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Westland and Sikorsky come together

uk 75

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With Westland now known as Leonardo I revisited the world of helicopters.
If the Anglo French helicopter agreement had come unstuck in 1969 and Westland had decided to build on its close relationship with Sikorsky might history have been different.
The Lynx becomes a candidate as a Sikorsky product for the USN light ASW helo instead of the updated Seasprite and for the US Army recce role instead of the Jet Ranger
The UK in turn takes the Seahawk for its new Type 22 frigates while the S92 and WG34 merge.
Blackhawks replace the SA330 in RAF service
Westland continues its close rels with Sikorsky as a separate company to the present.
 

pathology_doc

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I think you would more likely see Sikorsky swallow Westland, but we can agree to differ.
 

kaiserd

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The “Westland Affair” is complicated but it should be noted that in the short run Sikorsky “won” and bought a large minority shareholding (the apparent clear intention being to then build on this leading to a full merger/ takeover).
A combination of the political aftermath of the “Affair” and the what has to assume was the underlying unappetizing nature of Westland from Sikorsky’s perspective saw any merger plans never proceed with history playing out as we know it with Sikorsky selling their stake. Etc.
Hence Sikorsky were also active participants making decisions. UK decisions like the eventual Apache purchase in the mid-late 90’s came far too late to make Westland (by that time AgustinWestland, after Sikorsky’s exit) that attractive to Sikorsky given the now established political headwind.
Some kind of benign support by Sikorsky for Westland while remaining a minority shareholder was never on the table or going to happen. Instead Westland and the UK chased consolidation with other smallish EU helicopter manufacturers (Augusta) which worked for a while but has now run again into same basic problem of lack of scale and orders versus much bigger rivals with the UK manufacturing part of the business looking to end when the last Wildcat rolls off the line.
 

Hood

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This is an interesting what-if.
I don't think a merger was on the cards, but its not hard to see how it may of been later had the 'Affair' not happened. For example Westland may of been a strong location for the S-70i programme, although I suspect manufacturing costs would have been higher.

Lynx was perhaps a good fit for LAMPS but the "not designed here" lobby is always strong. In hindsight its growth and fuel capacity might have limited its potential in USN service and its unlikely that they would have brought the Seaspray-Sea Skua combo.

After reading Chris Gibson's The Air Staff and the Helicopter, you wonder whether the RAF shouldn't have bit the bullet and brought a batch of RTM.322 powered Blackhawks. This might of even secured the Saudi order too and it might have been a nice little earner if more export nations got on board.

Saying that, I don't think the Agusta cooperation was too bad, it should really have gone further with Tonal and then a proper critical mass have been built up. Westland had no opportunity to do anything new other than tinkering with other people's designs for too long, yet there was a lot of R&D going on and some advanced designs, only the Lynx really showed what they were capable of, but the UK market for all types of helicopter was just too small to justify too many homegrown designs.

My surprise is that the Wildcat has been such a lacklustre programme, especially the naval version, given the Super Lynx success. My gut feeling is that the 1990s Super Lynx boom covered most of the smaller navies and the young fleet age means it might be another 5 years before more Lynx replacement programmes are called for and sadly by then the Wildcat won't be available.
 

uk 75

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Thank you all for the helpful and informative replies which answer my speculative question.
 

alertken

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Notions of equality for Westland with anybody in 1985 are pie-in-the-sky. Yeovil then could best be compared with the heli resources of Poland, Romania, Indonesia. There were good reasons for 1957-62 consolidation of UK Aero industry leaving Westland outcast, solo - Ministers had not intended to exclude choppers, but BAC and HSAL saw pain far exceeding reward.

Group ’84/85 Loss was £95.3Mn.: Westland “had never struck me as well managed” Cabinet Minister G.Howe,Conflict of Loyalties,94,Mac,P.462. There was only one reason for a bidding contest for Westland in 1985 (the "Affair"). 26/9/85 alYamamah Saudi Air Defence System appeared to involve BAe in providing vast infrastructure, additional to Tornadoes. It appeared that source selection for Saudi rotorcraft would be in BAe's hands, who would be well-disposed to unload the job to be managed by WAL. Sikorsky was looking for a way into Saudi for S-70s, Eurocopter for Bo.105 and Cougar now, NH90 and Tigre later, Agusta for battlefield A.129 (TONAL, WHL onboard, 5/85) and for (to be) Merlin. At that time the only original design WAL cared to be reminded of was Lynx.

UTC "beat" the "European solution" 4/86 and took 29.9% equity, shared with FIAT (with heli tranmission expertise). The context at that moment was for WS-70 in Saudi, beating Cougar. But what actually happened was that Saudi did its own procuring, thank you. UTC exited WAL with aplomb from 10/88; Agusta failed to excite anyone on TONAL, UK lost all patience with WAL on ASW Merlin and gave the job to (LORAL, to be) Lockheed.

Author Bill Gunston has a "World's Worst Aircraft" where Blackburn leads UK's pack - and Botha+Firebrand is clearly a strong hand...but Whirlwind-the-First+Welkin+Wyvern surely trumps that.
 
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Fluff

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I thought this was news.......

If it went that way, the US Management team would have seen westland as an assembly operation, maybe take a few good ideas away, but the core airframes would have been Sikorsky. Would also have been a good route into EU, with badged products, assembled in UK, I mean who would have written the risk register, to include UK leaving the EU......
 

