The future of the Defence Export Services Organisation is under review by the new UK government. The agency promotes British arms sales abroad, and has administered the ongoing but controversial Al-Yamamah contracts through which the UK sold the Royal Saudi Air Force 120 Tornado combat jets, 50 Hawk and 50 PC-9 trainers, all supplied and supported by BAE Systems.
Sikorsky announced Tuesday that the kingdom of Bahrain had signed a letter of acceptance for nine Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, the first export sale for the variant. Handled through foreign military sales channels, the acquisition is costing $204 million. The UH-60M is the latest Black Hawk version, featuring uprated engines and gearbox, wide-chord rotor blades and a digital, open-architecture avionics suite.
Helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft has tapped Honeywell to develop synthetic-vision technology for Black Hawk pilots landing in brownout conditions. The $6.9 million contract is part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) so-called Sandblaster program.
Training pilots to fly combat jets is an expensive proposition. A proposal by European air chiefs to cut costs by combining forces has made only slow progress. However, two well established multinational training programs are readily available in North America. Meanwhile, “downloading” and “contractorization” are the prevailing buzzwords, as all air forces try to rationalize their flight training systems.
To inaugurate its newest aircraft type, fractional provider Flight Options is offering a reduced hourly occupied rate for customers who sign up for shares in the Embraer Legacy. For the first 24 months of the 60-month contract, the share owner will pay an hourly rate of $1,990, comparable to that of a Hawker 800XP. At the 25th month, the rate reverts to the regular $2,485 per hour.
Bell Helicopter has initiated an engineering study with a number of partners for a rather unconventional aircraft that designers say would be especially well suited to urban operations. The Bell X-Hawk would feature two shrouded main rotors in tandem configuration, fore and aft, and two smaller shrouded rotors acting as thrusters. Although Bell is targeting military applications, a civil variant is under consideration by its partners.
A Gulfstream IISP (for Special Performance–GIIs equipped with Aviation Partners’ winglets) set a world speed record December 15 on its way from Los Angeles to Kitty Hawk, N.C. The record flight was made to honor the Wright brothers’ first manned powered flight 100 years ago. The GIISP made the cross-country flight in 3 hours 48 minutes at an average groundspeed of 548 knots.
Fractional operator NetJets announced an order late last month for 50 Hawker 400XPs and eight midsize Hawker 800XPs, a deal valued in excess of $360 million. The order also includes an option for 50 Hawker 400XPs, bringing the total potential value to more than $600 million. In addition, discussion is under way with an undisclosed company on a long-term maintenance agreement, which was to be finalized by the end of last year.
NetJets has doubled its order for new Hawkers. The fractional operator, which announced at last year’s NBAA Convention an order for 30 Hawker 750s and 18 Hawker 900XPs, disclosed last month that it ordered another 30 Hawker 750s and 18 Hawker 900XPs. Both aircraft are derivatives of the Hawker 850XP and will replace that model on the production line.
Following up on a tentative agreement reached nearly nine months ago, Raytheon Aircraft and NetJets signed a contract for the purchase of 50 Hawker 4000s (née Horizons) for the latter company’s fractional fleet. In addition, there is a separate 10-year guaranteed maintenance program. Raytheon Aircraft said the combined total value of these contracts will exceed $1 billion, the largest single commercial order in the company’s history.