Westland team beats off rivals

GKN-Westland stands to make £125m after this week’s Canadian decision to buy 15 military search-and-rescue helicopters. The Cormorant, a custom version of the EH101 built by Westland and Italy’s Agusta, was chosen in preference to bids from America’s Boeing and Sikorsky and the Franco-German Eurocopter team. Westland said a firm contract was expected in two […]

GKN-Westland stands to make £125m after this week’s Canadian decision to buy 15 military search-and-rescue helicopters.

The Cormorant, a custom version of the EH101 built by Westland and Italy’s Agusta, was chosen in preference to bids from America’s Boeing and Sikorsky and the Franco-German Eurocopter team.

Westland said a firm contract was expected in two or three months once Canada decides which costed option to take. One could be a Cormorant version with air-to-air refuelling, as chosen by the RAF for its EH101s.

The whole programme is worth C$790m, of which a maximum of C$593m (£250m) will be for the helicopters themselves.

The Cormorants will be assembled in Italy from parts made by Agusta and Westland, which will build roughly 50% of each helicopter.

Westland will make the forward fuselage, main rotor blades, undercarriage, sponsons and engine cowling, and will be responsible for engine and auxiliary power unit installation. Westland also builds 30% of the main gearbox and supplies the accessory box.

Cormorant deliveries will start in the second half of 2000 and will be complete by 2002.

Westland and Agusta are teamed with Canada’s Bombardier, Bristol Aerospace and CHC.

Westland said the order enhanced its prospects of the EH101 winning a much bigger contract for anti-submarine helicopters to replace Canada’s Sea Kings. This could number around 32 helicopters, but details of the requirement are not settled.

The decision to buy Cormorant is an embarrassing turnround for Canada, which cancelled a much larger deal for 50 EH101s to perform search-and-rescue and anti-submarine roles in 1993, paying £180m in cancellation costs.

Westland admits a second contract cannot be taken for granted because of the Cormorant deal. Westland and Agusta face tough competition from Sikorsky, and Canada has shown it is happy to use different helicopter types for the two requirements, as it does now.