Textron’s [TXT] Bell Helicopter and Leonardo are touting two different approaches, pitching cost effectiveness against full requirements, for a potential Navy contract to replace its fleet of training helicopters with 105 new aircraft.
Navy officials are looking to move on from the Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter for their advanced training program. A Request For Proposals (RFP) seeking a new single-engine, commercial off-the-shelf aircraft is expected later in 2018.
“The Navy wants to do their training with a single engine platform. We like the fact that they’re looking at a platform very similar to what they have today,” Radzi Buckman, vice president for Leonardo’s government sales & programs, told sister publication Defense Daily at Navy League’s Sea, Air, Space (SAS) conference April 10.
Bell is pitching its 407GXi and Leonardo is offering its TH-119 as potential helicopters for the Navy’s advanced training program. The Navy currently uses Bell’s TH-57 for all training exercises including basic training, hovering maneuvers, night vision training and cargo lifts.
Navy officials have previously released requests in 2013 and 2017 for information to gauge industry options for replace its helicopters, and a formal RFP is expected early this fall. An eventual contract may be awarded in 2020, according to Buckman.
Michael Nault, program director for Bell’s 407GXi, believes a continued training helicopter partnership with the Navy and an emphasis on cost effectiveness will help secure a future contract to replace the TH-57.
“The GXi is the latest evolution from the TH-57 that the Navy currently operates. It’s the latest and greatest airframe, and the latest and greatest transmission. It’s an evolution of the engine as well,” Nault told reporters at SAS on April 10. “[The GXi] has a lot of commonality. It’s an aircraft that would be easy to transition for the Navy, going from the TH-57 to the 407GXi.”
Nault pointed to the new helicopter’s Garmin [GRMN] G1000 NXi avionics system as a key component to the 407GXi. The multi-panel flight deck includes a proprietary Synthetic Vision System, is compatible with night vision devices and includes ADS-B OUT/IN capabilities.
The GXi also includes a Garmin Flightstream 510 system for WiFi-enabled remote flight planning and a Rolls-Royce M250-C47E/4 dual-channel FADEC turbine engine.
While Bell spoke to a best-value approach, Leonardo officials told sister publication Defense Daily their TH-119’s meets the Navy’s key requirement to be Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified and will make for an easy transition.
“You don’t have a lot of single engine aircraft out there in the market that are IFR-certified,” Buckman said.
The TH-119 features a Genesys avionics system with a digital integrated flight deck, a dual independent Stability Augmentation System and five-fuel cell option to increase flight time.
Burkman said the TH-119 already meets all the requirements included in the Navy’s most recent RFI.
Bell officials confirmed the 470GXi is not currently IFR-certified but said they would work to meet all the requirements once they’re finalized in the RFP.
“We think the single-engine aircraft is the much more affordable solution for the Navy. At the end of the day, we’ll wait for the draft RFP to come out and see what the final requirements are to proceed,” Colin Smith, Bell senior manager for Naval programs, told reporters at SAS.
Airbus, Boeing [BA] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] may also pursue the training helicopter contract once the competition is formally rolled out, according to previous reports.