Photo courtesy of Bell Flight.
Bell said it plans to conduct final assembly of its 407GXi single-engine helicopter at its plant in Ozark, Alabama if the company is awarded the U.S. Navy’s contract for the TH-XX Advanced Helicopter Training System.
The Navy wants 130 aircraft to replace the service's fleet of TH-57 Sea Rangers — based on the Bell 206 — by 2023. Other competitors include Leonardo with its single-engine TH-119 and Airbus Helicopters’ twin-engine H135.
Leonardo’s TH-119 is the only competing aircraft built in the U.S., at the company’s facility outside of Philadelphia. Airbus builds the H135 in Germany, but has plans to build it in Columbus, Mississippi. Now Bell has announced similar plans for the 407GXi.
“Our Ozark team has proven their capabilities delivering Bell 407s to the Navy through the Fire Scout program,” said Bell CEO Mitch Snyder. “We look forward to providing a safe, technologically advanced aircraft for the next generation of Naval aviators.”
The Navy is requiring its next trainer to be IFR-certified, a benchmark which Airbus has already achieved for the H135, which is the only twin engine competitor and the only one with four-axis autopilot. Leonardo told R&WI it is targeting next month for the TH-119’s certification, while Bell is confident it can get the 407GXi certified by the Navy’s mid-fourth quarter deadline.