US-Canadian JV Wins Philippine Huey Helicoopters Tender

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The Philippine Air Force is acquiring 21 refurbished Bell UH-1H (Huey) helicopters to bolster its combat, security and utility, transport capability, the PhilSTAR reported. The winner of the tender  was a joint venture of two foreign companies – U.S. based Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and the Canadian Eagle Copters Ltd. According to the STAR, the JV will deliver the helicopters at a cost of about US$28 million, (P1.25 million, $28,000 short of the threshold the DND has set for the procurement). Rice is specializing in maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) and restoration of Bell helicopters. Rice also provides support MRO as well as sales and leasing services. The company operates a number of international locations, including Chile and Australasia.

It was the fourth round of bidding on this tender. The third was cancelled in September, as all bidders, including the Rice/eagle JV were disqualified. Since then nine firms expressed interest in the tender; according to the STAR, apart from the Rice/Eagle JV, other bidders included Radom Aviation Systems, Serpenair Group Inc./Bell Helicopter, St. Aerospace Engineering, Stone of David Tactical Equipment, Overseas Aircraft Support, Aerospace Engineering Group and Philjets Aero Services/Vector Aerospace were all considering offers.

The PAF 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing has been operating some UH-1H over the years, but their conditions deteriorated and the level of airworthy helicopters has been reduced from 67 to 21.  In September 2013 Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatactac said that the Air Force has asked for 45 helicopters but could budget only 21. ” 33 of those 67 helicopters are beyond repair, while 22 are recoverable” Dimatactac said, “the air force needs 96 Hueys, but has only 76 in its inventory” he added. Since 2003 Manila received used 20 UH-1H helicopters from US surplus, including five helicopters retired from service with the US President air fleet. 

Besides partly restoring their fleet of Hueys, the PAF has recently ordered 16 new helicopters – eight Polish Sokol helicopters, acquired for $62 million (P2.8 billion) from the Augusta PZL Swidnik company and delivered to Manila in 2013, and eight AW109P (Power) acquired directly from the Italian parent company AgustaWestland for $77 million (P3.44 billion). These A109Power copters could be in the Philippines by 2015.

A line of refurbished Huey UH-1H Iroquois helicopters parked at Rice Aircraft in northern California. The Huey is a popular platform operating with many third world air forces.  Photo: Rice Aircraft
A line of refurbished Huey UH-1H Iroquois helicopters parked at Rice Aircraft in northern California. The Huey is a popular platform operating with many third world air forces. Photo: Rice Aircraft