AgustaWestland To Deliver Wild Cat AW159s to U.K. this year
Three AW159 Wild Cat helicopters, which will be formally handed over to the U.K. Ministry of Defence by maker AgustaWestland in a ceremony at the Farnborough International Airshow, are among 10 to 11 Wild Cats due to be delivered this year, the firm’s CEO said.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to attend the ceremony on Wednesday at the airshow.
The three aircraft were delivered in May to the Royal Navy’s Yeovilton base and are already involved in training, while three more were due be delivered before Farnborough, said AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini, who said the firm had kept to schedule. Four to five more will be handed over by year’s end, with all 62 helicopters ordered by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force being delivered within four years.
Looking ahead to other possible contracts in the U.K., Spagnolini cited the U.K. competition to find a civilian provider for search and rescue services. “CHC, Bristow and Bond have all responded and we hope they would all plan to use the AW189,” he said.
Should the aircraft be chosen, it would be built at the firm’s Yeovil facility, as would AW189s in SAR format for other customers, he added.
Spagnolini said he was confident that AgustaWestland would be involved in possible work to convert RAF Merlins for Navy use, currently under discussion. “Only we can do it,” he said, referring to the adding of foldable rotors and foldable tails to the helicopters. Spagnolini said the firm would also seek to win work on a potential upgrade program the U.K. government is mulling for its Apache fleet.
Despite new, potential U.K. defense contracts, Spagnolini said the firm was adding commercial and export work at Yeovil to compensate for a decline in MOD orders.
In the last two years, the firm had added 300,000 annual work hours at Yeovil on commercial and export contracts. “Within two years that will double to 600,000 hours,” he said.
“Two years ago 85 percent of Yeovil’s work was for the U.K. MoD, while within two years it will be 60 percent.”
Civil work being undertaken at Yeovil includes gear boxes for the AW139, the main rotor and gear boxes for the AW149 and AW189 and the main rotor, tail rotor and gear boxes for the AW169.
Export work includes Super Lynx helicopters for Algeria, and AW101 work for Algeria, India and Saudi Arabia, while Yeovil would also work on AW159 helicopters AgustaWestland is competing in Denmark and South Korea.