France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom have announced the launch of a multinational project to develop a Medium Multi Role Helicopter.

The ‘Next Generation Rotorcraft Capabilities’ project is dedicated to the modernization of existing rotorcraft fleets and is one of NATO’s High Visibility Projects (HVP).

A significant number of medium multi role helicopter capabilities currently operated by Allies will reach the end of their life cycle in the 2035 – 2040 period and beyond, with the subsequent need for replacements.

“The Next Generation Rotorcraft project aims to develop a solution for these upcoming requirements, leveraging a broad range of recent advances in technology, production methods, as well as operational concepts. Over the coming years, experts from all five nations will cover an exhaustive programme of work, starting with defining a robust Statement of Requirements and a multi-phase cooperation plan.”

The Defence Ministers of the five Allies signed a Letter of Intent to develop an entirely new helicopter capability. The signature was added virtually from the capitals of participating nations, say NATO in a press release.

By investing our resources and channeling our development initiatives through a multinational framework, we are making sure Allies are equipped with the best available capabilities, which helps to maintain NATO’s technological edge”, stressed NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană. 

4.2 5 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
162 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
phil

another dead duck. Anything involving the french will lead to problems in design, assignment of work, use of french contractors, leadership and ultimately cost overruns. It’ll be another A400m.

AlbertStarburst

Agreed.

We really need to go our own way with a new generation of multi-rotor stuff (manned, unmanned, vectored-thrust hybrid). Westland was rubbish at running a business (back in the day I was there), but they did come up with some fantastic stuff. The UK (or CANZUK) need to invest in a new set of strategic industries and capabilities and keep the spend within the UK economy. Just needs a bit of vision.

phil

Totally agree with you. It’s about time the UK used its friends in the english speaking world and collaborated with them. I cannot understand why we persist with European “partners” who are wedded to the EU, and thus French grandstanding and german reluctance. The opportunities this group of nations presents are tremendous. I find it astonishing that the French (slightly anti french i suppose) acquire french made kit for their forces, but when the chips are down have to rely on the UK, most recently the RAF to use our US built c17’s to ferry french troops and kit around… Read more »

Dave Wolfy

slightly anti french i suppose”, are you boasting?
I can do a lot better.

4th watch

The French generally are such bad partners yet we saved their bacon twice. Macron is their latest effort.

lee1

They are not bad partners, well not really any worse than our other large allies in this respect anyway.

Steve

We are equally a bad partner, from T45 to the drone project, we have a bad habit of changing our minds.

Let’s hope this project goes a bit smoother, although the armed forces could do with more helicopters now, rather than 20-30 years required to get this project going.

Joe16

To be fair, the US has a pretty shady history in partnership too…

lee1

You are buying in to old myths etc here… The French asked us for help and we gave it as we should. We asked the French to help with our deficiencies and they have done so as they should… The French have been pretty reliable in the help that they give militarily. As for working with European Nations being difficult. I don’t buy this either. We can also be difficult to work with in this regard. We need to have better up front communication and better planning and then we can work better with other nations regardless of what part… Read more »

Ron5

Sepecat Jaguar? Give me a break. It should have, and would have, had F-16 like performance if the French hadn’t insisting it was dumbed down so it wouldn’t be a commercial threat to Mirage.

The French are terrible “partners”. The US, on the other hand, have been outstanding.

lee1

That is not true at all! The Jaguar was always meant to be a light strike/trainer. The French did not dumb it down at all! It was never supposed to be a f-16 rival. I think you may be thinking of a different project. It was a requirement to replace the Hunter on the UK side and the Mystère IV on the French side.

dave12

Err may be the fact that the EU is the UK largest trade partner, which English speaking nations trade is a drop in the ocean compared to the Trade we do with EU.

Citizen

“A drop in the ocean”? Exaggerate much?

Mr Mike Barrett

Well hopefully with Brexit we can forge new strategic alliances with the wider world and boost UK trade. The EU is contacting and will contract even faster now we have left. The EU is a dead duck, nothing happens fast as each member states fight each other for years to get anything done. When ultimately any golden eggs laid goes to France and Germany.

pkcasimir

If you really think that Canada and New Zealand have either the resources or will to engage in this type of endeavor with the UK, good luck to you.

Phil Reeves

Thank you. Much appreciated.

Steve

They also prefer to buy off the shelf US gear, as does all non-European nations including Japan.

