Since MD Helicopters and Agusta Westland announced their intentions to take part to the competition, we may have a look at the actors.
Who are they? Mainly major players of the world market, plus one outsider.
Let’s begin with the outsider: AVX.
The concept is seducing, but it was never flown. It actually reminds me more of the Eurocopter X3 which was developped from the scratch and reused a heavily modified cabin of EC155.
The video below shows the principle. I don’t believe in it, because you need more than a simple exchange of few parts to fly this aircraft. Anyway, the concept is interesting. It is a mix between the Eurocopter X3 market target and the Sikorsky X2 architecture.
Agusta Westland shows up with the AW139.
This brand new helicopter (first flight 2001) proved its performance on the market and is hugely used in service at sea for oil and gas, as well as for maritime rescue.
Bell Helicopter bets on a new variant of the well known Kiowa: the OH-58F.
Nevertheless, despite a big effort on the redesign of the helicopter, with a new tail rotor gear box and a new engine, meeting the 6000 ft / 95°F requirements may no be sufficient. We would like to see more of the avionics and the mission capability.
Eurocopter makes a big deal of the militarization of the EC145 as the AAS-72X.
UH-72A is basically a civil helicopter with green paint and dedicated radios. It is still to be defined if the real competitor will be the legacy EC145 or the new EC145 T2 with a fenestron.
No EC645 (the military version of EC145) has been in service in the world yet. However, the company acquired great experience from the EC635 program delivered to Iraq.
Key arguments playing for the EC145 / AAS-72X: the heavy 20mm cannon, guided rockets and the modern avionics.
MD Helicopters competes with the MD540F.
It’s a famous aircraft all over the world, having proven its abilities on most of theatres.
This time, not only 5, but 6 composite rotor blades. A new avionics package and all the required weapons, including Lockheed Martin’s guided rockets.
Sikorsky will present the S-97 Raider… someday.
Based on the X2 concept, the architecture may differ only slightly from what has already been flown. The contra-rotating rotors and the push-propeller leave great room for the installation of side weapons.
Maybe there will even be some room for passengers inside the cabin.
Currently, nothing to see, except the monthly updates.
Which aircraft have my preference?
I’d bet on 3 of them:
The MD540F is a small, agile and good looking helicopter. The concept proved its efficiency throughout the years, even able to carry unexpected passengers on the skids.
The Sikorsky X2 is a challenging concept with futuristic configuration and a high speed target. If the program was ready on time, it may be a huge success.
The Eurocopter AAS-72X has proved its performance in use among the US forces. It’s a very modern helicopter, reliable and efficient.