The CEO of Australian Aerospace has called on Defence to hold a competitive tender process for the Air 9000 Phase 8 requirement to replace the Navy’s Seahawk and defunct Seasprite helicopters.
“I just want a competition,” Australian Aerospace CEO Dr Jens Goennemann told media in Canberra on September 15, calling for a competition to be held to ensure best taxpayer value. Goenneman made the call in response to reports that the Navy was considering a sole source FMS (Foreign Military Sales) purchase of Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R ‘Romeo’ helicopters direct from the US government to replace the RAN’s 16 Seahawks and 11 cancelled Seasprites.
Australian Aerospace plans to offer the NFH90 variant of the NH90 helicopter (46 MRH 90 utility variants of which are entering ADF service) for Air 9000 Phase 8, and says fewer NFH90s may be needed than the nominal 24-28 helicopters the Navy requires due to the NFH’s utility capabilities.
Goennemann described as “false” the reasons put forward by MH-60R proponents to move to a quick FMS buy of the US helicopter, saying that the NFH90 will enter service with the French navy in 2011, and that he “believed” the French would be willing to forgo delivery slots to allow early deliveries to Australia.
“You can buy NFH off the shelf,” he said, stressing the NFH90’s commonality benefits with the MRH 90. The Australian Aerospace CEO also said that if selected the 24-28 NFH90s would be assembled at the company’s Brisbane facilities, which sustain the equivalent of 500 jobs.
Goennemann said he expected ‘first pass approval’ for Air 9000 Phase 8 either late this year or early next.