Geoff

And RAF Chinooks in Mali

JohnN

CANZUK getting together? Very unlikely, and as for here in Australia, I would say the chances of us getting involved in a UK and/or Euro, helicopter program is zero. The MRH-90s have been very problematic for many years (will probably be eventually replaced with something from the US Future Vertical Lift program), and as for the Tiger ARH fleet, they will be replaced very very soon (either AH-1Z or AH-64E). Whilst I wish the UK and other Euro countries good luck, production runs are more than likely to be in the ‘hundreds’ only. On the other hand US helicopter production… Read more »

Darren hall

So sad, but so true…

4th watch

Why not admit the Merlin is the best of its type?

lee1

It is brilliant but it is expensive. For the UK it makes sense as the manufacturing feeds back into the economy which offsets the price but for another country buying it, it is expensive compared to the Blackhawk. It would be cheaper if we did not shut down the production lines and then have to reopen them fulfil foreign orders though…

AlexS

Merlin has 3 engines. So that makes it too costly.

Steve

The issue is we will end up building too few, which will make the price soar like the wildcat. Decent helicopter but we could have got a more capable option, for less, if we had not gone it alone.

Phil Reeves

I would imagine that given the amount Australia spends on defence, which is considerable, the government would engage with military projects that could not only fill their military requirements, but also provide jobs indigenously. Oh, hang on, Australia foes… shipbuilding …. closed doors equals closed minds.

Watcherzero

Yes, the Tigers built in Europe have been amazing, the ones that were sent out to Australia in kit form and locally assembled by an Australian company have been very unreliable.

Darren hall

In an ideal world, we would never have turned our backs to our brethren across the globe… but we did. CANZUK, IMHO is a dead duck, Canada and Australia have land masses much greater than the UKs and armed forces and military budgets much smaller. Would they really stump up the additional cost of development, where they would be a junior partner to the UK, when they could just get what they require off the shelf? We, the European nations have forged some great weapon systems between us, and yes some lame donkeys too, where we have ultimately failed, is… Read more »

Ron5

Can’t compete with the French tradition of bribes and graft.

lee1

It is not as if the UK has not bribed countries to buy British.. Or the US which has scuppered a number of UK aircraft due to bribing the world to buy American…

David

Oh, come on. Just look at a certain UK defence contractor and a certain Kingdom in the Middle East…

AlexS

Westland was rubbish at running a business (back in the day I was there), but they did come up with some fantastic stuff.

What did they came up for except Lynx?
All other products were licensed. There is a reason they got bought by Agusta.

Andrew Dyson

Agreed, the new helicopter needs to be used by hm coastguard and as part of overseas aid to generate economic production numbers.

UK and Italy only with both countries having complete production

Stevo H

Totally agree mate, the French have done this on numerous occasions and projects which leads to tension within NATO. I think we should go it alone or, if we have to, stick with Germany and Italy as we’ve done well together. Look at the Typhoon as an example……

Ron5

Amen to that. Get rid of France and the project stands a chance.

Supportive Bloke

Was that meant to rhym?

Geoff

Yep. They only get involved to steal the design ideas. There is rarely an intention to see the project through. Work-share and other classic French demands are just excuses to pull out.

Steve R

Let’s get this done with as little fuss as possible and order a decent number of them, at least 100 for the UK.

captain p wash

Ha, I love your enthusiasm. Might not quite get 100 but it’s about due by all accounts.

Daniele Mandelli

Damnit! Headline said “UK”

I took that to mean UK alone.

Ademeion

Same here. More clicks this way perhaps.

Paul.P

Fine. Any chance of a few more Merlins in the meantime?

captain p wash

Crikey, We’ll be asking for an Ocean Replacement next !

Mr Bell

Can we have a HMS Ocean replacement please?😁

captain p wash

Ahhh, Ok then. And, Why the hell not eh? Lets face it, we didn’t need Nimrods for ten years, until we did needed their Capability. We didn’t need Fixed wing Carriers for 40 years either, nor a decent sized Escort Fleet, Who knows what we might need next ?

Ron5

It’s tied up in Portsmouth. HMS PoW.

lee1

This is the thing… Surely the cheapest and quickest option is to simply go for an updated Merlin? We are our own worst enemy when it comes to this as the US have been using and upgrading Blackhawk for long time and it is likely to keep going until the design just can’t cope with new technology anymore. We design and build an incredible Helicopter, order a number of them and then close the production lines… This is no good for export orders and is no good for when we need replacements. If we ordered an initial batch and then… Read more »

captain p wash

Fair shout and it would make a lot of people in Cider Land happy too. Why complicate this requirement when we already have the answer.

Steve R

Fully agree with this.

Updated Merlin, but new builds, would reduce a lot of design costs and we save more money per unit, meaning more helicopters for us.

