13 May 16. Bell signs MoU with Czech industry for UH-1Y bid. Bell Helicopter signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with MPI Group in Prague on 12 May as it looks to offer its UH-1Y utility helicopter to the Czech Republic. The MoU, which was signed at the site of the company’s new facility on the outskirts of the Czech capital, covers opportunities for national industry to support Bell’s push to secure a first export sale of the UH-1Y to the air force branch of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic (Vzdusné Síly Armády Ceské Republiky: VS ACR). The VS ACR has a pressing need to replace many of its Warsaw Pact-era inventories, which include Mil Mi-2 ‘Hoplite’, Mi-8/17 ‘Hip’, and Mi-24 ‘Hind’ helicopters. Developed for the US Marine Corps (USMC) alongside the AH-1Z Viper gunship, with which it shares more than 80% commonality, the UH-1Y is billed chiefly as a utility platform that would be suitable as an Mi-8/17 replacement for the VS ACR. That said, it is able to carry 70 mm Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) rockets and door-mounted 12.7 mm machine guns, and so could provide a replacement for the Mi-24 assault helicopter also (compared with the AH-1Z, the UH-1Y lacks only the chin-mounted 20 mm Gatling gun, the AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and the AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missile anti-tank capability). Indeed, in this respect, the combination of a troop carrying and a gunship capability makes the UH-1Y analogous to the Mi-24 that the Czech Republic and other eastern European nations are now looking to replace.
Besides the Czech Republic, Bell Helicopter is also targeting Poland with a combination of both its UH-1Y and AH-1Z platforms.
According to the USMC, the UH-1Y provides a 76% gross weight increase over the UH-1N it is replacing, a 90% increase in its maximum internal fuel load, a 68% increase in the ‘useful’ load it can carry, and a 43% boost in its maximum cruise speed. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
10 May 16. USAF issues RfP for initial design of next Air Force One.
As America prepares to pick its next president, the US Air Force is about to put Boeing on contract to begin designing the next version of Air Force One. Boeing’s four-engine 747-8 wide-body jet was chosen in January 2015 to replace the current head of state fleet, which is comprised of two 747-200-based VC-25As. Boeing received its first Presidential Aircraft Replacement (PAR) contract earlier this year for risk reduction activities and now US Air Force Materiel Command wants to fund another task for preliminary design. A request for proposals (RfP) issued on 10 May covers “preliminary design activities required to begin development of two Presidential mission-ready aircraft, based on two government furnished Boeing 747-8 aircraft procured under a separate contract action on this contract”.
“The PAR system will consist of two PAR aircraft and associated data, software, support equipment, initial spares, training programme, system integration laboratories, mockups, services and support infrastructure,” the contracting notice adds.
Until recently, the air force has said it wants “up to three” examples for the presidential fleet. Now, it seems, there will be just two 747-8 “flying White House” aircraft in the next presidential fleet.
Sales of the heavy airliner and the 747-8F freighter version have been sluggish, with Boeing reducing output in Everett, Washington to one aircraft every other month. That makes every order significant.
“The RfP quantity of two aircraft is based on the [under secretary of defence for acquisition, technology and logistics]-approved acquisition strategy and the FY2017 president’s budget submission,” a service spokesman tells Flightglobal. The air force must maintain a minimum of two aircraft at Andrews AFB in Maryland to ensure that at least one is always ready to airlift the president and his entourage at a moment’s notice. The lead VC-25A aircraft’s first tasking was to transport President Georg