Updated February 28th, 2024 at 18:14 IST

UK Defence Ministry initiates bidding for new medium helicopter program

The UK has initiated the bidding process for its New Medium Helicopter program, aiming to award the contract in 2025 with a potential value of £1.2 billion.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Royal Air Force Helicopter | Image:Royal Air Force
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London: Britain has initiated the bidding process for its New Medium Helicopter program, marking a significant phase in the nation's modernization endeavors, announced the Defence Ministry on Tuesday. The UK anticipates awarding the contract in 2025, with the potential deal valued at nearly £1.2 billion (U.S. $1.5 billion), as per a March 2022 government document highlighting major defense projects. 

The Defence Procurement Minister, James Cartlidge, expressed satisfaction with the progress, stating, "The New Medium Helicopter will provide essential support to our military operations, and we’re pleased to have reached this next important stage of the program." He emphasized the program's strategic importance in maintaining rotary wing operational independence amidst evolving threats globally.  

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Enhanced capabilities on scope 

The program aims to deliver up to 44 medium-lift support helicopters capable of versatile operations in various environments, encompassing combat and humanitarian missions. This consolidation of roles previously assigned to different aircraft is expected to optimize the UK's vertical lift capabilities, enhancing operational efficiency and flexibility.

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UK's Puma helicopters are versatile medium support helicopter which are used to carry troops, cargo & casualties across the Globe. 

Leading aerospace companies, including the UK branches of Airbus Helicopters, Leonardo Helicopters, and Lockheed Martin, are poised to submit bids following the release of the British military's invitation to negotiate. Key factors under evaluation include the helicopters' export potential, design, and manufacturing processes, reflecting the program's broader strategic and economic implications. 

Strategic industrial investment 

The ministry underscored the contract's significance in securing operational independence while investing in long-term UK skills, aligning with the government's Defence and Security Industrial Strategy. The selected contractor will replace the Army's Puma helicopters and modernize the aging fleet of Bell 412, Bell 212, and Airbus Dauphin helicopters. 

Lockheed and its subsidiary Sikorsky are vying for the program with the Black Hawk helicopter, considering the establishment of a final assembly line in the UK to bolster their bid. Airbus, in partnership with Boeing, proposes the H175M, intending to manufacture it in Wales, while Leonardo eyes its AW149 helicopter, emphasizing its resilience to small-arms fire. The outcome of the bidding process will not only shape Britain's military capabilities but also influence its defense industrial landscape and international partnerships. 

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Published February 28th, 2024 at 18:14 IST