Bell Eyeing Five Asia-Pacific Attack Helo Competitions
The large number of Asia-Pacific prospects, plus others elsewhere, raises the likelihood that one contract or another will come up before Bell finishes making long-lead parts for AH-1Zs under current contracts, probably around 2021.
The Asia-Pacific countries for which Bell is bidding or preparing to bid are Japan, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand—in approximately that order of prospective contract sizes.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense has not given up on its New Attack Helicopter requirement, even though the program was not included in an acquisition plan published in 2018 for the five years beginning April 2019, industry sources said.
The South Korean requirement is for 24 helicopters for that country’s marine corps; the aircraft would fly from flattop assault ships. Since one such ship is in service, another is almost ready for service and a third is planned, South Korea eventually may need more than 24 helicopters, Chin said.
The Philippines Air Force hoped to acquire 24 attack helicopters but reportedly has reduced its requirement.
Thailand’s requirement is for eight attack helicopters to replace seven AH-1Fs, survivors of an original force of eight.
New Zealand wants to replace eight Kaman SH-2Gs by 2027, but Chin said he expects the order would be brought forward.
Currently, there are almost 700 in-service Bell aircraft in the region.