ChariotRider

Yup, I’ve said this before so I’ll pop it in the mix again. Start with Merlin, switch out the complex 3 engine approach and put in a twin engine system, which I believe is now possible as RR have the more powerful engines in their family these days. This reduces development and operating costs. Sort out any obsolescence issues and transfer current mission systems (ASW, AEW, etc) and bobs yer uncle updated Merlin… So long as to can stop the brass hats from tinkering with the requirements in the meantime you get a perfectly good aircraft, probably way quicker and… Read more »

AlbertStarburst

In the short-term I think you are right with the Merlin ChariotR.

In the longer-term, as part of a wider picture, I think the UK or CANZUK should try and develop various capabilities such as next gen multi-rotor-type platforms. I would just prefer that it is done not for arms-export outside of CANUK. OK the large numbers as the USA won’t happen, but just accept it is for “our” l use and fund as part of a wider strategic development. Yikes! Concept of not making military stuff for export.

John Walker

If you are going to replace all the mechanicals and propulsion, change out the obsolescent avionics all you are left with is a metal shell. Might as will replace that with composite if you are going to all those lengths which is essentially a brand new helicopter.

lee1

Merlin is already a good deal composites. Plus it is not about stripping things away it is about starting with a proven design.

Robert Blay

The Merlin design is good for today, but not necessarily from 2040 onwards.

ChariotRider

Hi John,

Only true up to a point. There is a lot of work involved in the design of any aircrat even before you get to detailing the structure. The Wild Cat is 90% new, yet still ‘looks’ like a Lynx for a very good reason; it makes use of a considerable body of engineering design work.

Basing a new aircraft on the Merlin, lets call it Excalibur, replacing the engine / gearbox pack, even redetailing the fuselage a long the lines of the Wild Cat would be cheeper and lower risk than developing an entirely aircraft.

Cheers CR

captain p wash

Can we call it ” Friar Tuck ” ?

ChariotRider

🙂

Ian

Hi CR……..excuse my limited knowledge,is there a great disadvantage re 2engines 3 engines

ChariotRider

Hi Ian, The main issue is mechanical complexity. The gearbox which takes drive from the engines to the rotor has 3 input shafts instead of 2 which makes for considerably more bits and holes in the casing which carries the weight of the aircraft to the rotor. In short, the Merlin in its current form does tend to spend more time than most other types in the Hangar. Performance, wise it apparently does the job well and has plenty of power which is an important point when opperating from small flight decks in heavy weather. The long and short of… Read more »

Ian

Many thanks CR

NASQOAS

1. Work out what is in it for the USA, French, Germans and Italians before committing to any project with them, with significant penalties when they follow their usually patterns. 2. Set an actual short target date (five years) and quantity procured for the UK (100+) then stick to it. If you buy your own other countries and rich people will buy it. 3. You need a lot of rotary lift, and the way to make it cheap is make and design it yourself. Spin out Merlin, Lynx et Al into a UK vertical lift company? 2. Norwegian base plus… Read more »

Paul42

Fully agree. Perhaps we coukd also look at the Osprey?

ChariotRider

Looking at tiltrotor craft in general would seem to make more sense to me as well. The US also have a couple of new aircraft of this type coming along as mentioned elsewhere on this thread.

Leonardo also have a small tiltrotor craft the AW609. It is already flying and is aimed at the commercial market so if the Europeans wanted to really develop a flexible vertical lift capability with legs to go places they could.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AgustaWestland_AW609

Cheers CR

john melling

The problem is the AW609 carries so few people about 9 ?
Were as the Merlin can carry nearly 5 times as many
So for a replacement Medium Helicopter we should expect the same amount of capacity
Which I reckon would strike the AW609 off the list

So we either go to the US types or look at the Leonardo NGCT is suppose

Or see what the NGR project can come up with.. well once they can afford some pencils, paper, rubber and some colourful crayons ;P

ChariotRider

Hi John.

I was not suggesting that we adopt the AW609, as you say it is far too small. I merely mentioned it to highlight that tiltrotor technology exists in Europe. As such if we are developing a medium lift helicopter why not develop a medium lift tiltrotor instead?

Cheers CR

john melling

Morning CR,

Blimey your up early!

I agree it would be great idea to get a European version of a medium tiltrotor
We could look at a military version of Italy’s Leonardo Next-Generation Civil Tiltrotor which holds up to 25 people

We have technology as you said and to be honest I would prefer a European version than leaning towards the USAs V22 Osprey

Cant wait to see some more detailed information appear on the project

Cheers

John

Robert Blay

But requirements do change, as threats and technology change. If we thought like that we would still be flying round in updated Seakings.

