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The Anglo French helicopter deal in the 1960s

uk 75

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With the Gazelle out of service but the Puma hanging on in there with the RAF, I thought it might be
another interesting thread to look at UK helicopter procurement in the 60s and see if there were any
missed alternatives.

The three helicopters involved in the deal between the UK and France were the Sud Aviation designed Puma and
Gazelle and the Westland designed Lynx. All three helicopters gave good service to the British armed forces and at
first glance there do not seem to be any worthwhile alternatives.

Anyone have any thoughts on other directions that could have been taken?
 

alertken

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UK's new Govt. came in 17/10/64, opened the books, and found we were broke. International techno-collaboration, swords-to-ploughshares, and avoidance of pseudo-prestige projects were all part of the new mindset. Staffs/industry contact, UK:France, had begun to rationalise a post-TSR.2/Mirage IV prospect. UK Forces choppers were Sea King, Belvedere, Scout, Skeeter, replacements for all of which were in the scheming stage. Staffs were watching US/SEAsia developments, which included the novel notion of battlefield combat rotors. UK had one monopoly rotorist whose design track record was, ah, patchy. France had been first in business with shaft turbine rotorcraft and, in Algeria, with aggressive rotors.

New UK Minister Healey initiated talks on (what was to be) AFVG. HSAL's AWA and Folland had done swinging things, if only on paper; BAC not only had not, but was the cause of TSR.2 delay/overspend. BAC in recent years had built a trickle of Lightnings - hardly impressive to Marcel Dassault, but the package that Healey was mulling was UK leadership of (AFVG) airframe, for which he would swap SNECMA leadership on power. BAC was preferred over HSAL...because the glacial discussions on Saudi Magic Carpet were getting somewhere, and if he were to chop TSR.2 Warton would need to be gainfully occupied to bridge into Lightning flashes.

Q: What could Healey do to cause France to disappoint the influential M.Dassault's ambition to lead/dominate?
A: Wind new choppers into the package. Get design leadership for WHL on something, and buy French as-is for others.

France pitched: vice any Sea King...Super Frelon; vice Belvedere: Puma; vice Skeeter: Gazelle; vice Scout/Wasp: Super-Alouette III schemes. What Staffs wanted was: vice Skeeter, US LOH (which emerged as Cayeuse); vice Scout/Wasp: any-US-thing; vice Belvedere: CH-47. US wrapped choppers into the credit package, for which Healey selected F-4M/C-130K/F-111K. It was Healey, alone, who took the package: Lynx, inc. for Aeronavale, Gazelle, Puma. He extracted WHL workshare on all forward French-built Gazelles and Pumas...so Aerospatiale invented Ecureil and Cougar; France reneged on most Lynx...and AFVG. He nonetheless kept the Anglo-French helicopter package, though permitted a Chinook order, later cancelled, later re-instated.
 

uk 75

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Alertken

Thank you for summarising the history, chronology and alternatives.

As usual we seem to have amongst them all British and the US analogues. I know very little about the proposed all British systems (though there have been various threads on these). It is alsointeresting to speculate what might have happened if we had followed the Italian route and licence built Jet Rangers and Hueys as well as Seakings.
 

alertken

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Meridionali did Chinooks, too, inc. exporting to Iran. When pitching S.Frelon to UK, France conceded what I have only once seen in print - that its power train derived from licenced Sikorsky. When SA.341 Gazelle was first pitched to UK it had a Bolkow rigid rotor. Sud/Aerospatiale, Agusta, Westland all either learnt their rotary trade, or enhanced it, from US licences. Not so Bolkow. UK in 1943 tried to bring a patent infringement case against Sikorsky, asserting that R-4 cyclic control system derived illicitly from Cierva. That was dropped in the interests of harmony...and free Lend/Lease supply (royalty on $0 is, ah, not much). The rotary sector is incestuous.
 

uk 75

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Is there a useful summary of the designs which Westland were scheming before the Anglo French deal?

