A major defense contractor has joined with AVX Aircraft Co., a fledgling Fort Worth company, in an effort to win a Navy contract for an unmanned surveillance helicopter.
AVX officials announced Wednesday that they teamed with BAE Systems, a $36 billion international conglomerate based in Great Britain, to submit a proposal for the planned Medium Range Maritime Unmanned Aerial System.
“We think we’ve got a good proposal from the standpoint of meeting the [Navy] requirements,” AVX spokesman Mike Cox said.
The two companies submitted their proposal in October in response to a Navy request for concepts for an unmanned, vertical-takeoff-and-landing surveillance aircraft that could operate from ships and cover long distances and stay in the air for long periods.
BAE, formerly British Aerospace, has a separate U.S. subsidiary and is a major contractor for the Defense Department. BAE’s aircraft components manufacturing division in Samlesbury, England, builds the rear fuselage and tail sections of the F-35 joint strike fighter, and its electronics systems division in New Hampshire supplies F-35 components.
At this point, the AVX-BAE proposal calls for designing and developing an all-new helicopter using the Fort Worth company’s concept of combining a compound coaxial rotor system and ducted fans to provide helicopterlike vertical flight and hover capabilities and obtain higher speeds.
AVX, which is privately owned, recently received a $4 million Army contract to conduct design studies and test models to determine whether its ideas for a higher-speed helicopter could be incorporated into a military aircraft.
AVX employs about a dozen career aviation professionals, mostly former Bell Helicopter engineers and managers.
Cox said AVX is in discussions with several companies and investors about a partnership or funding to design and build a prototype.