ChariotRider

Hi Robert,

You of course correct. However, I believe that the Merlin still has plenty of legs left it yet in terms of overall capability.

As I understand it, it has two issues; cost and maintenance. Developing a Super Merlin, if you like, would be a sensible way to build some additional capability (via more engine power) whilst still reducing complexity on the aircraft.

Given the inevitable delays and political wrangling that will joint European programme will run into I would suggest that any new aircraft might arrive time to replace a life ex’ed Super Merlin fleet. Sadly.

Cheers CR

Last edited 7 days ago by ChariotRider
Darren hall

And sadly, how many times have we done that now?

4th watch

We can all agree with this.

Mr Bell

Exactly Paul. This programme will be used as an excuse for “salad today steak tomorrow. I’d prefer we just get on and have enough Merlins now . Especially ASW/ Crowsnest variants for RN. Desperately short of those. I dont mind a contributory programme with our “friends and allies” in the EU but we have to be much much much much much (hugely more) savvy about technological transfer and stealing tech and design (France) and once design completed under ordering (Germany) that then leads to unit price shooting up. The recent history of EU nation collaborative defence programmes is littered with… Read more »

Alan Reid

Hi Mister Bell, On collaborative programmes ….I think a few might be on the horizon. I agree that the French (or maybe just Dassault!) are very difficult industrial partners, although good engineers. But unlike the UK, the French government does have the balls to see a project through to its completion. Conversely, UK defence procurement is littered with cancellations …. and loss of nerve. And to speak-up for the Germans again this week (!), in Tornado and Typhoon, Germany (and Italy) have been stalwart defence partners of the UK for fifty years – and produced world-class products. Indeed, Germany will… Read more »

AlexS

The most reliable recent partner of UK have been Italy

Tornado(GER+ITA)
Merlin (Agusta+Westland from 1980’s)
Typhoon (GER+ITA)
Tempest(ITA+SWE+?)

Alan Reid

Hi AlexS , I agree – Italy is our main aerospace defence partner, and it’s a very productive and harmonious relationship.
It’s not emphasised enough on this site (including by me).

captain p wash

Not forgetting Thales.

Paul.P

I wonder if what is happening here is that Airbus helicopters has suggested to Leonardo that Merlin would make a great basis for a new heavy lift helicopter….Enchanteur perhaps?

Bloke down the pub

Would be a damn sight cheaper in the long run to latch onto the US future vertical lift projects.

Ron5

Tru dat but you’d lose any homegrown design & manufacturing skills.

captain p wash

One of the biggest Headaches building the Apache was, We work in MM’s, they work in Inches. From the Horses mouth, so to speak.

Citizen

If that’s true, then the Apache was one of the most headache-free projects in history. Any 10-year-old can convert between inches and mm. It’s dead simple. You literally just multiply by 25.4.

captain p wash

Only passing on a comment made by one of the higher management persons who actually worked on them. A good friend and quality Cricketer.

captain p wash

Not many Ten year olds know what an Inch is in the UK…….. and no one of any age really knew what an MM was in the USA…….. !

Paul.P

Thank heavens for Brexit. I wasn’t looking forward to a Napoleonic 10 day week.

Paul T

Shades of the FN-FAL ,our SLR’s were Imperial,everyone elses were Metric.

john melling

France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the United Kingdom
Well we are always sceptical of France but with the others involvement I think it will be a good thing if we can find common ground within the design

Is it to just replace MERLIN?

captain p wash

Well you could say Puma too, Puma has had an update but I think It’s getting on a bit. I also believe that Puma Is not going to be Carrier Operated so a new design could give that option too.

Last edited 10 days ago by captain p wash
Daveyb

The Puma cannot be operated from a ship in anything above sea state 2. The problem is, it has too much top weight carried on a narrow undercarriage. If you look at the marinized Super-Pumas/Cougar, they have their rear under carriage splayed out. But again its only enough so they can land and lift in a moderate seat state 4. This is why you never see a RAF Puma operating from a ship, unless its in a harbour. The RAF will look at a future medium lift helicopter that can operate from a ship, if it retains that capability. It… Read more »

Robert Blay

I wouldn’t be surprised of Puma gets the chop in the Defence Review

Paul.P

What would we replace it with; Merlin, AW149?

