Are the transalpine military on the way to finding a solution to the thorny problem of the succession of Bell helicopters produced locally at the time of Agusta? Through the voice of its Chief of Staff, General Luca Goretti, theAeronautica Militare said it wanted to expand the partnership between the Italian giant Leonardo and its American counterpart Lockheed-Martin. The idea is to see Italy embark on the program of the new generation helicopter S-97 Raider X. Negotiations are already underway.
The Leonardo and Lockheed-Martin partnership is already very strong in Italy since it allows Cameri to locally assemble the majority of F-35A/B Lightning II stealth fighters sold in Europe. It is therefore logical that the military want to extend it to the field of helicopters, via Sikorsky.
Above all, General Goretti has long been a fervent defender of the alliance with the American industrialist around the technology of the double counter-rotating coaxial rotor. It is this one which is used by Lockheed-Martin on the S-97 Raider X. The Italian general adding that such a helicopter makes it possible to maintain a high level of modernity for theAeronautica Militare and for theAviation del Esercito. According to him, the production version integrating Italy would make it possible to replace by the end of the decade three models of helicopters in service between the two forces. These are in priority the fifty or so Agusta-Bell AB-212 Twin Huey for assault and liaison transport and the twenty or so AB-412 Grifone dedicated to similar missions; and more distantly the oldest of the current Agusta-Westland AW.139.
On paper, the will of the head of the Italian air force is quite commendable.
Except that there is a problem, and a big one: Leonardo is currently not totally inclined to collaborate with Lockheed-Martin and Sikorsky on the S-97 Raider X program! Indeed, the Italian manufacturer fears, no doubt rightly, that this new helicopter could cause harm to its AW.249 currently under advanced development. For the record, the S-97 Raider X should make it possible to prefigure both an assault and liaison helicopter and an armed reconnaissance and close tactical support helicopter.
Luca Goretti wants to be reassuring on the issue, knowing full well that without the industrialist’s agreement, Italy will never be able to board the S-97 Raider X.
More astonishing is the categorical refusal of the Italian general to want an agreement with the historic partner Bell around the new generation V-280 Valor convertedplane also under development in the United States. For him, such a technology would not be viable with regard to the Italian employment doctrine. He definitely knows what he’s talking about.
The negotiations launched by theAeronautica Militare with Leonardo on one side and Lockheed-Martin on the other could well be decisive for the Italian defense in the coming years. Luca Goretti is counting on an F-35 Lightning II effect in order to be able to sell the Italian version of the S-97 Raider X in the near future to countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. However, it is unlikely that Germans and Spaniards, and even less we French are on its shelves. Leonardo is not exactly our preferred partner for rotary wings.
Be that as it may, the future American helicopter seems more than ever to be a machine of the future, even for the European aeronautical industry. If General Goretti succeeds in his maneuver he could well make Leonardo in the near future much more than the N°2 of helicopters in Europe.
Case to follow.
Photos © Esercito Italiano & Lockheed-Martin.
Italy in the process of joining the Sikorsky S-97 Raider X program. – avionlegendaires.net