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Bell unveils the V280 Valor Tilt Rotor Aircraft at AUSA 2014

October 15, 2014 by · Comment
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Paris Air Show 2013 – A Military Preview (Part I: Aircraft & Helicopters)

_SPL0117The 50th Paris Airshow presents a weeklong celebration for aviation enthusiasts. As the most important annual aerospcace business event, it attracts thousands of companies and trade visitors. On the military side, the airshow takes a lower key,...

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Annual Production Options Continue to be Executed as V-22 Buy Goes Through

Despite the “Fiscal Cliff” and sequestration facing the U.S. Federal budget the U.S. military has continued to execute their FY13 buys for hardware. The vote last night in the house delayed sequestration issues and also extended some of the Bush tax cuts. The options on existing contracts are able to be awarded under Continuing Resolution Authority so they are not tied to any new budget or legislation.

One of the most recent was the production buy for the V-22 from Boeing-Bell (BA). The Marine Corps and Air Force will purchase a further 22 V-22 for just over $1.4 billion. These will be delivered in 2014-2015.

This follows the current production contract for 21 aircraft being delivered at this time.

This is the second multi-year production contract for the versatile tilt rotor aircraft that has seen use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Air Force Cost Goals Restrict Competition for New Rescue Helicopter

The U.S. Air Force is once again trying to attempt to buy a new aircraft to replace their MH-60 rescue helicopter fleet from the Eighties. The original CSAR-X program faltered twice earlier this century due to protests. Boeing (BA) had one the last contest with a version of the CH-47 but after protests from the losing bidders it was decided to start over.

The current Combat Rescue Helicopter program had put out a RFP for new proposals due in January. The goal is to buy just over 100 aircraft at a cost of $6.4 billion.

Unfortunately it was announced this past week that the only company interested in bidding on the contract is Sikosrky, part of United Technologies (UTX), teamed with Lockheed Martin (LMT). Sikorsky made the current HH-60 fleet. Other potential bidders including Augusta Westland, Eurocopter, Bell and Boeing believe that the cost goals will be too hard to meet for their products. Some have basically said the contract requirements were written in such as way so only a version of the UH-60 Black Hawk could meet them.

The Pentagon is obviously trying to reduce cost but at also at the same time promoting competition. Sometimes, as here, the two things don’t always work together as to attract bidders there must be some profit in it for them.

The Air Force has struggled with large acquisitions for a few years now. The new aerial tanker, KC-X, took 3 tries before Boeing won. The CSAR-X has already been discussed. They are currently redoing the Light Air Support aircraft contest after Embraer and Sierra Nevada’s win of the original contract was overturned on protest.

Whether they want to continue the current contest with limited bidders or try to re-do the requirements to attract more will be the next decision. They could just wait and see if more then one bid in January as originally intended.

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More V-22 Engines for Rolls-Royce

Following the second operational crash of a V-22 during exercises in Morocco there was the usual hand wringing about the safety of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor made by Boeing (BA) and Bell, part of Textron (TXT). Even so the program continues with planned expanded deployment and new missions including support of Presidential movement operations.

It has been reported that as part of the planned reductions in spending starting next year that V-22 quantities will be reduced. The total purchased should remain the same but it will be spread over more years. The next five year multiyear production contract is still being negotiated as the current one ends.

Even so the Pentagon went ahead and place orders for engines to support delivery of over 100 more aircraft with Rolls Royce (RR). The almost $600 million contract for 268 engines will have one base and four options years. The base contract will be for 70 engines.

The company has delivered over 500 engines for the V-22 program.

The V-22 offers unique capabilities compared to traditional rotary wing aviation assets. It has served in Iraq and Afghanistan with no combat losses although an Air Force one crashed in Afghanistan and now a Marine one has crashed as well. It is planned to replace Navy logistics aircraft as well as serve more with the Marines and Air Force Special Operations.

Boeing and Bell are obviously looking for new missions and customers for the aircraft. Certainly there may be pressure as the Pentagon reduces its budget to cut the number of V-22 to buy as they are expensive to buy and operate. The more that are sold, though, drives down the price for every customer.

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Reports that Next V-22 Production Contract Will See Reduced Quantities

The V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft is a unique capability to the U.S. armed forces. Built by Boeing (BA) and Bell, part of Textron (TXT), in a joint venture the twin engined aircraft have seen a great deal of use in Iraq and Afghanistan since entering service in 2006 with the U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps. The system had a lengthy development timeline being cancelled more then once and then revived.

