Airbus, Leonardo, Lockheed to Submit Proposals for U.K.'s Medium Helicopter Contract

The U.K. aims to procure a medium-lift helicopter for warfighting and humanitarian tasks.
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  • 05:25 AM, February 28, 2024
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Airbus, Leonardo, Lockheed to Submit Proposals for U.K.'s Medium Helicopter Contract
Puma HC2 @Royal Air Force

Airbus, Leonardo and Lockheed Martin have been invited to submit bids for the U.K. military's future medium helicopter contract with the winner expected to be announced by 2025.

The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) officially invited the three companies to submit proposals for the New Medium Helicopter (NMH) Programme.

Speaking at Defence IQ’s International Military Helicopter conference in London on 27 February, James Cartlidge, the Minister for Defence Procurement, announced that a long-awaited invitation to negotiate (ITN) has been released.

The three shortlisted candidates – Airbus Helicopters (H175M), Leonardo Helicopters (AW149), and Lockheed Martin UK (Sikorsky S-70M Black Hawk) – will now prepare and submit their bids for MoD evaluation.

The NMH Programme aims to replace the UK's Puma HC2 helicopters, with the exact fleet requirement undisclosed at this point. The number of aircraft to be acquired will be determined through the ITN process. The initial estimate during the early stages of the NMH process suggested a potential need for up to 44 aircraft to replace the Puma and other support types used by the British Army.

There is a possibility of reducing this number as the MoD is in talks to replace two specific niche requirements, serving non-combat rotorcraft for operations in Brunei and Cyprus, by acquiring six Airbus Helicopters H145s.

The current operations with the Puma fleet are set to conclude in 2025, although there has been consideration for a potential extension until 2028. The NMH Programme aims to streamline capabilities by acquiring a modern medium-lift support helicopter capable of fulfilling up to five rotary wing requirements using a single aircraft type.

The NMH, once in service, is expected to provide the UK Armed Forces with a versatile medium-lift aircraft capable of operating in various environments, supporting a wide range of Defence tasks from warfighting to humanitarian efforts and global operations.

Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) will manage the competition, evaluating proposals throughout 2025. Pending Government approvals, the contract award is anticipated by that time, with the chosen supplier expected to be announced by 2025. The NMH competition will consider essential industrial factors, including design, production, manufacture, and export potential.

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