MD Helicopters will develop a new military aircraft called the 6XX that company CEO Lynn Tilton wants delivered by 2018.
Tilton said Tuesday at Heli-Expo she wanted to spend the rest of 2016 getting out the specification so MD could work toward completing testing and certification in 2017. She said she's focusing on building and delivering the 6XX in 2018.
Tilton said MD might borrow ideas for the 6XX from her work in the automotive industry as the owner of Dura Automotive, using aluminium and even some plastic framework like Legos to build strength, reduce weight, improve fuel efficiency and lower costs. She left open the possibility of using parts or structures borrowed from other MD aircraft, but she emphasized the 6XX would be brand new.
Tilton hopes the 6XX will allow MD to compete for Army contracts as the service begins to conceptualize its next generation rotorcraft. She said the Army has helped MD in learning how to deliver a product in fewer than six months and have a 98% readiness ratio in theater.
MD weaponized an aircraft for the Afghanistan air force, the 530F Cayuse Warrior, under a contract from the U.S. Army. The company in late 2014 was awarded a firm fixed-price contract worth $44 million to put mission equipment package weapon systems on 17 530F helicopters. Tilton said MD delivered 20 Cayuse Warriors last year and will deliver another 12 before the spring "fighting season" this year. The 530F Cayuse Warrior is an evolution of the OH-6 Cayuse light observation helicopter.
MD has another armed aircraft that Tilton said recently scored a big launch order from Malaysia: the 530G scout attack helicopter. She said she hopes to deliver the first aircraft by the end of this year. The 530G can perform missions like command, control, communication and computers (C4); intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); armed escort; cavalry and security missions; and light attack, among others.
MD has reached about 60% military sales, said Tilton, as opposed to 50-50 military-civilian last year. Calling 2015 the best year for MD since she bought the company in 2005, Tilton said MD in 2016 would likely see a rise by at least 60% in revenue and another 40% in profitability.
Mostly known for a line of smaller aircraft favored by international militaries and law enforcement, MD would innovate into the future by partnering with automotive, electronic and Silicon Valley companies, said Tilton. She said MD will focus on developing innovative cockpits to not only catch up to the competition but to leapfrog competitors.