The first five year production contract saw 174 aircraft ordered and late last summer the government and contractor began entering into negotiations for the second one. That would be for a further 122 Ospreys at an estimated cost of close to $8 billion.

Now there is word that as part of the planned reductions to the defense budget over the next five years the U.S. Defense Department will cut 24 of the next batch of V-22. This would reduce the next five year contract to 98 aircraft at a cost of roughly $6.5 billion. The reports indicate that the hope is to save $1.75 billion but if 122 cost $8 billion the back of the envelope calculation would show only about $1.5 billion in savings.

Normally reducing the quantity bought over the same time period would lead to higher unit costs as there would be the loss of savings reduced with buying larger numbers of parts but it seems the Pentagon is hoping to not only cut aircraft but to negotiate a better price with Boeing-Bell. If that is possible remains to be seen. The delay in retiring the CH-46 and other aircraft the V-22 is replacing may also lead to higher operational costs for those as some will have to remain in service for a longer then originally planned timeline.

At least for the companies the program is not being eliminated or delayed. That means there will still be some revenue and earnings off of the program.

The cut will also illustrate how hard it is to reduce the budget just by slicing programs. There are enough sunk and recurring costs that savings are not directly tied to the amount of items being purchased. It is easier to eliminate whole programs which is reportedly being done with the Joint Air-to-Ground Missile (JAGM, C-27 JCA transport and the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program.

Photo from Beige Alert’s flickr photostream.

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Boeing Sees Two Major Helicopter Deals on the Horizon

Boeing (BA) along with its industry partner Bell Helicopter, part of United Technologies (UTX), produces two major helicopters for the U.S. military as well as export and the only tiltrotor in use today. These are the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter and the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift cargo helicopter as well as the unique V-22 Osprey used by the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force.

Boeing is looking forward to two major contracts involving the helicopters that will continue their production for the next several years.

First there is word that the AH-64 easily won a contest with the Indian Army to serve in limited numbers in attack and reconnaissance missions. The U.S. Army had earlier this year informed Congress of their intent to sell over twenty of the aircraft along with engines, Hellfire and Stinger missiles and other support. The estimated value of that contract was about $1.4 billion.

India, it turns out, conducted a “Fly Off” between the Apache and a similar Russian Mil-28 Havoc helicopter. Based on reports the AH-64 bested the Russian in most major areas including performance, armor, electronics and overall capabilities.

The AH-64 has seen a great deal of use in Iraq and Afghanistan providing fire support to ground troops using its Hellfire missiles and 30mm chain gun. The U.S. Army, Great Britain, and the Netherlands have all had successful deployments of the aircraft to Afghanistan. It has also been sold to countries like Israel, Egypt and Singapore.

Boeing has also submitted its proposal to the U.S. Army for the next multi-year production contract for the CH-47. The CH-47 like many major U.S. aircraft is able to negotiate five year contracts for deliveries rather then just one year as most programs as it is felt this saves money by allowing smoother production lines and the ability to order more parts and components at a time. The CH-47F is the current model in production under a 5 year contract signed in 2008.

The new contract is for a further 155 helicopters and could be worth several billion. The U.S. Army has invested heavily in CH-47 as their heavy lift capabilities are at a premium in Afghanistan’s high and hot conditions. Canada and the U.K. have also invested in the Chinook. Because this is a sole source contract the Army will be negotiation with Boeing on pretty much on price and schedule and not with multiple companies to provide the aircraft.

The U.S. has spent a great deal of money the last decade on Army aviation. With the coming decline in defense spending and the ending of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan that level of funding will not continue. Cuts to annual buy quantities will most most likely occur reducing Boeing’s sales to the U.S. military. This will be true for the AH-64 and V-22 as well. Foreign sales like the Indian Apache deal will make up some of the cuts to help Boeing keep its revenue and earnings up.

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U.S. Army Awards JMR Study Contracts

Currently the U.S. Army, Navy and many Allied nations rely on the Sikorsky, part of United Technologies (UTX), UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for the medium lift mission. The Blackhawk entered service in the late Seventies as a replacement for the venerable UH-1 Huey aircraft. Since 9/11 it has been heavily used in Iraq and Afghanistan flying several hundred thousand flight hours.

The Army is working on a long range replacement program for the Blackhawk called Joint Multi Role (JMR). This will be an aircraft that not only will take on the UH-60 missions but may also form the basis for a new attack or scout helicopter like the UH-1 did with the AH-1 Cobra.

