Bell Helicopter’s CEO Cautions of European Domination in US Helicopter Market; Details View of Future
(Source: House of Representatives; issued March 12, 2003)
Excerpts from statement of John Murphey, Chairman and CEO, Bell Helicopter Textron,
before the House Armed Service Committee on the U.S. Rotorcraft Industrial Base
(March 12, 2003) (emphasis added by author)

The American rotorcraft industry is at a crossroads.
Near term decision by Congress may very well determine if the United States maintains its leadership in military and civilian rotorcraft or if both of these important markets are to be dominated by foreign companies. …/…

The French government funds fully 100% of rotorcraft R&D. We aren’t asking for that level of support but we are asking for a fair share.

Market projections indicate there may be as much as $2.5B of Homeland Security investment earmarked for rotorcraft.

In today’s market 50% of that will go to a foreign manufacturer. The French government owns 20% of that manufacturer. As a taxpayer, I am outraged that on the federal, state and local level we would be spending US tax dollars to buy French helicopters for Homeland Defense. I might add too that the biggest factor in many of those buying decisions is the aggressive pricing that the French offer. A price supported by their government’s partial ownership and certainly investment in technology and development.

An additional 15% of that investment goes to the Dutch company that bought MD Helicopters after the FTC failed to quickly approve Bell purchase of this product line from Boeing. Fully 65% of the rotorcraft employed in Homeland Security are foreign. Is that the message we want to deliver to the American people that this country is being defended by foreign aircraft? It is highly unlikely that France would ever buy US rotorcraft for its homeland security needs.

As program development costs increase, as products become much more complex and as the size of the business bets we are taking every day continue to grow, there is an ever stronger possibility for continued consolidation.

I do not have a crystal ball and cannot predict the next major event, but in the meantime I believe that we will continue to see “creeping consolidation” at the program and product level. Almost all new products are the result of cross industry collaboration and this will continue.

The Europeans are coming to America with their products: products developed with substantial government funding. They are seeking US partners to produce the products in the US and they will find them. But European products manufactured in the US do not do anything to develop or enhance our nation’s capability in the engineering and manufacturing technologies that are so important to sustained viability in this industry. Are we headed to a point where US manufacturers could simply be assembly subcontractors to European firms that develop and own the technology that was funded by European governments?

I’ve told you about our current military efforts, so now let me tell you about what we at Bell are doing for the future of military rotorcraft. Understandably, we see the future through the lens of a tiltrotor, versus a pure helicopter. We believe that the success of the V-22 Osprey and BA609 civil tiltrotor will fuel an expansion of the industry not seen since the 1960s, when rotorcraft first truly blossomed as an industry. As those two aircraft become operational and complete missions that no other aircraft in the world can accomplish, the depth and breadth of missions that they are capable of will explode on the scene. Today the public sees tiltrotors as replacements for 32-year-old traditional helicopters. The first time an MV-22 rescues noncombatants from a burning embassy, or a CV-22 completes a heroic operation in one night, then the rest of DoD will understand the possibilities and become tiltrotor proponents. We are doing advanced concept development that will provide a smorgasbord of mission applications for DoD customers.
The Marine Corps already has this vision in that they are looking at an All-VTOL Force of the future. Their roadmap requires a VTOL capability for all missions currently flown by helicopters, fighters, attack and transport fixed wing aircraft. Ambitious to be sure, but then the Marines are well known for their innovative and resourceful approach to the challenges of warfare. Additionally, the Special Operations Command has asked for our input on a large tiltrotor aircraft as a possible successor to both the AC-130 Specter gunship and the MC-130 Talon.

Let me tell you about a few of these concepts of ours.
Building on the success of the V-22, Bell’s Heavy Lift, Quad Tiltrotor (QTR), has been in development since 1998. This is a 150,000 lb C-130-sized aircraft that will employ all the benefits of a tiltrotor with the load carrying capacity of a cargo plane. We have been working with DARPA on 3 consecutive contracts to reduce the risk of building a full-scale demonstrator of the QTR. DARPA has sponsored the development of an overall QTR technology roadmap, and shared the cost for hover model and wind tunnel model testing. This aircraft will be able to vertically deliver a 20-ton payload 500-1000 miles. Specifically designed for compatibility with the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS), the QTR will be able to move the Army’s Objective Force equipment and personnel from both strategic airfields and logistics ships directly to the battlefield. More importantly, it will not need an airfield prepared or unprepared to land upon. The Quad Tiltrotor will allow the Marine Corps to move its personnel and major equipment packages (up to 20-tons) from the Enhanced Naval Sea Base directly to objectives far inland. Anti-access actions by the enemy will be rendered impotent, because the QTR will bypass the beaches and seaports that may suffer from port denial and mining threats. The QTR can relieve the need to completely clear the expected shallow water mines that threaten an amphibious assault.

A Special Operations variant will provide organic firepower and refueling capability to the Special Operations Forces to increase their effectiveness in their crucial special missions. Its ability to hover makes the QTR capable of landing anywhere on the battlefield or in the urban environment to evacuate the civilian population or military forces under terrorist threat, or during natural or manmade disasters.

But we haven’t stopped at heavy lift. Other areas of concept development involve attack and escort versions of the tiltrotor for use with both the V-22 and the QTR. These range from reaping the benefits of commonality by mating the V-22 wing and propulsion systems with a different fuselage and cockpit, which would create an attack tiltrotor with A-10 characteristics, to developing a completely new design for a stealthy attack/escort tiltrotor.

A more radical design that has already seen some wind-tunnel time is our Stop-Fold TiltRotor (SFTR) concept vehicle. If a tiltrotor combines the best characteristics of a helicopter and a turboprop, this aircraft will combine the best aspects of a tiltrotor and a jet. The SFTR’s unique design allows it to take-off and land like either a helicopter or a turbofan jet. At low speeds (up to 150 knots), it operates like a conventional tiltrotor, but above that speed its rotors can be feathered, stopped, and folded along the nacelles, and the turbofans will convert from shaft drive to thrust giving the aircraft a speed range of zero to its power limit. High subsonic, or even supersonic speeds are possible with this design. The SFTR provides jet performance while “up and away” with the easy maneuverability, reasonable downwash and hover efficiency of a tiltrotor during the takeoff and landing portion of flight. Now that will be one heck of an aircraft.
(end of excerpt)

Click here for full text of Murphy’s statement, on the House of Representatives website.


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