I recall some coverage in other threads but the proposed Puma and Gazelle equivalents do not seem to have
been anywhere as mature as the French aircraft.
 

JFC Fuller

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uk 75 said:
Is there a useful summary of the designs which Westland were scheming before the Anglo French deal?

A very interesting question, it seems highly improbable that the UK helicopter industry would let such a large deal go through without at least proposing some sort of fully indigenous alternative?
 

alertken

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The WAL Putnam for 1963-66 has numbers, no sketches, for:
WG.3 twin Gnome tactical transport - }?Puma-esque?
WG.4 ASW/troop/cargo - }
WG.7 ASW medium lift - }
WG.5 light utility - }Gazelle-esque?
WG.12 light - }

When wooing, perception is all - facts might confuse.

Messmerised, Healey on 17/5/65 signed the MoU by which: Breguet led BAC, RR led TM on (to be) Jaguar, and BAC led GAMD, BSEL led SNECMA on ({not}to be) AFVG. On 27/6/66 he bought 60 WHL Sea King HAS.1; on 22/2/67 he signed the MoU by which:
WHL led Sud on (WG.13, to be Lynx) and was to supply some structure, and assemble UK-offtake of SA.330 (Puma)/SA.340 (Gazelle). (Now, ex-BSEL) RR Small Engines Division was similarly to participate in Turmo and Astazou.
That chopper package was only dimly linked to Requirements - RAF did not want Puma - but was mightily linked to UK's 2nd Application, 10/5/67 to join the EEC.

A dozen years efflux. 6/80 UK+Italy form EHI to do (to be Merlin). In 1985 WHL is in deep ordure, financially. The outcome, after the Westland Affair shook Thatcher's Cabinet, was UTC (Sikorsky)+FIAT taking 29.9% equity, such that what emerged as Eurocopter did not embrace what emerged as AgustaWestland. The cause of all this was perfidy. It doesn't matter whether pr is right - that France was + and UK was -; what matters is perception, on the day, by Ministers.
 

alertken

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pr: you are repeatedly rejecting the position that GAMD's posture was the proximate cause for demise of AFVG...but then your last line states precisely that.

You would presumably dispute the expulsion of GAMD from 1968 NKF75 conversations that inserted BAC into (to be) MRCA/Tornado...and then ditto likewise from the launch of EF2000. It was very hard to collaborate with French Aero-industry in those days. Concorde worked because both sides knew the choice was 50% of a flyer or 100% of a cancellation. The FRG projects worked because the German side was more interested in production workload, than in R&D.

The solution was cross-equity. Airbus Industrie, Astrium, EADS, Eurocopter, MBDA work because it's a Three Musketeers: all for one, one for all. Shall we let this contre-temps lapse?
 

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The funny thing about this is that Mr. Messmer, the 20th century politician, was a descendant of Mr. Messmer, the 18th century hypnotist, whose name led to the verb "mesmerize"...
 

uk 75

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Can I get the thread back to the original subject?

The list of Westland projects is interesting. Somewhere there is a chart showing
little black silhouettes and listing the projects and their lifespans. I am not sure if
I have a copy or where it came from. From memory the designs were very derivative
of Sikorsky and other US designs.

I had not realised that the RAF did not want Puma (SA330). The Wessex soldiered on in
various roles for years and was not replaced by the Puma. Were the RAF looking for an
all Chinook force even in the 60s? They do not seem to like the Merlin much either.

Was Gazelle a poor deal? Again it seemed to serve in the training and observation roles
for a long time. I suppose an off the shelf Jet Ranger buy might have been cheaper.

Westland do not seem to have much luck in the helicopter business. Their WG 30 fat Lynx was a failure and the Westminster looks like a poor copy of the Mojave. Even the Lynx has reliability issues.
 

Kiltonge

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uk 75 said:
Was Gazelle a poor deal? Again it seemed to serve in the training and observation roles
for a long time. I suppose an off the shelf Jet Ranger buy might have been cheaper.
Four years later and I can answer your question!