As part of this program the Army went ahead and awarded contracts to four different companies to conduct long term research and design studies for the future JMR.

Interestingly enough one of the contracts was awarded to AVX Aircraft of Texas. This is a new company started by mainly former Bell employees that has produced an interesting concept for the Army’s new scout helicopter the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS).

The AAS is a follow on to the cancelled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) which had been started as the Bell ARH-70 Arapahoe to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior but was cancelled in 2008 due to cost and schedule issues. AVX has come up with a plan to fit the OH-58 with two rotors and ducted fans that push it to increase speed, range and payload. Similar concepts could be used to meet the JMR requirements.

The other contracts went to the more traditional Boeing (BA), Sikorsky, and Bell, part of Textron (TXT). These all have current military aircraft flying and they may offer more traditional ideas for the new aircraft. Boeing does currently make the V-22 for the Marines and Air Force which could be used as a tilt rotor basis for a new medium lift system.

The JMR when it is ready for competition would be a major contract as it may be expected to last 30-40 years and see production quantities of several hundred. Also if it did enter U.S. service it might enjoy good Foreign Military Sales (FMS) similar to the Blackhawk which could mean billions in revenue for the ultimate provider of the aircraft.

Unfortunately in the current budget situation the program probably will not move fast and it might be several years for the new system to take shape. This means that the Army and other users will soldier on with the UH-60.

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U.S. Navy Plans Unmanned Aircraft Development Program

The United States has invested a large amount of money the past two decades into unmanned aerial vehicles. Used primarily by the U.S. Army and Air Force they originally conducted reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions. Since 9/11 several have been weaponized and carried out precision strike missions. The U.S. Navy while doing some R&D has not purchased a full up system yet to be based on ships. This, though, is about to change.

The Marine Corps and Navy are already conducting research into unmanned cargo systems that might eventually replace the current MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made by Sikorsky for that mission. These lift loads from supply ships to combat ships as part of underway replenishment. Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Kaman (KAMN) are doing work with the K-Max helicopter to see how well it works as an unmanned platform.

The Navy just announced the start of a new program called Medium Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System (MRMUAS) which will begin in FY12 with a goal of entering production late in this decade. The MRMUAS will be primarily oriented towards Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions and will be ship based.

As with many programs recently started by the Pentagon several development contracts will be awarded to various companies which will then lead to one or more of them being selected for further development and production.

Several existing systems being developed by defense contracts are certainly available to be proposed for this effort including the K-MAX being looked at for the cargo mission as well as Bell, a part of Textron (TXT), and Boeing (BA) products. This also does not rule out a new development effort for this requirement by any defense contractor.

The shift to using UAS for current manned missions will continue for the foreseeable future. Budget pressures may cause these programs to be delayed or even eliminated especially if there is major cost growth in core Navy systems such as the F-35 JSF or ship construction. Unfortunately as has been shown in the past investment in new systems and technologies may take a back seat to the funding of more important programs. If the Navy has to choose between its newest manned aircraft, new submarines and aircraft carriers over UAS vehicles it will probably be an easy decision.

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Bell-Boeing Working with Navy on Next V-22 Contract

Boeing (BA) along with Bell Helicopter, part of Textron (TXT), have been building the versatile V-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft under a current five year contract with the U.S. Navy. The V-22 is used by the Marine Corps for transport missions and the U.S. Air Force for search and rescue and Special Operations. The current production contract is for 174 aircraft. The companies have opened negotiations with its customers on the award of a second production contract.

The V-22 has had a long development time but finally began entering service in the early part of this century despite being conceived almost forty years ago. The program was started, stopped and re-started as the Defense Department and various Presidential Administrations argues about the cost and utility of the aircraft. Now that it is in service the aircraft has performed admirably in both Iraq and Afghanistan with no reported combat losses although one crashed there last year.

The new contract for up to 122 of the aircraft between 2013-2017 has the potential value of $8 billion and would be a multi year award. The V-22 current fly away cost is about $65 million. This might go down as more of them are built and Bell-Boeing negotiate better deals with suppliers and sub-contractors. The benefit of awarding a multi year contract such as this is that it allows longer and smoother planning of the production line offering a better price for the government.

The majority of stable U.S. aircraft production lines are under similar constructs. These include aircraft like the C-17 and C-130J transports and helicopters such as the UH-60 Black Hawk. The transition of the V-22 to this contract type would indicate that it has reached a point where the user is very comfortable with its performance and price.

