Procurement: Seeking Second Hand Gunships


January9, 2007: The Philippines is looking to buy six helicopter gunships, but doesn't want to spend more than about six million dollars for each one. The rules out the most powerful gunship available, the AH-64, which goes for about $60 million brand new, and really isn't available on the second-hand market. However, there are a lot of decent, although pre-owned, helicopter gunships out there, in the $6 million price range. Russia offered Mi-24s, France has offered one of the armed Eurocopter models, while Italy offered a similar to the AH-1 Cobra (which the U.S. is offering). The Italian firm has been building license versions of the UH-1 and AH-1 for decades. China is offering a gunship based on Eurocopter designs.

The AH-1 has an edge in this competition, as the Filipinos have been using UH-1s (the AH-1 is a modified version of the UH-1), and the AH-1s offered were previously used by the U.S. Marine Corps, with great success.

The Philippines wants the gunships for operations against Communist and Moslem rebels, who frequently hide out in jungles and urban areas. A helicopter gunship is better for this sort of thing, than fixed wing aircraft. What the Filipinos will get is a six ton helicopter that can carry about half a ton of weapons (usually a 20mm automatic cannon, with about 700 rounds of ammo, plus the ability to fire unguided rockets, or missiles like TOW or Hellfire).

But it does all come down to how much helicopter you can get for your money. If any of the competitors wants this contract badly enough, they can sweeten their offer sufficiently to get it. So far, the Philippines has relied on sixteen Bell 520, which are about half the size, and capacity, of the AH-1.


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