... the Ministry of Technology ordered a departmental study of American
alternatives including the Bell JetRanger.

This showed that a Westland-built JetRanger purchase would save Britain
about £6 million on capital costs.

https://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1969/1969%20-%203173.html
 

Hood

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Some of the desired Chinook purchases seem quite odd.
The Royal Navy wanted an ASW Chinook for CVA-01/ Escort Cruisers as its ideal platform, even 'Winkle' Brown in 'Wings on my Sleeve' mentions it as being the best choice. Yet, I've heard or seen of any official Vertol proposal on such a conversion.
I've seen early 1960s references to Chinooks in official files (1962 is the earliest I think), and even brief mention in the mid-60s of a 'Super Chinook'. I wonder how much of this was wishful thinking or how much was based on what Vertol was actually doing?

British helicopter developments were very patchy, Bristol got its designs working in the end but it was a long haul. Saro had a lot of troubles too, Skeeter finally made it after a lot of work and bother but as they were putting it right the Army and Navy jumped on Scout/Wasp with an enthusiasm that seems odd given their track record. Then Scout had development problems too and merger beckoned.
Westland did ok, but had they not had the foresight to get those Sikorsky licences British helicopters would have looked very different and perhaps we might have been looking back on a longer tale of woe.
 

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I have to wonder if the relentless march of miniaturization led to the slow abandonment of the ASW Chinook idea, coupled with the fact that Sea King would allow more "boots on the ground".

Hood said:
Some of the desired Chinook purchases seem quite odd.
The Royal Navy wanted an ASW Chinook for CVA-01/ Escort Cruisers as its ideal platform, even 'Winkle' Brown in 'Wings on my Sleeve' mentions it as being the best choice. Yet, I've heard or seen of any official Vertol proposal on such a conversion.
I've seen early 1960s references to Chinooks in official files (1962 is the earliest I think), and even brief mention in the mid-60s of a 'Super Chinook'. I wonder how much of this was wishful thinking or how much was based on what Vertol was actually doing?
 

JFC Fuller

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Re RN ASW Chinook,

See this thread for some details as to the platform: http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,15177.0.html

This was a very real programme, a joint effort between the RN and the RAF with the former being by far the biggest customer but the RN then withdrew sometime in very late 1964 or early 1965.
 

JFC Fuller

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I see no evidence that the RAF "didn't want" the Puma, in fact it seems to have fitted the requirement like a glove. In the early 60s there were two joint requirements for helicopters that I have thus far been able to identify:

NAST.358: This was intended to provide the RAF and the RN with a heavy lift helicopter and the latter with a heavy ASW helicopter. The RAF requirement was relatively small, about three squadrons worth, the bulk of the requirement was for the RN ASW mission. This requirement quickly defaulted to a four Gnome Chinook variant (the Westland offering was WG.1 and doesn't seem to have been taken seriously). The RN withdrew from this requirement sometime in late 1965 and the RAF chose to fill their requirement with a straight buy of Chinooks, which were subsequently cancelled.

NAST.365: This was for a 'utility' battlefield helicopter and for a smaller (than the above) ASW helicopter for the RN. At this stage I don't believe this was considered a replacement for the Scout/Wasp, but I intend to confirm that at some point. The RN withdrew from this requirement around the same time they withdrew from NAST.358 and they procured the Sea King instead. In the RAF this would have been a replacement for their Wessex fleet, the Westland proposal was WG.4/WG.7. The Puma was procured because it ticked every box.

Additionally:

GSR.3335: An Army requirement for a utility helicopter able to carry ten men, Westland offered the WG.3. The RN joined and the requirement was re-issued as NGAST.3335 in June 1966 at which point the WG.13 appeared and became the Lynx.

GSR.3336: This was for an Army light helicopter and Westland made various proposals to this requirement, WG.5, WG.8, WG.10. Eventually the Gazelle came along.
 

alertken

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Hood #11: UK choppers: patchy...odd.

