AgustaWestland plans to compete for the U.S. Air Force’s planned replacement of HH-60G Pave hawk combat search and rescue (CSAR) helicopter with over 100 ‘off-the-shelf’ platform. The European group is offering a version of the AW101 designated HH-71. Two years ago the company teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the U.S. Air Force a similar search and rescue helicopter (CSAR-X program). Then they lost to the much heavier HH-47 Chinook, proposed by Boeing. Last month Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky announced their intention to offer the Air Force a modified version of the latest Black Hawk UH-60M tailored for CSAR missions.
R. Scott Rettig, chief executive officer of AgustaWestland North America believes the HH-71, “has modern, stealthy capabilities are balanced out with the confidence of a mature, proven platform, as the full CSAR program requirements are developed.” Among the HH-71s’ attributes that could benefit its CSAR role are low acoustic signature, all-weather capability and effectiveness in austere environments such as sand and snow. The aircraft includes three engines providing aircrews the assurance that the mission can be safely completed, even under hostile or irregular warfare conditions. The spacious cabin space is wide enough to transport 35 seated troops or 16 stretchers for medical evacuations and room for on-board treatment – a significant capacity increase over the legacy platform. More than 155 AW101 helicopters were delivered to date, accumulating over 200,000 flight hours, some have been flying combat and support missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. For Combat Search and Rescue, the AW101 can be equipped with window or door mounted guns, defensive aids suite and air-to-air refueling equipment.
Other likely competitors for the US$1.7 billion program are the European NH Industries NH-90 or Eurocopter EC-725 Super Cougar, both proposed by EADS North America present a different possibility that could rely on one of the aircraft or a mix of both types. Boeing is also offering a mix of CH-47 Chinook and V-22 Tilt Rotor aircraft.