Yesterday AgustaWestland and Boeing signed an agreement to jointly manufacture the Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopter for the Italian army. AgustaWestland serves as the prime for the Italian contract, and takes responsibility for design and systems integration, plus delivery. Boeing Rotorcraft Systems plans to build the Chinook fuselages at its plant at Ridley Park, Pennsylvania.
India-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL, here at chalet R1) now has the military utility version of its Dhruv helicopter certified with an IAI-made glass cockpit. “We have delivered 10 to the Indian army,” chief test pilot Chandra Upadhyay told AIN. The Army’s pilots have started training and plan to be ready to operate with the new cockpit within two or three months, he added.
Germany’s MTU Aero Engines has taken an 18 percent stake in the GE38 turboshaft engine powering the Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallion heavylift helicopter, marking its first entry into a U.S. military engine program. Under the agreement, MTU, which has previously manufactured components only for U.S. military engines, will have responsibility for the power turbine module.
Russia’s Oboronprom Corporation and AgustaWestland announced the signing of a heads of agreement for the joint final assembly of the AW139 medium twin helicopter in a still-to-be-built factory near Moscow. According to Oboronprom director general Andrey Reus, outlined plans call for a production rate of 24 helicopters per year.
Boeing has begun flight-testing the AH-64D Block III, the latest variant of the Apache gunship helicopter. The first flight occurred at Mesa, Arizona, on June 27. The Block III modernization initiative moved forward in response to the cancellation of the RAH-66 Comanche, and uses funds and technology redirected from that program.
Lockheed Martin’s Pathfinder flight team began preparations this week to demonstrate the system to the U.S. Army in a developmental and limited-user evaluation. Pathfinder is a pilotage aid based on the M-TADS/PNVS used in the AH-64 Apache, but intended for cargo and utility aircraft. It gives pilots FLIR-based imagery on a helmet display for safer flight in reduced-vision environments, including brown-out conditions.
Eurocopter has successfully flown a production-capable testbed helicopter using fly-by-light systems to drive its primary flight controls. Known under the awkward cognomen of the active control technology demonstrator/flying helicopter simulator (ACT/FHS), the remarkable rotorcraft is a Eurocopter EC 135 airframe fitted with the new laser light control system.
Deliveries of the Eurocopter UH-72A (EC 145) Lakota to the U.S. Army are gathering pace since the first helicopter entered into service in November 2006. Last month the first operational unit received its first aircraft, and the second unit began accepting aircraft a few days ago.
Helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky (Hall 4 Stand F14) has nearly finished building its X2 coaxial compound helicopter demonstrator in Elmira, New York. Although additional ground tests are needed there, first flight is “within arm’s reach,” according to Jim Kagdis, Sikorsky’s manager of advanced programs. He would not commit to a specific time period, however. The X2 program is entirely funded by Sikorsky.
Motorflug Baden-Baden signed an agreement to be acquired by Eurocopter Deutschland. The German company specializes in helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul at bases in Baden-Baden, Rheinmünster and Schönhagen, near Berlin. The facility will become an integral part of Eurocopter’s service and support business and will complement Eurocopter’s maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities in the civil helicopter market.