The US Navy (USN) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 130 new training helicopters to replace its ageing Bell TH-57B/C SeaRanger platforms.
Issued on 28 January, the RFP covers the procurement of 130 helicopters for the service’s TH-XX programme for the advanced training of USN, US Marine Corps (USMC), and US Coast Guard (USCG) undergraduate helicopter pilots.
Responses to the RFP are due no later than 1630 h US Eastern Standard Time on 2 April. A contract award is anticipated in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, with the TH-57 fleet set to be fully retired by 2023.
To date, three companies have declared their intention to bid for the TH-XX requirement: Airbus Helicopters is to offer its twin-engined H135; Bell is offering both the single-engined 407GXi and twin-engined 429 GlobalRanger; and Leonardo is offering its single-engined AgustaWestland TH-119.
In promoting its offering, Airbus Helicopters has noted that 130 H135s are currently training military pilots in 13 countries and more than 300,000 military training hours have been flown to date. The company is also looking to leverage the success that the H135s larger EC145 stablemate has experienced with the US Army: more than 430 UH-72A Lakota helicopters have been delivered since contract award in 2006 and the USN uses the platform at its Advanced Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland.
Bell is hedging its bets with both a single- and twin-engined offering as neither the request for information (RFI) nor the draft RFP stipulated a preference from the USN. The 407GXi is the latest variant of the 407, which is itself an advanced variant of the Bell 206 JetRanger on which the TH-57 SeaRanger is based. The twin-engined 429 GlobalRanger is already in military service with Australia and Oman, and Slovakia has also shown interest.
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