FIDAE 2012: Boeing offers AH-6i to South American customers
Boeing negotiations with Chile over a possible purchase of the AH-6i have been revealed at FIDAE 2012.
According to Brad Rounding, manager of AH-6 business development at Boeing, the Chilean Ministry of Defence has been given details of pricing and support for a purchase of up to nine of the light attack helicopters.
Rounding also said other nations in the region were also interested in the aircraft including Colombia, Brazil and also Argentina, although negotiations were less advanced with those countries.
The company is confident about proceeding with production of the aircraft following the signing of the letter of acceptance by the Saudi Arabian government for 24 aircraft as part of a wide-ranging re-capitalisation of the country's helicopter forces announced during 2011. Boeing is hopeful that the contract will be signed later this year with the aircraft delivered to the country in 2014.
'The aircraft has demonstrated a high level of performance and reliability,' explained Rounding, 'We carried out some trials in Saudi Arabia in December, and the aircraft performed 57 flights in five days without a problem. In fact the only issue was crew rest.'
The company had hoped to bring the aircraft to the FIDAE air show but it was required for further test flying.
Rounding said production aircraft would change little from the prototype aircraft that first flew in September 2009, but will feature some new improved crashworthy seats to further improve survivability. The company is also looking at the use of composite blades that have a longer on-airframe life compared to the metal blades currently in use.
Rounding also pointed out that the aircraft was ready for any fly-off demonstration for the US Army's Armed Aerial Scout programme, noting that the aircraft had a fully integrated weapons system and exceeded the stringent 6K/95 parameter set by the US Army, which is operating at the aircraft's gross weight at 6,000 feet on a 95F (35C) day. Rounding said the aircraft had operated comfortably at over 7,000 feet in these conditions.
The company has high hopes for further sales. Currently, Boeing is negotiations with Jordan for a direct commercial sale of the type and the Philippines had also expressed an interest in the helicopter to replace its long-serving fleet of air force MD500 Defenders.
If the Chilean buy came to fruition, the AH-6is would replace the MD530MGs currently serving with the Chilean Army. They have 17 aircraft which can be equipped with guns and unguided rockets.
Boeing says there are 2,000 light attack helicopters such as A109s and Gazelles that will need replacing in the next decade. They believe the AH-6i with its Apache systems could meet some of those needs.
Source: By Tony Osborne in Santiago, Chile / Shephard News Team - 29 March 2012
Photo: Boeing AH-6i (Photo by shephardmedia.com)