Boeing on Thursday 2 March unveiled its MH-139 helicopter, which the company will enter in the competition to replace the US Air Force’s UH-1N Huey fleet. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary Sikorsky are pitching their new HH-60U Ghost Hawk.
The US Air Force is looking to replace its UH-1N Hueys, which currently protect intercontinental ballistic missiles and transport government and security forces. The plan is to replace the current Huey fleet — which entered service in the 1970s — with up to 84 new helicopters.
Boeing’s revealed the MH-139 at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium. The offering is based on the Leonardo Helicopters AW139. “This northeast Philadelphia-built aircraft is sized to meet US Air Force requirements and offers more than 1 billion USD in acquisition and lifecycle expense savings over 30 years when compared to competitor aircraft,” said David Koopersmith, vice president and general manager, Boeing Vertical Lift.
The HH-60U Ghost Hawk shares many commonalities with HH-60W combat search and rescue helos currently in production. A decision on which helicopter will eventually replace the Huey in the US Air Force, is still some time away.
Pakistan as ordered another bacth of AW139 helicopters from Italian company Leonardo. The contract follows a similar order that was signed in May 2016, and once again the exact number of helicopters ordered remains ‘undisclosed’. The latest batch of AW139s will be used to perform utility and transport operations across the nation. Deliveries are expected to start in mid-2017.
According to Leonardo, the AW139 is the perfect fit to Pakistan’s operational environment, delivering capabilities ideal for hot and high operations.
So far, over 970 AW139 helicopters have been sold to more than 240 customers in over 70 nations. Out of those, over 830 have been delivered as of now.
Leonardo-Finmeccanica announced on Tuesday 24 May that Pakistan has signed a contract for an undisclosed number of AgustaWestland AW139 intermediate twin engine helicopters. They will be used as search and rescue platforms.
The contract was signed in Islamabad and is part of a Pakistani fleet renewal program spread over several batches including a logistic support and training package. The AW139s are expected in 2017.
According to Leonardo-Finmeccanica, the signing further expands the already successful presence of the AW139 helicopter in-country. A total of 11 AW139s are already in service in Pakistan, with five aircraft operated for government relief and transportation duties.
UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.
Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.
In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.
In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.
Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.
A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.
As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.
The Italian Coast Guard on 6 July received three more AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters while at the same time ordering two more, with options for another four. The choppers are used for a range of missions including maritime patrol, search and rescue (SAR), and emergency medical services.
Delivery of the first batch of Italian Coast Guard’s AW139s started in 2010 and since entering service they have proved extremely successful, performing operations along the Italian coast line and in its maritime economic exclusive zone.
The AW139 has also been selected by and is in service with the Italian State Police, Guardia di Finanza (Customs and Border protection) and the Italian Air Force. The various Italian Government agencies operating the AW139 are able to benefit from shared logistics, training and support systems. This latest contract brings the total number of AW139s chosen by all of these Italian government operators to 37,.
Many maritime, border patrol and security agencies from countries around the world, including Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the UK, USA, Sweden, Spain, Estonia and UAE. Approximately 900 orders have been placed by more than 220 customers from nearly 70 nations to date with more than 730 AW139s already in service.