1959. Minister Sandys massages a measure of coalescence to restructure UK Aero to match its likely modest ongoing business. After sorting airframe-except-HP and GW he's left with rotors: parts-of-Bristol,-Fairey,-Saro, and all of Westland. Bristol had hoped to shift rotors into BAC, who had more sense; Fairey intended to do (to be Engineering - PFCUs and such) and its 10% of (to be Trident) up North, and hoped to unload Hayes-and-choppers. DH, 9/56, had bought 33% of Saro to protect DH workshare in: SR.177 (Gyron Jr; airframe would have been assembled at Christchurch, flown from Hurn), and...big phalluses. Saro was carving out a support niche, such as in composite structure (Re-entry Vehicles), for Blue Streak and, contracted 7/55, its proof-of-concept vehicle, Black Knight. For Sandys that was of greater relevance than their flirtations with choppers, and, alone, made a Defence/political necessity to preserve Saro. If he had known that Blue Streak would be chopped 13/4/60, he might well have judged that choppers were unworthy of Ministers' time. Far from #11/Hood's "longer tale of woe", he might have let Hayes and Cowes gently expire, lacking a Trade Buyer. Ample good kit was readily available at market.

But he chose to encourage Westland to become monopolist: primarily, to preserve Saro in GW. He funded Sprite R&D, becoming a pre-production batch of Scout, 5/60 (and after his time, but conforming to his policy:) Sea Scout 9/61. Dither caused AAC to extract a market supply of 17 Alouette II...on which we, like so many other sensible folk, should have settled for most things rotary. Instead we paid for Blackburn to Anglicise Alouette's engine as Nimbus, while Army tried to disabuse RAF's perception that Alouette-delivering- SS.11 in Algeria, 1958, had no relevance to Red armour in N.Europe (it would be mid-1970 before Scout/SS.11 would be operational in BAOR). Patchy. Odd.

So: 1964, even before October change of Govt. What to do about deep strike? Clearly not TSR.2, drifting, billing. Oh, and from 10/64: slash and hack Defence expense. The Anglo-French chopper package was a ticket to (to be Jaguar and) AFVG. Puma was "not wanted by RAF" in the sense that budget priority was elsewhere - such as early retirement of Belvedere before it incinerated the entire heli-transport trade, and Wessex was fine pro tem (tem outlasting the century). But Puma-NOW lubricated both Lynx and AFVG later. The package was a means to a higher end.
 

JFC Fuller

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If the RAF didn't want to pay for the support helicopter force it shouldn't have put so much effort into trying to spike the Army's helicopter ambitions.

The requirement to replace the early Wessex variants in the RAF support helicopter horce was very real, it wasn't a political concoction. The SA.330 fitted the requirement like a glove and had been the favourite for some time. The documentary evidence is clear, the Westland WG.7 was conceptually a better aircraft but it was a paper project with substantial R&D cost and risk whereas the SA.330 met the requirement, was in-development/flying and someone else paying the R&D cost. The Gazelle certainly seems to have been much more of a stitch-up, but the Puma wasn't.

Updates to my post of October 23rd 2015:

NAST.358: This seems to have been cancelled on cost grounds, the requirement was certainly extravagant and the documentary evidence suggests that was the reason it was abandoned (requirement modified according to the documents) in favour of the SH-3D (to be Sea King)

NAST.365: The RN needed this aircraft to replace those Wessex helicopters in the ASW role on the DLGs (county class) and possibly the Tigers (the study looking at the viability of putting NAST.358s on the Tigers may not have been completed). The ASW requirement was only small and was withdrawn in march 1965 when it was found that the NAST.365 helicopter wouldn't be much better in the ASW role than the existing Wessex's and apparently it was hard to adapt a helicopter primarily designed for tactical lift (this probably had more to do with the RN's specific requirements). The RN also had a longer term requirement to use the NAST.365 type (Puma) to replace its later model Wessex's in the commando role.

Neither of these programmes was to replace the Wasp, that was the job of Ikara.
 
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