

The various defense appropriations and authorization bills are working their way through the House and Senate. Many items have been included not requested by the Obama Administration or Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. This really is not surprising as Gates attempted to cut a lot very quickly. He spared no service cutting Air Force F-22 and C-17 aircraft, Navy VH-71 and destroyers, and Army vehicle and missile defense systems. Congress has pushed back on certain programs.

One that they are trying to keep alive is the VH-71 helicopter for use in transporting the President. This program has not only been unfunded in the President’s 2010 budget but Lockheed Martin has been told to stop work. The company and the Pentagon are negotiating termination costs.

The House Appropriation Defense sub-committee, though, included almost half a billion dollars to try and utilize the Increment One aircraft already procured. The program was structured with two increments of aircraft, the first being basic ones to be used to support testing and development. A larger buy in five or so years would have all the required equipment. To date the U.S. has invested about $3 billion in the program. The House wants to see if some use could be derived of the aircraft already delivered.

While the current fleet of VH-2 and VH-60 aircraft have served the President well they are somewhat dated. The VH-71 would have more modern survivability and communications equipment with greater range and lift. The strenuous requirements are what led to the programs cost and schedule growth. There will be more to come on this issue to say the least.

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AugustaWestland Work Force Worried About VH-71 Contract

While Finmeccanica has stated that they are not worried about the pending cancellation of the VH-71 new Presidential helicopter as proposed by Secretary Gates, there is concern at AugustaWestland‘s facility in Yeovil, England. The local paper reports that if the program is ended there would be major cuts to the work force at that facility. AugustaWestland is not coming out and stating anything in this regard, but much of the work going on there supports the two phases of the program. As Finmeccanica has said Phase II has not yet started and that is why their earnings would not be effected in the next few years — no money has been spent on that part of the program. AugustaWestland makes the base helicopter which is then modified by Lockheed Martin in New York. The company would also provide support to the delivered aircraft. The contract while it is only for 23 aircraft is very large due to the cost of the individual platforms and the necessary modifications. The support contract would also be significant. The cancellation is just a recommendation right now and ultimately Congress will decide whether to end the program, restructure it, or just continue the current path.

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Eurocopter Chosen by Japan for Training Aircraft

SpaceDaily.com reports that the Japanese government has selected EC-135 helicopters to use for training naval pilots. The other company in the contest was Augusta Westland. EADS has sold civil aircraft for years in Japan but this is the first time Japan has bought one as part of a military contract.

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Conservatives Charge UK Government to Cut Defense Spending

Faced with the costs of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the world’s economic crisis the UK government plans cuts to defense spending. Bloomberg.com: Europe reports that the Conservative opposition believes that the new aircraft carriers will be delayed and there will be cuts to a new vehicle and Lynx helicopter upgrades. The two large ships were due to begin construction in the near future as the contract had already been awarded to VT and BAE. The new armored vehicle is under development by General Dynamics and less then the currently planned 80 Lynx aircraft will be upgraded. The delay in the aircraft carriers would be a blow to Scotland as that part of the UK is relying on them for a significant number of jobs in the near future.

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Italy to be punished for sole source aircraft contracts

Earlier this year the European Union had judged that Italy violated contract laws by awarding helicopter contracts only to state owned Agusta. Now that Italy has failed to take any mitigating steps they are moving to punish the country. Italy had claimed national security reasons for only considering Agusta to provide the aircraft. This is part of an effort by the EU leadership to allow competition across at least the countries of the EU.

For more see Rueters.com.

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KC-X haunts CSAR-X

With the decision to punt on the KC-45 recompete by the current administration there are some worries that this might affect the CSAR-X contract as well. Last word was that the announcement of who won the new GAO ordered competition would come sometime this Fall. Now some of the competitors; Sikorsky, Augusta Westland and Boeing; are concerned that perhaps this decision will delay the announcement of the winner. Boeing had won a contract only to have a protest upheld by GAO for the USAF not applying their criteria correctly.

See this short AP article for more.

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India goes with AW for new VIP aircraft

Like the US Navy, India awarded a contract to Augusta Westland for their new VIP transport helicopter. The contract is worth about $300 M. Sikorsky was one of the unsuccessful bidders with their S-92 aircraft. The EH-101 selected will offer a larger cabin, although it is a more expensive aircraft. US companies have been trying hard lately to break into the Indian market as that country has turned away from its traditional English and Russian suppliers. India has also made a great effort to begin developing a sophisticated, indigenous arm suppliers.

See The Hartford Courant article about this contract here.

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US Air Force to award CSAR-X recompete soon

In a contract that has fallen to the back burner recently due to KC-45 events, the Air Force announced that they would complete the recompete for the CSAR-X by September. Contract award would be soon after. The CSAR-X contract to replace the HH-60 PaveHawk aircraft was originally awarded to Boeing with a variant of the CH-47. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin protested and won with the GAO ruling that the Air Force did not apply the selection criteria properly. The whole contract was recompeted with Boeing, Sikorsky and Lockheed resubmitting bids.

For more see this article at www.pressconnects.com for the Binghamton area.

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Finmeccanica follows through

Bump – Fresh off good financial reports for the quarter, EADS is now looking at DRS Technologies as well. See an article here. This makes it sound like DRS might be a good buy.

As rumored this weekend Finmeccanica bought DRS today. The deal is for around $5 B. See an article here. This is the biggest acquisition so far by an European company. DRS has been an attractive take over target for a few years, one of the reasons its stock was so high. If this deal can make it through the necessary regulatory and legal review it will be quite stunning. Prior to this BAE and EADS had been doing smaller acquisitions, under a $1B. In today’s political environment due to the KC-45 deal and it being an election year it should be interesting to see Congress’s reaction.

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