Eurocopter to compete for Bell's lost US Army contract

By Niall O'Keeffe

Eurocopter will participate in the reopened competition to develop and build a new armed reconnaissance helicopter to replace the US Army's Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warriors, chief executive Lutz Bertling has revealed.

In October 2008 the US Department of Defense terminated Bell Helicopter's three-year-old contract to deliver a military variant of its civil 407 helicopter, after development costs roughly tripled and the in-service date was delayed by four years to 2013.

Bertling says EADS North America is to be proposed as prime contractor, with Eurocopter offering an armed version of the UH-72A Lakota, a modified EC145 already ordered by the US Army for the light utility helicopter role.

A North American partner - yet to be selected - will be enlisted to help develop a military mission package.

Bertling says a twin-engined helicopter would be "far better suited to [the] requirement" than a single-engined design. As it is already in service with the US Army, the LUH-based solution would offer advantages in logistics and fleet commonality, and would score highly on the "past performance" criterion, he adds. The service took delivery of its 50th UH-72 in December.

With a North American partner in tow, Eurocopter will have "a fair chance" of winning the reopened competition, according to Bertling. Other potential bidders include the AgustaWestland A109 or A119 and Boeing's AH-6S Phoenix, a stretched version of its current Little Bird aircraft.

Copyright © 2009 Aviation News Release

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