Crabfat

As I see it, the RAF should get a few squadrons of Merlins, to replace those it had to give to the RN. Not all future wars will be fought within range of sea-based RN helos (Iraq? Afghan?) and so who would provide the mid/heavy lift, to transport the pongos around? Puma’s at the end of life now and Chinook would sometimes be overkill for certain tasks. OK, I know Merlin is heavier than Puma, so some light-lift capability would be lost. But I bet the RAF would still be happy to take the Merlin in place of Puma. Merlin… Read more »

Daveyb

The RAF were kicking and screaming, when they had to hand over the Merlin 3As. This is because the “Danish” versions had a load of extra goodies, such as terrain following radar and the air to air probe. The role the RAF gave them was for combat search and rescue. They no longer have a dedicated aircraft for that role. It has to be done either by a Puma (small cabin, short range) or Chinook (lots of range but very noisy). I don’t believe they were too fussed on losing the standard Merlins. They have a propensity of being very… Read more »

Pigeon

Sorry that is complete fiction. The Danish cabs were only used in the UK for training and were not wargoers for a variety of non standard equipment fits and incompatibility with theatre upgrades (plus the HC3 fleet was large enough to generate deployed cabs). The TFR was never fitted for the UK nor was the probe. Nor were they used for CSAR. Joint Pers Recovery as the UK terms it, is a task any rotory platform can and does do. The RAF found the Merlin a complete pain in the arse, a maintenance hog with poor availability (something the RN… Read more »

Daveyb

I guess being earmarked for 28 Sqn’s CSAR was fabrication, as was doing all the training in the Brecon’s and Poland. I remember being at Benson when the first Puma 2 arrived from Romania. There was a big fanfare, lots of bigwigs and press. But I was talking with a senior techie NCO. Who said the aircraft was an abortion. The aircraft was going to spend at least 3 weeks being “rectified” as the majority of the new wiring did not conform to the defence standards. He also mention that under the floor of the aircraft was loads of used… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

It supports UKSF, I’m hopeful this saves it.

Deep32

Yes it does support UKSF as you say, but time wise it is the odd one out with a OSD sometime in the mid 20’s, as opposed to Merlin/NH 90 OSD which is some 10-15 years later.
So, this clearly isn’t aimed at Puma, but more importantly if Puma goes the distance, what is?
I just wonder if we are going to let this slip away and be left with 3 remaining airframes for our rotary lift capabilities.
I’m no expert, is it that important size wise if we only have Wildcat/Merlin/Chinook?

captain p wash

Good question, I await the answer ! Leonardo have quite a range of offerings already and I really can’t see why the UK would choose to ignore them.

Deep32

Yes they do have a pretty extensive range of products, unfortunately I haven’t seen much mentioned- officially about a replacement, which you would have thought the case with only a few years life left in the Pumas!
Come to think of it, the AAC Gazelles must be in the same position as the Pumas, nothing on that front either I believe. All just a little odd…..

Daveyb

I think the Gazelles would be an easy choice if they want something simple and that can replace it today. My choice would be the Airbus H145M (UH-72B). It’s a known quantity as its used for pilot training. The more military variant such as the UH-72B has just a few differences than the civilian version. It is quite a bit bigger than the Gazelle more similar to a Lynx, perhaps that’s what we need is an aircraft that can be a battlefield taxi, liaison and reconnaissance aircraft combined.

Deep32

Cant disagree with that, but like you say, a bit closer in size to Wildcat, so would they consider it-on price perhaps!
Like I’ve said, its a little odd, here we have something that’s what 10-15 years away, yet we have two airframes almost at the end of their lives, yet not a peep!!!

RobW

I’m note sure why some are being negative about this. We will always need to work with others given our budget. MBDA is a prime example, involves the French, and seems to work very well. It does seem though that we will need more helos in the short-term given the aspiration to go to 24 escorts. Whether we need more Merlin or Wildcat rather depends on the intended role of the T32. I suspect though that the T32 will not be in service for 10 years as a follow on to T31 so perhaps we are waiting for this new… Read more »

Ron5

MBDA is a single company. This new project will be at least 4 separate companies all competing to be the lead. Look at A400M pr NH90, financial disasters.

Bill

And how many years and hundreds of millions will be spent on getting the thing into service?
It’s a bloody helicopter. No need to reinvent the wheel (or the rotor) but too many experts, too msny countries involved. What could possibly go wrong?

AlbertStarburst

….you are right Bill.

If only we could stop trying to be too clever, and just use the appropriate level of technology for the job – and in the right numbers. Using all the usual suspects and an un-reformed MoD procurement process is just going to be a money pit again. (why I’m arguing for a new strategic capability organization).

Ron5

What could be the cause of it going wrong? France.

