Bell targets military market with 525 helicopter
Bell Helicopter is pitching the in-development 525 Relentless to military customers as a 20-passenger troop transport or search and rescue (SAR) platform.
Although Bell has previously identified civil SAR and VIP transport missions as alternatives to the depressed oil and gas segment it initially aimed the 525 at, the airframer has so far not pursued military customers.
However, Larry Thimmesch, vice-president of 525 sales and business development, says the Relentless is ideal for utility missions.
“Troop transport is another one of those markets where our customers have seen the value of the 525,” he says.
Governments have “reached out” to Bell, says Thimmesch, based on the potential the Relentless offers, although he declines to be more specific.
Designs released by the airframer show a 20-passenger configuration, using four rows of five seats each. In addition, a naval version is also proposed.
Bell is moving into a space dominated by dedicated military helicopters such as the 10t maximum take-off weight Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and 11t NH Industries NH90, or those sharing stronger links with commercial models, such as the Airbus Helicopters H225M, and Leonardo Helicopters AgustaWestland AW149.
However, Thimmesch is confident that advanced technologies on the Relentless, such as fly-by-wire controls, will appeal to military operators.
In addition, Bell anticipates high levels of serviceability from the 525: it will require just 1h of maintenance for every 1.38h of flight time, compared with the 3-4h of downtime for its rivals.
“Our biggest detriment to selling the 525 is that it looks like any other helicopter on the outside.
“The difference is in the capability that we are bringing forward from modern technology and a right-sized platform,” says Thimmesch.
Despite taking aim at the segment, Bell has yet to set a baseline configuration for any military variant of the 525.
Thimmesch points out that a number of the mission kits it has already developed for the civil market – such as offshore and SAR – will cover around 80% of military requirements, with the remaining 20% requiring modest additional work.
No consideration has been given to arming the 525, but Thimmesch says this may happen in the longer term.
Civil certification for the GE Aviation CT7-powered Relentless is due in late 2018, with service entry the following year.
With thanks to www.helihub.com