Boeing and Airbus join forces in bid for £1bn UK helicopter contract

Boeing is becoming a member of forces with rival Airbus within the £1bn contest to switch Britain’s workhorse battlefield helicopter as considerations rise that the unique in-service date of 2025 can not be met.

The US aerospace and defence group will present air crew, floor crew and upkeep coaching if Airbus’s provide to construct a brand new helicopter is chosen to switch the Royal Air Drive’s ageing Puma help machines.

The 2 corporations, which compete fiercely for business plane orders from airways, teamed up final yr on one other helicopter procurement.

Airbus joined Boeing’s business crew final March as a part of Germany’s deliberate buy of 60 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters manufactured by the US group to switch its ageing CH-53 fleet.

Within the UK competitors, Boeing will probably be becoming a member of Airbus’s present consortium, which incorporates Babcock Worldwide and Spirit AeroSystems’ enterprise in Northern Eire. The consortium is competing in opposition to rival presents from Leonardo UK and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky.

The £1bn-plus contract, for as much as 44 new machines, was launched in 2021. The contract was anticipated to be awarded this yr with a purpose of bringing the brand new helicopters into service by 2025.

That date, which was all the time thought-about bold, has been pushed again amid delays to the procurement course of and inter-governmental wrangling over defence spending following the Ukraine conflict, two individuals acquainted with the competitors confirmed.

Executives from the primary contenders met with officers from the Ministry of Defence on the finish of February to debate a revised timetable for the competitors, the 2 individuals mentioned.

The high-profile contract was going to be one of many first to check the federal government’s extra “strategic” strategy to defence procurement as outlined within the defence industrial technique from spring 2021.

As an alternative of specializing in competitors by default, the brand new technique has promised to take higher account of the social and financial elements supplied by bidders through the choice course of.

A minimal 10 per cent weighting in direction of the social worth of a contract will probably be utilized in competitions.

Many of the bidders have tried to burnish their UK credentials. Airbus has promised to construct a brand new manufacturing line at its operations in Broughton, Wales, the place the corporate builds wings for its business plane.

Leonardo UK, which owns Britain’s solely present helicopter manufacturing unit in Yeovil, Somerset, has promised to construct a brand new line on the website and introduce digital manufacturing abilities as a part of a £1bn funding programme.

The significance of spending on British-based corporations has taken on higher urgency following the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the conflict in Ukraine.

Analysts have warned that retaining onshore capabilities is important if the UK is to have the ability to make modifications or upgrades to tools sooner or later.

The MoD was not instantly accessible for remark.

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