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More V-22 Engines Ordered from Rolls-Royce

The controversial tilt rotor V-22 aircraft has now been in service with the U.S. Marine Corps and Air Force for a few years now. Their production is at a pretty steady state and they have carried out successful deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. While the aircraft is produced by Bell and Boeing (BA) the two engines for each aircraft are manufactured by Rolls-Royce’s (RR:LSE) American operations.

As the V-22 builds up service time and continues production there will be a need for more engines. Not only to support the deliveries of new aircraft but to replace those in service or act as spares. Rolls-Royce has received two contracts in the last week for engines to support the V-22 program.

First the Navy executed a contract worth over $120 million to support their MV-22. Then the Air Force purchased 24 engines for the CV-22 at a cost of almost $50 million.

In November another contract to provide maintenance for in-service V-22 aircraft was also won. This will support all services operating the aircraft.

As a program goes through its life cycle the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) are able to make significant revenue from providing this kind of support. The Department of Defense does have the right to order parts, equipment and support from other then the OEM and even if they purchased the data rights to have another company manufacture the engine.

Photo from Beige Alert’s flickr photostream.

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Raytheon to Make V-22 Avionics for the Navy

The V-22 Osprey has had a long history of trying to get started. The tilt rotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter but can fly like an airplane was stopped and restarted more then once in the last thirty years. Now it is in production for the Marine Corps, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force and has seen use in Afghanistan and Iraq. Made by Boeing (BA) and Bell Helicopter, part of Textron (TXT), the aircraft is in steady state production.

Raytheon (RTN) was awarded a contract to design and test software for the U.S. Navy version’s avionics. This aircraft is currently equipping Marine transport squadrons. This contract has a value of $250 million. The length of the contract also shows the commitment to the program by the U.S. military as it will last through 2014.

The current plans are to build almost 500 of the aircraft with the majority going to the Marines.

Photo from Beige Alert’s flickr photostream.

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U.S. Marines Continue UH-1 and AH-1 Production

The U.S. Marines awarded Bell Helicopter a contract to continue production of the UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters. This program either refurbishes older UH-1 and AH-1 or produces new helicopters to their standard. These helicopters represent a significant upgrade over the earlier versions of the aircraft used for several decades by the Marines and other Armed Services. The total contract value is over $500 million and will deliver eighteen new UH-1 and two new AH-1. A further nine AH-1 will be remanufactured to AH-1Z standard.

The UH-1 and AH-1 have been replaced in U.S. Army service by the newer UH-60 and AH-64 helicopters. The Marine program significantly upgrades these systems to improve their capabilities and meet the threat of the Twenty-first Century.

Photo from hoyasmeg flickr photostream.

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Textron’s Earnings Reflect The Market

Textron reported their third quarter earnings yesterday. They did beat expectations by not having a loss but had a profit of about 1 cent a share. This was a decline of ninety-eight percent from the year before. Despite all this the company is confident they will make a profit for a year and earnings would be as predicted.

Textron decline is caused by financial products and their civil air division. Sales of Cessna aircraft a luxury item right now were down a lot. The company has been reducing their participation in the financial sector due to the general downturn there. Despite Bell Helicopter’s struggles with the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) the military part of the company saw some growth.

There have been previous reports that Textron might sell Bell or other parts as it reorganizes to face the current economic downturn but so far that has not happened. As with everyone the company will have to wait and see how the economy recovers and what growth occurs.

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Selling Overseas To Make Up For Coming U.S. Defense Cuts

Arizona is a top beneficiary of defense dollars. This is primarily due to Raytheon and Bell activities in the state. Raytheon makes missile defense systems and Bell helicopters. Now with the possibility that Obama’s cuts to the defense budgets starting in 2010 and out the companies there are looking overseas for work.

Unfortunately this will be the business plan for all defense contractors if their is a significant contraction in U.S. defense spending. The focus will be on selling systems and support to Asian, South American and Middle Eastern companies. India, Brazil, the U.A.E. and Qatar have already made major investments in U.S. and European equipment and there are several major contracts coming. In 2008 the U.S. already captured two-thirds of the market but overall purchases were the lowest they had been since 2005. If this trend continues due to the global downturn in the economy there may be less opportunity for these sort of sales.

These trends may lead to further consolidation of the defense industry in the U.S. and abroad as domestic and foriegn markets may not be able to support the amount of business built up since 2001 primarily by the United States. This will be the most important factor facing the industry which has not seen this situation since the early Nineties and the end of the Reagan arms build-up.

