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Navy League 2019: Airbus, Bell, Leonardo bidding for new USN training helicopter

07 May 2019
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The US Navy (USN) is seeking a commercial off-the-shelf aircraft to replace its Bell Helicopter TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopter. The TH-57, based on the Bell 206 JetRanger, was first introduced in the 1960s and is expected to be retired by 2023.

In January the USN issued a request for proposals (RFP) for up to 130 new trainers under its TH-XX programme and bids were submitted in April or earlier. A downselect and contract award is expected to be made as soon as November.

The USN's TH-57 training helicopter is to be retired from service by 2023, and a replacement is now being sought. (US Coast Guard)The USN's TH-57 training helicopter is to be retired from service by 2023, and a replacement is now being sought. (US Coast Guard)

At least three companies are known to be bidding for the project: Airbus Helicopters offered its twin-engine H135, Leonardo its single-engine AgustaWestland TH-119, and Bell its single-engine 407GXi and possibly its twin-engine 429 GlobalRanger.

The 407GXi is the latest variant of Bell’s 407-series helicopters, which are an advanced derivative of the 206 JetRanger. The 407GXi is fitted with a Garmin G1000H NXI all-glass avionics suite with an added third display screen, Carl Forsling, Bell’s manager for domestic military sales campaigns, told Jane’s . Bell’s 407GXi for the TH-XX would undergo finally assembly in Ozark, Alabama. A Bell spokesperson said the company was working to get an instrument flight rules (IFR) certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was “confident it will be certified on time”.

Bell is understood to have also bid with the twin-engine 429 GlobalRanger, although Forsling declined to comment on or confirm the GlobalRanger bid.

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