Bob Hodges

The Twin engine Merlin idea is the winner here I think. Pumas are 1970s airframes. Literally.

Mike Saul

The French have a terrible record on multi national defence projects, they demand design leadership and the bulk of the manufacturing.

Examples.

Gazelle/Puma/Lynx helicopterfeal
Jaguar/AFVG
Horizon frigate
Boxer AFV
FEFA (Eurofighter)

And others

Ron5

NH90, A400M.

Mike Saul

Your point is what?

Jonny

He’s just adding to your list

geoff

Concord(e) ?

Jack

The UK was less than clever regarding the BOXER programme. Better late than never.

Jonathan

FFS how to make something really simple very complicated indeed. Leonardo have an up to date line of rotors that can all be built in the U.K. with U.K. IP. The US need to find a new Medium rotor as the Black Hawk design dates back almost 50 years. Anyway. One of the big wins we could have is that Leonardo have offered the U.K. to move the AW 149 production line to the U.K. if we take it as our new medium lift rotor. This is a new airframe, with its first test flight in 2009. its also a… Read more »

pkcasimir

The US already has a program to develop two prototypes to replace the Blackhawk and both prototypes are flying and being tested. The US Army expects to pick one for production in 2022.

Jonathan

Hi PK, yes, what I was pointing to is that the U.K. actual has access a medium rotor that’s only 10 years off it first test flight. If the US are only just looking at moving to new medium rotor 50 years after the Blackhawk was first designed, the U.K. Government is just throwing cash away on a new programme at this point, we should be setting up our production line and buying the AW149 as is still a new modern airframe.

Steve Salt

Greece !?!? ?????

Paul.P

i.e. not Turkey

Steve Salt

Obviously not Turkey, I was raising an eyebrow as I wasn’t aware that Greece had it’s own aerospace industry.

Paul.P

I couldn’t resist a passing comment on the current relationships with Mr Erdogen ( ex F-35 partner). Trouble personified. Turkey’s armaments industry is pretty advanced. They do more than make Beko tumble dryers. Indeed Greece have a long way to go to catch up.

Captain P Wash

Turkey also produce the Ford Transit !

Charles

Great: Another project to create another highly-specific aircraft that costs eleventy-billion pounds and sells twenty airframes.

john melling

Just realised various countries were discussing the NGRC in 2016 and the UK Army representatives were present

https://www.japcc.org/initial-meeting-next-generation-rotorcraft-capability-team-experts/

4 years later, today and NGRC springs up with the above countries on board !

So its been talked about for a while I guess, including Vertical Lift idea’s

Last edited 10 days ago by john melling
Challenger

Have to agree with a lot of the other comments on here in thinking historically it’s often not been a good idea to get into bed with the French on these kinds of projects given that they always wrangle over their own specific requirements and demand a big chunk of the work-share. Italy would probably be OK given the existing links through Leonardo and it’s current collaboration on Tempest. I don’t see what’s wrong with pursuing new build Merlin’s either seen as it’s a proven and highly capable platform! The American’s are really good at block upgrades of stuff like… Read more »

John Hampson

I seem to remember that France withdrew from the Eurofighter after the other partners refuse to agree to the French demands for all the design work, 60% of the manufacture and the selection of their engine.

John Clark

Hmmm, I think it’s a bad idea, I would steer clear of yet another European bun fight and put money into further development of the Merlin.

A modern 2 engine development, increased use of composites, a substantially increased all up weight lift capability and greater range.

Importantly, develop a single common airframe for the Navy and RAF, so airframes can be reconfigured from Maritime attack to troop transport etc as needed.

AlexS

” I would steer clear of yet another European bun fight and put money into further development of the Merlin.”

Well Europe will always be involved, it is Leonardo after all, but Italians are artists of political arts, they might get even EU support for it…

John Clark

My point being the further development of Merlin would take place in the UK, as a natural continuation and progression of the current programme.

Let’s face it, Germany and Frances last transport Helicopter, the NH90 was disastrous, serious problem, piled on top of serious problem …. It’s just coming right now, years late and massively over budget.

Add to this the mistakes of A400 and I see two bloody good reasons to steer well clear!

Let’s not squander our new defence money on poorly run European vanity projects, reinventing the wheel Alex….

AlexS

I think what drove French away from EF was the carrier issue.

