Helicopter maker AgustaWestland has been awarded a five-year maintenance and support deal for the UK's Apache AH Mk.1 attack helicopters. (AgustaWestland)
Helicopter maker AgustaWestland has been awarded two contracts worth a total of £760 million by the UK ministry of defense for the conversion and maintenance of helicopters, the firm said.
The contracts cover the conversion of 25 Air Force AW101 Merlin helicopters for Navy use and a five-year maintenance and support deal for the UK’s Apache AH Mk.1 attack helicopters.
Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Defence, said during a visit to AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil that the two helicopter programs would support 1,000 UK jobs.
The Merlin deal, which is worth £330 million, falls under the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP), and envisages the transferring of 25 Royal Air Force AW101 Merlin Mk.3 and Mk3A helicopters to the Royal Navy to replace Sea King Mk4 helicopters.
Under the deal, seven ‘Phase 1’ aircraft will be immediately converted for delivery to the Royal Navy in 2015 and 2016 and all 25 ‘Phase 2’ aircraft will be delivered between 2017 and 2020. All work will be carried out at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in the UK.
The Phase 1 aircraft, which will offer an interim capability before Phase 2 aircraft reach Initial Operating Capability in mid-2018, will offer lashing points, a powered folding main rotor head, undercarriage modifications and additional communications equipment, AgustaWestland said in a statement.
Phase 2 aircraft will have automatic main rotor blade folding and tail fold, while offering the same cockpit as the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk.2 aircraft.
The £430 million Apache deal extends AgustaWestland’s current work on the helicopter, which is supported by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Longbow International and Selex ES. AgustaWestland works at Wattisham Airfield, the British Army’s main Apache AH Mk.1 operating base, while also guaranteeing the readiness of Apaches for training at the British Army Aviation Centre at Middle Wallop.
The UK Apache AH Mk.1 fleet is close to 150,000 flying hours with more than 40 percent of annual flying hours in Afghanistan, AgustaWestland said.