Hood

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Notions of equality for Westland with anybody in 1985 are pie-in-the-sky. Yeovil then could best be compared with the heli resources of Poland, Romania, Indonesia. There were good reasons for 1957-62 consolidation of UK Aero industry leaving Westland outcast, solo - Ministers had not intended to exclude choppers, but BAC and HSAL saw pain far exceeding reward.

Group ’84/85 Loss was £95.3Mn.: Westland “had never struck me as well managed” Cabinet Minister G.Howe,Conflict of Loyalties,94,Mac,P.462. There was only one reason for a bidding contest for Westland in 1985 (the "Affair"). 26/9/85 alYamamah Saudi Air Defence System appeared to involve BAe in providing vast infrastructure, additional to Tornadoes. It appeared that source selection for Saudi rotorcraft would be in BAe's hands, who would be well-disposed to unload the job to be managed by WAL. Sikorsky was looking for a way into Saudi for S-70s, Eurocopter for Bo.105 and Cougar now, NH90 and Tigre later, Agusta for battlefield A.129 (TONAL, WHL onboard, 5/85) and for (to be) Merlin. At that time the only original design WAL cared to be reminded of was Lynx.

UTC "beat" the "European solution" 4/86 and took 29.9% equity, shared with FIAT (with heli tranmission expertise). The context at that moment was for WS-70 in Saudi, beating Cougar. But what actually happened was that Saudi did its own procuring, thank you. UTC exited WAL with aplomb from 10/88; Agusta failed to excite anyone on TONAL, UK lost all patience with WAL on ASW Merlin and gave the job to (LORAL, to be) Lockheed.

Author Bill Gunston has a "World's Worst Aircraft" where Blackburn leads UK's pack - and Botha+Firebrand is clearly a strong hand...but Whirlwind-the-First+Welkin+Wyvern surely trumps that.
Westland was dependent on MOD orders from the late 1970s. And that reliance was almost entirely focused on the Royal Navy, it was the Navy who were keeping Sea King production going beyond a few continuing exports to countries like India and Egypt. It was the Navy who insisted that the WG.34 had to be a national product and wanted it as soon as possible without distractions from possible collaborations with the RAF or other European countries. Westland got on with that task. The RAF often showed little enthusiasm for its products, the WG.30 being roundly ignored for AST.404 and with hindsight that may of been no bad thing given how the commercial version fared. In any case, letting Westland collapse was not an option as it was the sole supplier of military helicopters without being forced to rely on foreign purchases.

The political attempts by the government and MOD to get into European collaborations during the 1970s onwards were laughable, they came too late to the table and constantly dithered about so the French, Germans and Italians got on with carving out their shares of what became NH90 and PAH-2 (later Tiger). The UK was left the offer of mere scraps and turned it down.

I'm not sure that FIAT had more transmission expertise than Westland. Westland had already designed and built the Lynx gearbox with conformal gears and the titanium monobloc semi-rigid rotor head with 'spider' control linkages. The WG.34 was to have used a novel rafted arrangement and work on the DTV testbed was already underway when WG.34 was pulled. Under the collaboration agreement Agusta was given the contract to develop the transmission, more a decision based on workshare values than engineering competence, indeed Agusta sub-contracted the transmission to FIAT.
In hindsight Westland probably wasn't the best company to try and integrate all the systems, so the MoD selected the Westland/IBM team (IBM-ASIC, later Loral, later Lockheed). Its notable that the MoD did not choose the rival BAe/GEC team, their reputation perhaps still tarnished from Nimrod AEW.

I don't think Westland did too badly in fixed wing, being a small firm and located rather outside the main industrial areas of the country it was never going to be a mass producing giant; recent research has focused on the propellers as being the main culprit for hindering the Whirlwind and of course in hindsight Petter backed the wrong Rolls-Royce engine. The Welkin was not that bad and indeed provided a springboard for pressure cabin research that would otherwise have been lacking and the resulting formation of Normalair was a happy side-effect, the fact the high-altitude fighter role never materialised was not Westland's fault. The Wyvern was dogged by its engines, straddling the super-piston engine and early turboprop era it is perhaps more notable for getting further than most other turboprop designs of that era (Douglas XA2D-1, Tupolev Tu-91). Most of the late war naval types were comparative flops; Firebrand, Firecrest, Sturgeon and Spearfish.
 

riggerrob

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Instead of just using Westland as an assembly plant, Sikorsky could have sub-contracted more of the simpler parts.
Theses days, Sikorsky sub-contracts out boring components (rivetted sheet metal) to distant sub-contractors like Kawanshi. Composite components are made by other sub-contractors, etc. so that Sikorsky can focus on their area of expertise: rotors and flight controls.
 

DWG

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Its notable that the MoD did not choose the rival BAe/GEC team, their reputation perhaps still tarnished from Nimrod AEW.
Which is a pity as GEC had an experienced ASW systems team at that point - AQS-903 etc.
 

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Author Bill Gunston has a "World's Worst Aircraft" where Blackburn leads UK's pack - and Botha+Firebrand is clearly a strong hand...but Whirlwind-the-First+Welkin+Wyvern surely trumps that.
All three of the Westland designs were at least accepted for service and in two cases saw front line service (Welkin went straight to MUs as the high-level bombing threat never materialised), not something that can be said of the Firebrand (or Firecrest). And unlike the Botha the Westland trio were at least safe to fly (not entirely the Botha's fault, it got robbed in the engine HP department).
 
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