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ARH’s first try is cancelled

After the close of the stock market this evening the Department of Defense announced that they are canceling the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) contract with Bell. The ARH-70 was to be a replacement for the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft that has been in service for over twenty years. ARH was one of the programs created out of the end of the RAH-66 Comanche program. Bell had run into cost and schedule growth issues with the program, much of it probably due to an overly optimistic US Army estimate on the program. The program had suffered a Nunn-McCurdy cost breach and that required DoD to either certify to Congress on the necessity of the program, or cancel it. Now the Army will start over.

See The Wall Street Journal for more.

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House marks appropriations bill

The House Appropriations Committee marked the FY09 budget before taking their August recess.  See a story here. The Army’s struggling Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) program was marked to delete 13 aircraft, and the Navy’s Presidential Helo was also decremented. The House also ordered that consideration of jobs would be a criteria for the source selection of the KC-45 tanker. Boeing won its protest of the award to Northrop-Grumman and EADS and forced DoD to reconsider the contract. The Senate needs to also mark the bill and then there will be a Conference mark up as well.

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ARH in jeopardy

The soaring costs of the ARH program have caused a Nunn-McCurdy Cost Breach. See a story here. The 40% increase in unit cost has caused the Army and DoD to rethink, again, proceeding with the contract. Nunn-McCurdy cost breaches were established in the 80′s as part of the overall reform of Congressional monitoring of programs. Read more

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Navy orders training systems for the V-22

The Navy ordered from the Boeing-Bell team manufacturing the V-22 Osprey training devices and related equipment today. The contract is worth about $78 M. See a story here. The Osprey has just finished a successful deployment in Iraq where it carried out heavy lift missions, usually for logistics purposes. The contract will pay for the development and production of training equipment.

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House Authorizers set own priorites

The House Armed Services Committee marked up the FY09 Defense Authorization Bill to their own priorities. See an article here. Big cuts were made to the Army’s Advanced Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH) and Future Combat System (FCS). ARH, a new Bell helicopter to replace the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior, has had its struggles. FCS is a vast system of systems that will still get over $2 B of funding with the House cut. Of course the Senate has fully funded both programs so that will have to be worked out in Conference. Some programs did gain such as the C-17 and the House continued the second engine for the F-35 JSF despite Pentagon protests that it is not necessary. There will be many more changes by October.

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V-22 money spread around

As part of the recent procurement of 167 V-22 Osprey’s by the USAF and USMC the Boeing led team will buy parts from Eaton. The expected revenue for this company from the contract could be over $300 M. See a story here. Eaton makes parts for the tilt rotor aircraft. This again illustrates the spillover effect from these large procurement contracts. Companies all over the world participate in the production of parts and services for the total systems. Gone are the days where one company does all of the work.

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India to buy 384 light helicopters

After canceling an earlier contract for Army helicopters, India is trying it again. This time though they are buying 259 for their Army and another 125 for the Air Force. See an article here. For information on the previous contract action see this. It is expected that Bell, Eurocopter, Augusta and Kamov will bid on the contract. The Indian government had for years relied on Russian and British equipment, but is now turning to America and other nations for their procurements. Based on past other procurements we will see similar aircraft to those that were proposed for the US Army’s Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) program which was won by the Eurocopter EC-145 aircraft.

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USCG Deep Water problems lead to end of Bell UAS program

February 15, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: Bell, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security 

Bell was building a tilt-rotor Unmanned Aeriel System (UAS) for the USCG as part of the Deep Water modernization and upgrade program. The whole Deep Water program has been hit with problems and criticism from Congress to the point where the USCG is restructuring. As part of this they canceled the tilt-rotor UAS that Bell Helicopter was building for them based on V-22 technology. See a story here. Read more

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Marines pleased with performance of V-22 in Iraq

January 25, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: Bell, Boeing, production program 

This article at highlights the performance of the V-22 Osprey in Western Iraq. Of note they replaced a CH-53 squadron and are maintaining an availability of 68%. This seems low compared to the Army helicopter systems I am familiar with, but maybe it is good compared to the 53. The squadron has flown 2000 hours or so since deployed in October.

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Increased Taiwanese Defense Budget buys new American systems

January 7, 2008 by · Comment
Filed under: Bell, production program, Raytheon, Taiwan 

With an increase in the 2008 defense budget, the Taiwanese military plans to buy AH-64 Apaches and Patriot PAC-3 missile systems. See here for more. The military also plans to invest in new cruise missiles and a study for an advanced submarine. Taiwan will also upgrade its Anti-submarine warfare aircraft by purchasing P-3 Orion aircraft.

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