By Staff Writer | July 1, 2009
MILITARY | HEAVY LIFT
The European Union has decided to build its own heavy-lift helicopters to replace its aging CH-53 Sikorsky Sea Stallions. The project is led by the European Defense Agency. It is a response to a shortage in heavy lifts for European military missions in Afghanistan and Chad. So serious is the shortage that European countries have had to charter Russian Mil-26s to move their troops and materiel by air.
"The European Defence Agency’s ‘Future Transport Helicopter’ aims at the 2020-plus time frame when the current generation of heavy lift helicopters reach their end of life," said an EDA official. "There is no such [future transport] helicopter on the market now. In its initial phase [the next three years] the focus will be on exploring participation of other countries on defining requirements and assessing solutions."
Despite its Eurocentric focus, the FTH project may offer opportunities for U.S. helicopter manufacturers. In fact, "The head of the European Defence Agency, Javier Solana, has tasked EDA to establish a substantial dialogue with the U.S. to explore concrete opportunities for trans Atlantic partnerships for a Future Transport Helicopter," said the EDA official. "These contacts will be established in the near future."
The clock is ticking on the new European heavy lifter. With EU powers having approved the FTH project on May 18, Phase One has already begun. Once the details have been settled, design and manufacturing is scheduled to begin in 2011.