Boeing and Airbus join forces in bid for £1bn UK helicopter contract

Boeing is becoming a member of forces with rival Airbus within the £1bn contest to switch Britain’s workhorse battlefield helicopter as considerations rise that the unique in-service date of 2025 can now not be met.

The US aerospace and defence group will present air crew, floor crew and upkeep coaching if Airbus’s supply to construct a brand new helicopter is chosen to switch the Royal Air Power’s ageing Puma assist machines.

The 2 firms, which compete fiercely for industrial plane orders from airways, teamed up final yr on one other helicopter procurement.

Airbus joined Boeing’s business staff final March as a part of Germany’s deliberate buy of 60 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters manufactured by the US group to switch its ageing CH-53 fleet.

Within the UK competitors, Boeing will likely be becoming a member of Airbus’s present consortium, which incorporates Babcock Worldwide and Spirit AeroSystems’ enterprise in Northern Eire. The consortium is competing in opposition to rival affords from Leonardo UK and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky.

The £1bn-plus contract, for as much as 44 new machines, was launched in 2021. The contract was anticipated to be awarded this yr with a objective of bringing the brand new helicopters into service by 2025.

That date, which was at all times thought-about bold, has been pushed again amid delays to the procurement course of and inter-governmental wrangling over defence spending following the Ukraine conflict, two folks aware of the competitors confirmed.

Executives from the principle contenders met with officers from the Ministry of Defence on the finish of February to debate a revised timetable for the competitors, the 2 folks stated.

The high-profile contract was going to be one of many first to check the federal government’s extra “strategic” method to defence procurement as outlined within the defence industrial technique from spring 2021.

As an alternative of specializing in competitors by default, the brand new technique has promised to take larger account of the social and financial components provided by bidders through the choice course of.

A minimal 10 per cent weighting in the direction of the social worth of a contract will likely be utilized in competitions.

Many of the bidders have tried to burnish their UK credentials. Airbus has promised to construct a brand new manufacturing line at its operations in Broughton, Wales, the place the corporate builds wings for its industrial plane.

Leonardo UK, which owns Britain’s solely present helicopter manufacturing facility in Yeovil, Somerset, has promised to construct a brand new line on the website and introduce digital manufacturing abilities as a part of a £1bn funding programme.

The significance of spending on British-based firms has taken on larger urgency following the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the conflict in Ukraine.

Analysts have warned that retaining onshore capabilities is vital if the UK is to have the ability to make modifications or upgrades to tools sooner or later.

The MoD was not instantly obtainable for remark.

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