John Clark

It was certainly one of the issues, the British fought hard for a larger airframe and the French fought hard for a compact carrier capable one, so pulling in opposite directions from the start! French intransigence and insistence on design lead, majority build and French engines finished off their involvement in the project. Then in the early 1990’s, the Germans got stuck in, threatened to pull out of Eurofighter, insisted on a project pause while they looked at ways of cheapening the design, all ultimately fruitless, but the delay, coupled with German late payments and general feet dragging, pushed up… Read more »

AlexS

Another point i think the tile of this piece misses that might be possible that the solution to this issue might not be an helicopter.

Glass Half Full

I’d say most of the comments are missing this point too. Merlin isn’t going to cut it, as a platform to serve for the next 30-40 years from the mid-2030’s. The US Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program is clearly demonstrating capabilities well beyond anything offered by Airbus or Leonardo to the military market, so both need to offer something competitive to European militaries and foreign customers in that 2035-40 time-frame if not earlier. Earlier would seem to be better for the UK if it wants options versus FLRAA, the UK has already expressed interest in FLRAA and FARA programs… Read more »

Daveyb

I totally agree, if you want more of the same re-develop the Merlin airframe. However, if you want something to compete with Osprey, Valor or the Defiant then the European manufacturers will have to seriously up their game. The reason I included the Osprey, is that the Merlin is about equivalent to it in size and capacity. Whereas the Defiant and Valor are direct Blackhawk replacements, so Puma sized. In this respect Airbus has the lead in future helicopter development with their X3 compound helicopter. The only prototype Leonardo have produced is the all electric project zero. The AW609 is… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Excellent comments. You’ve made the point before but most commenters probably don’t appreciate how much larger Merlin is than other “medium” class helicopters.

For the European manufacturers its also not just about medium class vertical lift. If they ever want to compete against Chinook, CH-53 and especially a likely Osprey replacement targeted at heavy lift, then they need to be thinking about how they might leverage their medium platform technology for a solution in the 2040-2050’s.

Jonathan

They do when one flies low over their house every flipping day of they week.

Frank62

I was wondering if a tilt rotor may be better. Better for Carrier COD, AEW & in-flight tanker.

Daveyb

Yes, a tilt-rotor would be better for carrier type ops. It has three main advantages over a helicopter, speed, range and operating altitude. If you compare the speeds of a helicopter such as the Boeing/Sikorsky Defiant to the Bell V-280 Valor tilt-rotor. You will see a massive top speed difference. The Valor has hit 300mph, whilst the Defiant hit 235mph. Bell say the top speed could be as high as 350mph, whilst Sikorsky are aiming for close to 290mph. Bell have said that they are planning on a max all up weight cruise speed of 280mph. Sikorsky have stated they… Read more »

Frank62

Quite so. Shame we’re still going with what is an emergency 1980’s fix upgrade. Seems like however we try, our planners & decision makers are hell bent on sending us to war only half equipped.

James

I never understood why Britain sucks up to the French and please them despite them treating Britain impolite in every project . Britain can build its own Heli and export it . They have enough other allies. Besides EU states only invite Britain to a project when they benefit the most only . Example next 6th generation jet no invite for Britain lol Greece part of a project? Haha

geoff

Morning 5am in Durban. It would be nice for starters if the UK could re-acquire some shareholding in Leonardo. We remain vulnerable by having no clout in companies that have facilities and that manufacture in the UK. These include Airbus,JLR and others. If we are to flex our new found ‘independence’ muscle, then reversing the effects of decades in selling off the family silver is an essential step. Without this,we are hugely vulnerable to decisions made by foreign owners ‘a la’ Cadburys for example. I also agree with much of the general comment here regarding new vs upgrades of proven… Read more »

AlexS

The helicopter development know-how is in Italy and all commercial/technical connections all over world. The UK side is an important auxiliary but it is not the root. The fragility of Westland-GKN that made it being bought needs to be understood. The company would have ended. The only helicopter developed by Great Britain in last 40 years was the Lynx plus the Merlin with said Italians. That is not a sign of an healthy industry. While Westland was comfy in their cornered market for Royal Navy and building licensed products for the Army, Agusta was designing thousands of corporate, rescue, transport… Read more »

captain p wash

lol, truth though, they do have a great history of producing great aircraft though, despite who owns the design.

geoff

Hear what you say Alex but some equity would give us more clout and safeguard the base.

AlbertStarburst

Exactly. Fully agree Geoff.

Paul.P

This is surely the way to go… a 100% British solution.

http://www.aviastar.org/helicopters_eng/fairey_rotodyne.php

geoff

Fascinating article-thanks Paul. As a boy I remember Fairey of course, for the Delta. They were in retrospect an under-rated company and confirm the general opinion that we were brilliant engineers-world leaders in design and innovation but poor marketers and hampered by succesive governments that had neither confidence nor faith in our abilities to produce the best

AlexS

Must be some reason it did not worked, maybe was too complex, It is the same question i have about other autogiros.

