WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc, on Monday said it would team with Lockheed Martin Corp to bid for the U.S. Army’s next-generation helicopter - an order worth billions of dollars - using Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor.
Bell said it would use a new universal package of cockpit equipment, electronics and weapons announced by Lockheed in August as part of its proposal to the U.S. Army for the new Joint Multirole helicopter.
Bell Chief Executive John Garrison said Lockheed’s experience and strong business ties with the Pentagon would help Bell provide “the highest levels of maturity and technical readiness required” for the new helicopter project.
Lockheed, Boeing Co and other weapons makers are jockeying for a foothold in the Army’s Joint Multirole helicopter program, one of the few new aircraft programs on the horizon at a time when the Pentagon is due to cut planned spending levels by $1 trillion over the next decade.
Lockheed and other weapons makers have been working with the Army on small study contracts associated with the equipment for the new project since 2012. The Army is expected to award additional contracts for more work this year and next, but larger funding streams are unlikely for several years.
Early work on the new helicopter design will lay the groundwork for the Pentagon’s Future Vertical Lift program, a project that will ultimately replace more than 4,000 medium-lift helicopters used by various military services.
Sikorsky Aircraft, a unit of United Technologies Corp , has teamed with Boeing to submit a bid for the program based on Sikorsky’s X2 design.
Lockheed in August unveiled a package of equipment that it said could be used on any of the helicopter designs being developed for the new program. Lockheed said Bell was its first customer for equipment package.
The Army in June chose Bell, the Sikorsky-Boeing team, and privately held AVX Aircraft to flesh out designs for the new aircraft.
Bell says its V-280 Valor is a third generation tiltrotor aircraft, which will offer the military “unparalleled speed, range and agility”.
Bell builds the V-22 Osprey, a tiltrotor aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but flies like a plane, together with Boeing. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)