Multipurpose Helicopters - Dramatic difference of price between Italian and American solutions

Multipurpose Helicopters - Dramatic difference of price between Italian and American solutions
01 / 07 / 2019, 10:00

The AW-139M helicopter offers some interesting advantages over the American solution. Unlike the UH-1Y, which is a Marine Corps helicopter, it has a rotor anti-icing system. And the manufacturer also offers the Anti-Tank Guided Missiles required by the Czech Army – something the US offer needs to resolve with the Vipers replacing four of the Venoms, or with the significantly larger Black Hawks (the Czech Air Force actually does have helicopters of this class: the Mi-171Sh, and their replacement is not being actual). However, the main Italian advantage is clearly the price.

Perhaps transatlantic ties play a major role in the matter. Indeed, the US was the only country to bid for an intergovernmental agreement. And as in the case of the IFV’s, it is not just the acquisition of the vehicles, where the the estimated costs was originally to reach CZK 12 billion (USD 534.8 million), but less visible, and more expensive in absolute terms, the maintenance, servicing of these vehicles’ life cycle, which is a logical and firm part of the project.

See also: Multipurpose Helicopters for the Czech Army - Is the Italian Solution Really Out?

The arguments also relate to the fact that the AW-139M is a militarized variant of a civilian helicopter. While the UH-1, AH-1, and UH-60 are iconic military helicopters. The problem maybe i that none of them answers the presented requirements: UH-1 has no ATGM’s; AH-1 is not a multi-purpose helicopter; and neither the UH-60 is known for its attack or escort duties. The Venom will not destroy armoured targets with missiles, and the Viper will not provide air search and rescue, combat rescue, CASEVAC, air transport of personnel and material, tactical airborne insertions, and it can hardly cooperate with the Integrated Rescue System. The US offered the Czech Republic military helicopters of own production, but they themselves purchase the MH-139, to replace the United States Air Force UH-1N Huey.

The costs question becomes even more important when we look at offers in terms of lifecycle service, maintenance, repair, and spare parts costs. In a letter sent to the Ministry of Defence in March, Leonardo mentioned very low lifecycle costs of the AW-139M, even after the expiry of the warranty by guaranteeing continued service support throughout its lifetime.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the multipurpose helicopters

The maintenance of military equipment costs usually 3 to 5 times the purchase price. Overall, with the value of the CZK 12 billion contract initially considered, these could reach CZK 48-60 billion; the Italian solution at CZK 8 billion would reach CZK 32 to 48 billion, while the US solution might reach CZK 52-72.5 billion, and up to CZK 144 billion, should the limit voted by the Congress be reached.

What added value should this difference bring? Perhaps better relations with the United States. Just as in the case of the last minute requirements fot the tracked IFV’s (most notably the requirements for the manned turret), there appear to be last minute changes to the helicopter project. The difference between the prices is way too important to be. Even after the last considerable discount offered by the US.

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