AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman have teamed to offer the three-engine AW101 for the U.S. Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) requirement, the successor program of the cancelled CSAR-X. The companies will offer the same type for the Navy’s VXX program to replace the U.S. presidential helicopter. That acquisition was originally awarded to AgustaWestland teamed with Lockheed Martin for the VH-71 Kestrel version of the AW101 but later cancelled.
On September 18 AgustaWestland and Northrop Grumman announced that they have signed a “comprehensive teaming agreement” to respond to anticipated requests for the new Air Force and Navy helicopters. Northrop Grumman will offer the services a “U.S.-built helicopter” based on the AW101. “We are delighted to have Northrop Grumman as a partner, with their impressive history of supporting the U.S. Department of Defense,” said AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini. “We strongly believe that the AW101 is the right aircraft for both missions.”
The Air Force released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for the CRH program in March to replace the service’s Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters. In 2006 the service chose Boeing’s HH-47 Chinook for the requirement. But the program was cancelled in 2009 after successive contractor protests, amended proposals and delays. The Air Force updated the draft RFP for the CRH program in mid-September. It specifies an acquisition of 112 aircraft through Fiscal Year 2024, with low-rate initial production beginning in Fiscal Year 2017.
The Navy’s VXX program succeeds the $6.1 billion VH-71 acquisition that the Pentagon terminated due to cost overruns in June 2009 after nearly $3 billion had been spent over four years to develop the Kestrel. In June 2010 Boeing said it had secured a license from AgustaWestland for U.S. production of the AW101, which was being resubmitted for the VXX requirement. And in successive announcements that year, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin said they had teamed to offer Sikorsky’s S-92 to the Navy for VXX and an advanced version of the UH-60M Black Hawk to the Air Force for what was then called the HH-60 Recapitalization Program, now the CRH.
Responding to a query from AIN, Sikorsky reconfirmed that it is allied with Lockheed Martin as a “principal teammate” to compete for the Navy and Air Force programs and will offer the S-92 for the Navy’s VXX. The manufacturer said it is evaluating the Air Force’s draft RFP for the CRH, and “at this time, we have made no decisions regarding our bid or platform.”