U.K. kicks off £1.2B New Medium Helicopter competition

Avatar for Oliver JohnsonBy Oliver Johnson | May 19, 2022

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 36 seconds.

The U.K. has officially launched its New Medium Helicopter (NMH) competition, with the Ministry of Defence issuing a contract notice for up to 44 aircraft to replace the Royal Air Force’s (RAF’s) fleet of 23 Airbus Puma HC2s and up to three other types.

One of the Puma’s strengths is operating as a support helicopter, which it displayed during disaster relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Airbus Helicopters Photo
The NMH will see up to four aircraft type’s replaced in the MoD fleet, including 23 Airbus Puma HC2s. Airbus Helicopters Photo

The procurement, valued at up to £1.2 billion ($1.48 billion), also calls for up to two aircrew and rearcrew flight simulation training devices; training courses for instructors, aircrew and groundcrew; and an initial in-service support package.

While the central aim of the NMH program is to replace the RAF’s aging Pumas, the Ministry of Defence wants to take the opportunity to consolidate its disparate medium-lift fleet, which also includes Agusta-Bell AB412s, AB212s, and Airbus AS365 N3 Dauphins.

Airbus Helicopters believes its H175M is the right fit for the U.K.'s New Medium Helicopter requirement. Airbus Photo
Airbus Helicopters believes its H175M is the right fit for the U.K.’s New Medium Helicopter requirement. Airbus Photo

“NMH intends to rationalize its existing multiple rotary-wing requirements into one platform-type, maximizing commonality in order to improve efficiency and operational flexibility,” the contract notice states.

“NMH will provide a common medium lift multi-role helicopter, fitted for, but not with, specialist Mission Role Equipment (MRE) and able to operate in all environments in support of defence tasks.”

The support package is expected to last five years from the time of the first delivery, with the total contract duration thought to last seven years.

Leonardo Helicopters (UK) plans to offer the AW149 for the NMH program. Jamie Hunter Photo

The notice states that five companies will likely be invited to participate in the NMH competition.

Airbus Helicopters and Leonardo have each spent much of the last year touting the suitability of their H175M and AW149, respectively, for the NMH role. Both would be produced domestically — the H175M at Airbus’s facility in Broughton, Wales; while the AW149 would be manufactured at Leonardo’s U.K. headquarters in Yeovil.

Sikorsky is expected to offer the S-70M Black Hawk, while other bidders could include Bell (potentially pitching the 412EPX) and Boeing.

Those interested in taking part in the competition must complete a dynamic pre-qualification questionnaire (DPQQ) by June 20. Invitations to tender will then be sent out by the Ministry of Defence on Sept. 30, 2022. No date is specified for first delivery, but the Puma is due to be retired from service in 2025.

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