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Boeing and Airbus team up for £1bn UK helicopter contract bid

Boeing and Airbus have joined forces to bid for the contract to replace the UK's Puma helicopters, which are used for battlefield support and transport. The original in-service date of 2025 is in doubt due to delays, and the contract is now expected to be awarded in 2022 or 2023.

The two companies will compete against Leonardo, which has also submitted a bid for the contract. The contract is expected to be worth up to £1bn and could lead to the production of up to 50 helicopters.

Boeing and Airbus working together in this contest, despite being competitors. The cooperation between the two companies is aimed at supporting Airbus in winning the contract to build a new helicopter for the Royal Air Force to replace its ageing Puma support machines.

Boeing will be responsible for providing air crew, ground crew and maintenance training if Airbus's offer is selected. This partnership highlights the competitiveness of the aerospace and defence industry and the importance of working together to achieve common goals.

Last year, Airbus and Boeing joined forces to bid for Germany's planned purchase of 60 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters manufactured by Boeing to replace its ageing CH-53 fleet.

Airbus and Boeing collaborated last year on a joint bid for Germany's heavy-lift helicopter procurement program, which aims to replace the CH-53 fleet with 60 new Chinook helicopters.

The companies worked together as part of a larger industry team, which included various German firms, to offer a comprehensive solution for the program.

Boeing will be partnering with Airbus's existing consortium, which includes Babcock International and Spirit AeroSystems' business in Northern Ireland, for the UK competition to replace Britain's Puma support helicopters. The consortium is up against rival offers from Leonardo UK and Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky.

The £1bn-plus contract, which aims to replace the Royal Air Force’s ageing Puma support helicopters with up to 44 new machines, was launched in 2021. The original plan was to award the contract this year, with the aim of bringing the new helicopters into service by 2025.

However, concerns have arisen that the original in-service date may no longer be met, prompting Boeing and Airbus to join forces in the competition. The two companies will be joining Airbus’s existing consortium, which includes Babcock International and Spirit AeroSystems’ business in Northern Ireland, and will be competing against rival offers from Leonardo UK and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky.

Executives from the main contenders met with officials from the Ministry of Defence at the end of February to discuss a revised timetable for the competition, the two people said.

The high-profile contract was going to be one of the first to test the government’s more “strategic” approach to defence procurement as outlined in the defence industrial strategy from spring 2021.

Instead of focusing on competition by default, the new strategy has promised to take greater account of the social and economic factors offered by bidders during the selection process.

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