Den 23. november er det et år siden at jeg sendte en række meget banale spørgsmål til helikopterproducenten AgustaWestland om deres AW-159 Wildcat helikopter, som er den ene af tre kandidater i konkurrencen om nye helikoptere til bagdækkene af Søværnets fregatter og inspektionsskibe.
Nu er der så langt om længe kommet hvid røg op fra den italiensk-britiske helikopterproducent og fejringen af årsdagen er derfor aflyst. De simple præsentationsspørgsmål, som jeg har spurgt alle tre kandidater om, blev i foråret fulgt op med nogle spørgsmål om AW’s manglende afvikling af det modkøb, som de opbyggede, da de i 2001 solgte os 14 EH-101 helikoptere. De otte af dem bruges i dag som redningshelikoptere, mens man stadig arbejder på at gøre de seks andre klar til indsats i Afghanistan (gerne inden vi rejser hjem derfra).
I marts publicerede jeg alle spørgsmålene, så de faste læsere kender dem. Nu har jeg modtaget svar på alle spørgsmålene. De kommer her:
You still have outstanding industrial participation worth 1,1 billion danish kroner (I april. Nu er tallet omkring 800 mio, red.) after your sale of the EH-101 to us in 2001. When do you expect to have placed orders for that amount in the Danish defence industry?
We expect to discharge this obligation within the next 2 years. Please be aware however that although the original EH101 obligation was initiated in 2001 there have been increases in this obligation owing to further purchase orders for support and spares.
After nine years, you are still missing over one third of the acquisition cost for the EH-101′s. If you get the order for the maritime helicopters, will you then work on placing orders more quickly?
AgustaWestland has been actively engaging Danish Industry in order to accelerate the discharge of EH101 obligation and to prepare for any potential new obligation under the MHP programme. The most recent example of this was the Industry Event held in FAD on the 31st August 2011. To update you we have now discharged over 80% of the obligation relating to the original contract.
Is the Danish defence industry too small to place orders in for such huge an amount of money during the required time period?
AgustaWestland is working with a wide range of Danish companies from large to small & medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to discharge this offset obligation. It is always a challenge to fulfil major offset obligations but we are confident that we will meet or exceed our obligations in Denmark, worldwide we have an very good track record of doing so.
Why did you decide only to submit the AW-159 and not the AW-101 into the Danish Maritime Helicopter Competition?
Following discussions with the customer it was apparent that the AW159 could meet the requirements. Of course the larger AW101 would be a more expensive solution and to operate the AW101 from the existing Danish ships would require costly ship modifications.
At what minimum temperatures is the AW-159 able to function perfectly?
The aircraft will be cleared to operate in temperatures of -26 degrees C to +50 degrees C
What kind of operational experience do your customers have with operating the helicopter in the North Atlantic and under extreme weather conditions?
The AW159 is not yet operational but it has many of the features of the Lynx which has been operated by Norway, Denmark and a number of NATO countries extensively in the North Atlantic and in extreme weather conditions.
At what wave heights will it be possible to land the helicopter onboard a ship without breaking the landing gear?
The Lynx is probably the best helicopter in the world when it comes to being able to operate from ships in high sea states, with operations regularly taking place in sea state 6. The AW159 has many of the same attributes that make the Lynx such an excellent helicopter for operating from ships – specially designed landing gear, harpoon deck lock system, semi-rigid rotor making it very agile and responsive to pilot input etc. The first ship trials with the AW159 will commence in October 2011 with a further trial scheduled in early 2012.
How many AW-159′s do you think it will require to meet the Danish demands?
The new generation AW159 will allow the required capability to be delivered with a small sized fleet. For competitive reasons we do not wish to reveal how many aircraft we have specified will be required to meet the requirements.
What will be the price per helicopter?
We are in a commercial competition so we don’t want to disclose the price. However, we believe our pricing to very competitive versus the competition considering the capability the AW159 delivers.
Can we reuse anything from our Lynx’ onboard the AW-159? Engines for example?
The main rotor blades, rotor head and certain transmission items are common so there is the potential for significant savings with these high value items.
When can you deliver the first AW-159?
The first AW159 gets delivered to the UK MoD in April 2012. Aircraft can be delivered to Denmark in 2014.
What is the unique selling point of the AW-159 compared to the competitors?
There are several – Like the Lynx the AW159 has been designed from the outset as a shipborne naval helicopter. It can operate from all the existing Danish ships without any costly changes to them.It is a newly designed, new technology helicopter ready to serve for the next 40 years – It may look like a Lynx but it’s a new helicopter with a totally new airframe, new avionics, new sensors and mission systems, and modern fuel efficient CTS800 engines delivery 37% more power than those in the existing Danish Lynx. A new generation helicopter with built in growth potential.
AgustaWestlands pludselige imødekommenhed skyldes flere ting. For det første, at de nu har fået modkøbsproblematikken på plads. De har fået lavet en afviklingsaftale med Erhvervs- og Byggestyrelsen om det udestående modkøb. Styrelsen kunne have spillet hard ball og udelukket AW fra den igangværende helikopterkonkurrence. For det andet at de blev presset af rygtet om deres snarlige exit, når en af de tre kandidater ultimo november stemmes hjem. Herefter indleder Forsvarets Materieltjeneste parallelle forhandlinger med de to andre. For det tredje kan de se hvor aktive Sikorsky og især Eurocopter er på pr-fronten. For det fjerde har de nu hyret et dansk pr-bureau, der nok har forklaret dem, at de bliver nødt til at komme ud af busken. (I øvrigt et af the usual suspects, som også er aktive håndlangere for en af kandidaterne i kampflykonkurrencen).