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.
On 15 March, Bell Helicopter Textron has been awarded a USD 18.9 million for three UH-1H Huey II helicopters for the Lebanese government. This will be done via a foreign military sales (FMS) contract.
These 3 examples are part of an order for 18 UH-1H Huey II helicopters placed in 2014. The Lebanese Air Force already flies 6 Huey IIs since 2012. Delivery of the 3 helicopters is expected to be completed by 14 March 2017. Besides the Huey II the Lebanese Air Force also operates the older UH-1H type for more than 15 years now. The Huey IIs will replace these older airframes.
The UH-1 Huey (officially named Iroquois) flew first in 1959, and has been in service in large numbers with many air forces around the world, such as the German army (see our special report about the UH-1Ds here)
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 Philippines have terminated the contract for the delivery of 21 ex-US Army UH-1D “Huey” (Iroquouis) helicopters. The choppers were to be refurbished by US based Rice Aircraft Services together with Eagle Copters of Canada, but the North American suppliers have now been blacklisted by Manilla for not living up to the deal.
The Philippines already “partially terminating” the contract on 27 March 2015 due to failure to meet the delivery schedule by Rice Aircraft Services, but according to Philippine sources it is now the end of it all.
The contract was awarded just before Christmas 2013 and called for the complete refurbishment of the choppers which are commonly known as Hueys. The aircraft became an icon of US operations in the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. Modernised versions serve many civilian operators and armed services today – including the US Marine Corps.
Rice Aircraft Services/Eagle Copters were to deliver the aircraft fully operational but unarmed to the Philippines, but critics already wondered why the Pacific nation was buying older versions of the Huey in stead of the newer H-model. The Philippine Air Force is already operating those UH-1Hs from almost all of its 15 air field facilities throughout the country. Officially it has 44 Hueys on strength, but it is widely believed only half of them are airworthy. Eight similar Bell 205s serve primarily as search-and-rescue helicopters.
Taiwan has secured the operational availability of its fleet of 10 Aérospatiale designed AS365 Dauphin helicopters for the next five years. Taipei has chosen Airbus Helicopters – the current marketeer/manufacturer of the Dauphin – for a so-called full fleet management for 54,5 million Euros.
The National Airborne Services Corps of Republic of China (Taiwan) Interior Ministry is operating the 10 Dauphins in the search and rescue, disaster relief, emergency medical services (HEMS), transportation, monitoring, reconnaissance and patrol role. The NASC’s AS365s are based at Taipei-SongShan, Taichung and Kaohsiung-Hsia Kong.
Key in deal is that Airbus performs not only all maintenance on the choppers, but also provides so-called end-to-end logistics. In other words, the NASC personnel should only worry about its real mission: providing chopper service for those in need.
The NASC was formed in March 2004 as a merger between police, fire fighting and coast guard units. Besides the Dauphins, the NASC operates 20 Bell UH-1H “Huey” choppers, two Sikorsky S-76Bs, three Chinooks (civilian model B-234 of the CH-47), a Beechcraft 200 Super King Air (BE-200) and a Beechcraft 350 King Air (BE-350). Apart from the three Fleet Stations where the Dauphins are based, the NASC air assets also fly from Fleet Stations Hualien, Tainan and Taitung.