March, 4

    Lockheed touts local links in Black Hawk-based helicopter pitch to UK

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    LONDON — Lockheed Martin’s U.K. subsidiary unveiled a local industry team, capped by aircraft assembly lead StandardAero, to support its Black Hawk-based bid for the British military’s New Medium Helicopter program.

    The roster of local companies is meant to put a British face on a U.S. military product, with the head of Lockheed Martin UK, Paul Livingston, saying the aim is to have 40% of the prospective program realized in Britain.

    The offer responds to a requirement for a new helicopter type, envisaged by the U.K. government to cost more than £800 million (U.S. $1 billion), that will replace four variants that have been in service for decades.

    Lockheed is the last of three contenders to announce its industrial lineup for the much-delayed New Medium Helicopter program. Alongside rival bidders Airbus and Leonardo, the U.S.-based company is still awaiting the release of an invitation to negotiate for up to 44 helicopters.

    In the meantime, the three contenders have wasted no time dissing their rivals’ industrial offers while talking up the U.K. credentials of their own, with local jobs and an enduring domestic helicopter-making capability becoming key discriminators in their efforts to woo the Defence Ministry.

    Italian company Leonardo, which has made helicopters in the U.K. for decades, recently launched a campaign supporting its AW149 bid by labelling its Yeovil factory where the rotorcraft would be built as the “Home of British Helicopter.” And French firm Airbus is proposing to assemble its H175M at its commercial jet wing factory in North Wales.

    With a general election expected next year, who wins the industrial argument might go a long way toward deciding who secures the order.

    According to Livingston, a win for Lockheed would translate into 600 new, high-skilled jobs in Britain, plus assured work for decades after the delivery of all helicopters. He pointed to the case of the Lockheed-made F-35 jet, parts of which are made in the U.K., as an example of how a U.S.-developed product would help boost the local economy in participating nations.

    Livingston took several jabs at the “fragile” competitors’ offerings during a news conference at the DSEI defense show in London, saying the Black Hawk proposal was the only option developed purely for the military.

    “Some are designed to survive a bump on an oil rig; ours was designed to survive getting shot at,” he said.

    Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

    Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.

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