The U.S. Air Force is planning to modernize a fleet of 205 helicopters as part of the Common Vertical Lift Support [helicopter] Program (CVLSP), securing missile bases throughout the continental USA and performing executive transport missions. The service plans to invest about $3 billion in the acquisition, replacing the Bell UH-1N with a modern multi-mission helicopter. According to Aviation Week, the Air Force considers bypassing a competition, sole-sourcing CVLSP to buy Sikorsky’s HH-60M Black Hawk, given the vast logistical support already provided for this model with the U.S. military.

AgustaWestland is offering a redesigned version of the AW139M helicopter as a replacement for the Bell UH-1N currently used for security and transport missions. Photo: AgustaWestlandhe U.S. Air Force

If a competition is pursued, this program could attract two European competitors. EADS Eurocopter and AgustaWestland of the Finmeccannica group. AgustaWestland is proposing the AW139M, a customized military version of the multi-role AW139 helicopter for the U.S. Air Force’s Common Vertical Lift Support Program (CVLSP). The company presented the helicopter last month in Orlando, at the Air Force Association (AFA) Air Warfare Symposium. According to R. Scott Rettig, chief executive officer, the helicopter meets every U.S. Air Force CVLSP mission requirement while offering low risk and substantial acquisition and operational savings.

If it wins the Air Force tender, the company plans to manufactured the helicopter at it’s Philadelphia, Pa. facility, where AW139 are currently produced. The AW139M will be equipped with U.S. produced mission systems including a high-definition FLIR, self protection equipment including infrared detection and countermeasures, avionics and heavy duty landing gear. For military missions, the AW139M features a low thermal and acoustic signature and is available with a full ice protection system, allowing all-weather operation at the U.S. Air Force’s northern-tier missile bases. Armored seats to improve crew protection; ballistically-tolerant, self-sealing fuel tanks; and an external stores system for carrying gun pods, missiles and air-to-ground rockets are complementing the military mission kit.

The AW139M maintains cruise speed of 165 knots multi-mission performance in hot and high conditions. The manufacturer claims the new model provides 30 percent more cabin volume and 50 percent more payload than the legacy CVLSP platform (UH-1N), while maintaining a similarly-sized external footprint.

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