Paul.P

Autogyro was only one of its flight modes. It could take off an land like a helicopter and relied a lot on wing lift in fast forward flight. It was a lot faster than a helicopter, had an impressive range and payload. From the article: Technical data for Fairey Rotodyne (civil production version) Main rotor diameter: 31.7m, wingspan: 17.22m, fuselage length:19.66m, height: 7.06m, internal cabin length: 15.24m, passenger/baggage payload: 5897kg, cargo payload: 8392kg, loaded weight: 24267kg, cruising speed: 322km/h, max range:1046km, range with 57 passengers and baggage: 402km 50 year old British technology which puts Osprey V22 in the shade ….. Think what we could make with modern engines and… Read more »

Daveyb

For more information. If you can find a copy, try getting “Fairey Rotodyne” by David Gibbings. ISBN 978-0-7524-4916-6 It tells you the history of the Rotodyne from concept, through prototyping and finally the cancellation. There are accounts from test pilots on how benign it flew when transitioning from hover to forward flight and back again. Crucially it discusses the purported issues over noise. Yes it was noisy, but not a lot noisier than other jet aircraft of the time. After Fairey were taken over by Westlands, they came up with a new design of tip jet and noise suppressor. It… Read more »

Paul.P

Thx for the book reference.👍 Also worth mentioning how much composites technology has moved on as well as the application of computing power to noise and vibration management. Fascinating story all round.

Daveyb

Yes, just the difference in rotor blade design between then and now, would see a massive increase in performance. The Rotordyne used thin metal blades. These today would be a lot wider with a more efficient profile. They could be a lot shorter, if we upped the blade count. If the rotor hub was connected to the top deck by dampers, just like the Merlin, you could use active control to minimise the induced vibration. A new main wing would also help using a modern profile. But I would also include a longer twisting and folding wing extension past the… Read more »

AlexS

It is not like other countries could not do something similar after it if was so good. But they didn’t.
So most have been a reason or reasons.

Daveyb

The main reason it was binned was the perceived noise issue and lack of forward thinking by the then ministry of supply. Aerodynamically the aircraft was leagues ahead of anything until the XV15 and Osprey program.

Paul.P

Yes, looking back I see our post war engineering brilliance as being marred by a political ‘cancel’ culture which was dominated by despair at our national debt and dependence on the US. Perhaps our membership of the EU will be seen in historical perspective as a stepping stone back to being a confident and self sufficient nation. That said of course, no man is an island. Attitudes are changing. We built the carriers; Type 26 is a success story; T31 is becoming reality; we rebuilt the skills to build the Astutes. Boris is thinking confidently on defence funding and infrastructure.… Read more »

AlbertStarburst

Exactly Paul.P. IMO the worst part of it is, not the buying of a foreign-owned company’s product, but the cumulative affect that then has on UK innovation and manufacture. Once that expertise is lost it is gone forever or has to be built up from scratch. Virtually every defence-related industry is suffering from this in the UK. far better to have small batch or continuous UK design and production of certain critical items. Any £expenditure is retained within the wider UK economy and not our the front door to other countries. Our politicians need a bit of vision and long-term… Read more »

Ian

Paul.P…….with modern engines, materials & computers could this be the answer to our AEW requirements ………better looking too

Paul.P

And on board carrier delivery and in flight refuelling? Ian, you might think so, I couldn’t possibly comment …..:-)

Mitchell Hall

Just give the job to Airbus helicopters.

Alabama boy

Inevitably multinational programs take longer as more decision makers take part, ask anyone who has worked on design and production of the A400M, Tornado and Typhoon. This lengthen timescales which causes further problems as the individual nations realise they cannot afford the outturn cost estimates which change as the optimistic costing at the time of signature of the agreement fade into away. The orders are cut back and/or development and production are slowed ending in a crisis when nations decided they don’t want the numbers to make the project break even (A400M) Given where we are today its difficult to… Read more »

Grant

Logically Leonardo should have the medium helo market cornered: the S-92 and Caracel / super pumas all have terrible safety records, and Airbus helicopters delivery record (tigre and NH90) is awful. But as is often the case protectionism comes into play reducing the market. Is Yeovil sustainable making 12-18 units a year? Is it an industry where Britain can keep / needs a qualitative edge ?

My heart says yes, my head says perhaps not…..

Stevo H

Will the French do what they normally do? Study all the proposals, data, designs and concepts and then Foxtrot Oscar on their own and leave the project?