Bell Helicopter is hoping that its marinized H-1 series of military helicopters will be attractive to Asian air forces and army aviation wings that operate in a region with harsh tropical conditions and near maritime operations.
“Any country that has a legacy Bell product is likely to have another one. We look at these countries with great interest but we have to work with the U.S. government for inter-government actions,” said Steve Mathias, v-p global business development. In Asia, the South Korea Army and the Royal Thai Army, among others, have legacy AH-1S and AH-1F models at the tail end of their service lives. Similarly, the UH-1 family is in active service across the region in numerous states.
The company announced at the Singapore Airshow that the Philippines has signed for 16 Bell 412 EPI, purchased by the Philippine Department of National Defense, in government-to-government contract with the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC). The Bell 412 EPI is the 412 variant with Bell BasiX Pro glass cockpit, providing critical flight information at-a-glance for greater situational awareness and safety. However, in reports after the show it appears that the President of the Philippines has cast doubt on this order.
Bell’s UH-1Y/AH-1Z are manufactured with marine features by default, that includes tie down hooks, flapping stop and brakes on the rotors, chromate primer and gasket sealing for corrosion protects. Wirings and avionics are shielded against the immense radiation from the ship board radars.
In January this year, the Pentagon announced that it would be putting surplus ex-US Marines AH-1W Super Cobras up for international sales, either via Foreign Military Sales [FMS] or Direct Commercial Sale [DCS]. “There has been a lot of interest from the industry as to what that would look like." Mathias said. “There is a business case there but it is still uncertain how the USMC will ‘dispose’ the AH-1W and which nations will get them and their requirements. We have an active H-1 program office and taking a ‘Whiskey’ project will not be a stretch to us.”
“Because it is marinized, the long-term sustainment and flying-hour cost is much less, and as a result it is more operationally ready and can achieve a higher flying tempo,” he added.