|AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman will partner to develop a helicopter based on the AW101 Merlin for upcoming bids for the USAF Combat Rescue Helicopter and the Navy’s Marine One Presidential Helicopter replacement.
AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman announced on Sept. 18 that they will team up “to respond to anticipated requests for both the new U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) and the Navy’s recently announced program to develop a new ‘Marine One’ Presidential Helicopter.” A statement noted that the aircraft will be U.S.-built and based on the AW101 Merlin, with Northrop Grumman placing the bid.
Previously AgustaWestland teamed with Lockheed Martin offering the U.S. Navy the VH-71 Kestrel. However cost overruns saw the price escalate to over $13 billion for 28 helicopters and in June 2009, President Obama took the opportunity for a “quick political win” in terms of cutting the heavily criticized program and the U.S. Navy canceled the contract.
It is already intended that in the summer 2013 the Presidential fleet will include 14 MV-22B Osprey tiltrotors serving with Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1) at Marine Corps Air Station Quantico, Va., for use in the support role. They replace the CH-46Es. The Air Force released a draft Request for Proposal (RfP) for its CRH in mid-September. Expectations are for a fleet of 112 helicopters to replace the existing 148 HH-60G Pave Hawks. Deliveries will be spread over 13 years. The previous $10-billion program for 141 aircraft was named CSAR-X and was won by Boeing with its HH-47 Chinook back in November 2006. However, both Sikorsky (offering its HH-92) and Lockheed Martin (putting forward its AgustaWestland AW101) challenged the decision and early the following year the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in their favor on the basis that “the Air Force’s actual evaluation of the Most Probable Life Cycle Cost (MPLCC) was inconsistent with the required approach as set forth in the solicitation.”
With Sikorsky, Bell Helicopter and Boeing all likely competitors to the new teaming arrangement between Northrop and AgustaWestland, watch out for old wounds to be reopened and knives drawn again. If anything, the absolute value of these programs to the eventual winner is much higher this time around.