Boeing and Airbus join forces in bid for £1bn helicopter deal in UK

Boeing is joining forces with competitor Airbus in the £1billion contest to replace Britain’s attack helicopter amid concerns it will miss the original 2025 entry into service date.

The US aerospace and defense group will provide air, ground and maintenance training if Airbus’ bid to build a new helicopter to replace the Royal Air Force’s aging Puma support aircraft is selected.

The two companies, which compete fiercely for airline commercial jet orders, joined forces in another helicopter procurement last year.

Airbus joined Boeing’s industrial team last March as part of Germany’s planned purchase of 60 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters made by the US group to replace its aging CH-53 fleet.

In the UK competition, Boeing joins Airbus’ existing consortium, which also includes Babcock International and Spirit AeroSystems’ business in Northern Ireland. The consortium faces competing bids from Leonardo UK and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky.

The more than £1bn order for up to 44 new machines was launched in 2021. The contract was due to be awarded later this year, with the aim of having the new helicopters operational by 2025.

That date, always considered ambitious, was pushed back due to delays in the procurement process and interstate disputes over defense spending after the Ukraine war, two people familiar with the competition confirmed.

Executives from the main candidates met with Defense Department officials in late February to discuss a revised schedule for the competition, the two people said.

The high-profile contract was set to be one of the first to test the government’s more “strategic” approach to defense procurement, as outlined in the Spring 2021 Defense Industrial Strategy.

Instead of focusing on competition by default, the new strategy promises to give greater consideration to bidders’ social and economic factors when making selections.

In competitions, a weight of at least 10 percent is applied to the social value of an order.

Most bidders have attempted to brush up on their British credentials. Airbus has promised to build a new production line at its Broughton, Wales, site where the company makes wings for its airliners.

Leonardo UK, which owns Britain’s only existing helicopter factory in Yeovil, Somerset, has promised to build a new line at the site and introduce digital manufacturing capabilities as part of a £1billion investment programme.

The importance of spending for UK-based companies has gained urgency in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Analysts have warned that maintaining onshore capacity is crucial if the UK is to be able to make changes or upgrades to equipment in the future.

The MoD was not immediately available for comment. Boeing and Airbus join forces in bid for £1bn helicopter deal in UK

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