• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Meet American helicopter company Nigeria saved from bankruptcy

Last week, the Nigerian Army awarded Arizona-based MD Helicopters a contract to supply Cayuse Warrior Plus scout/attack helicopters.

The Arizona-based MD Helicopters, an American aerospace manufacturer was just about to file for bankruptcy and sell the company when Nigeria saved the day with a contract for 12 Cayuse Warrior Plus scout/attack helicopters.

The helicopters are expected to improve counter-terrorism and insurgency missions across the African country.

MD Helicopters will deliver spares, flight training devices, logistics support, and aircrew training along with the choppers. The contract features an option to procure up to 36 Cayuse helicopters.

The sudden turn of events has seen the company, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, now employing 125 new workers to fulfil the Nigerian army’s order.

What to know about MD helicopters

MD Helicopters, LLC. (formerly McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems) is an American aerospace manufacturer. It produces light utility helicopters for commercial and military use.

The company was a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft until 1984 when McDonnell Douglas acquired it and renamed it McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. It later became MD Helicopters in the late 1990s when McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing.

The company began in 1947 as a unit of Hughes Aircraft, then was part of the Hughes Tool Company after 1955. It became the helicopter division of Hughes’ Summa Corporation in 1972 and was finally reformed as Hughes Helicopters, Inc. in 1981. However, throughout its history, the company was informally known as Hughes Helicopters. The company was sold to McDonnell Douglas in 1984.

Hughes Helicopters produced three major designs during its 37-year history.

In May 1965, the company won the contract for a new observation helicopter for the U.S. Army and produced the OH-6 Cayuse (Hughes Model 369). The OH-6 was later developed into the civilian Model 500.

In 1975, the company won the contract for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.

In January 1984, Hughes Helicopters, Inc. was sold to McDonnell Douglas by Summa Corporation. McDonnell Douglas paid $470 million for the company and made it a subsidiary with the name McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems in August 1984. In 1986, McDonnell Douglas sold all the rights to the Model 300C to Schweizer Aircraft.

On August 1, 1997, McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, but Boeing’s subsequent plans to sell the civilian helicopter line to Bell Helicopter in 1998 were thwarted by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In 1999, Boeing completed the spin-off of the civilian line of helicopters to a newly formed MD Helicopter Holdings Inc., an indirect subsidiary of the Dutch company, RDM Holding Inc.

Read also: MD Helicopters to deliver Cayuse Warrior helicopters to Nigerian Army

The line included the MD 500 and variants as well as the family of derivative NOTAR aircraft that originated with Hughes Helicopters Inc. Boeing maintained the AH-64 line of helicopters and rights to the NOTAR system.

After suffering dismal commercial performance, the company was purchased in 2005 by Patriarch Partners, LLC, an investment fund.

The company was recapitalized as an independent company, MD Helicopters, Inc. MD Helicopters is based in Mesa, Arizona. Lynn Tilton, the Chief Executive Officer and sole principal of Patriarch Partners, was CEO of MD Helicopters until she relinquished control in March 2020 following bankruptcy court rulings related to Patriarch holdings.

By March 2022, the manufacturer filed for US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for restructuration, to be acquired by a creditor consortium led by Bardin Hill Investment Partners and MBIA Insurance, providing around $60 million of financing as debtors.

However, Nigeria has saved the company from bankruptcy with its huge order for 36 Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters.

Cayuse Warrior plus scout/attack helicopters

Known for speed, safety, agility and the ability to operate with ease in confined spaces, the Cayuse Warrior light Attack Helicopter delivers increased operational capabilities, greater mission versatility and superior performance in the execution of a broad range of mission profiles.

Adaptable to support a wide range of training and operational missions, the MD 530F Cayuse Warrior offers a safe and efficient crew environment and mission training skills that will positively transfer to other platforms.

The MD 530 Cayuse Warrior Plus is a derivative of the original OH-6 Cayuse light observation helicopter.

Mission enhancement features in the aircraft include sensors, weapons systems, avionics improvements, armour, and increased power performance. The aircraft will be used for area security, tactical reconnaissance convoy escort, and drug interdiction missions in Nigeria.

The Nigerian selection includes a complete ILS package, spares, pilot and maintainer training, and Flight Training Device (FTD).

The MD 530F Cayuse Warrior Plus helicopter is armed with FN HMP400 LCC coaxial airborne weapon system developed by FN Herstal.

The machine gun pod features a .50cal FN M3P machine gun. Its weapon system supports all types of 12.7mm x 99mm Nato ammunition rounds. FN HMP400 has a fully loaded weight of 138kg and an ammunition storage capacity of 400 rounds.

The weapon system can fire at a rate of around 1,100 rounds a minute. The MD 530F+ is armed with advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) missiles for enhanced combat capabilities.

The helicopter can also be attached to Mace Aviation-developed Extended Range Weapons Wing, which has four weapons stations and a 35gal internal fuel tank.

Nigeria is fast becoming one of America’s most important defence markets in Africa.

Today Nigeria has acquired more weapons from the U.S. than any other country in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Super Tucano deal netted the Florida-based Sierra Nevada a whopping $600 million.

The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is getting 12 AH-1Z Vipers helicopters. The army, UH-1D Hueys, and now MD Helicopters, were saved from bankruptcy by the Nigerian army with an order for 36 Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters.

John Ojikutu, security expert and former military commandant at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos told BusinessDay that if the army is buying the helicopters “to bolster counterterrorism and insurgency across the country” it would appear to any discerning mind that the expected close air supports from the Nigerian Air Force had not been very effective to support the Army operations.

“For as old as the NAF has been and in many operations within and outside the country, it has been a very close ally with the Nigerian Army in national defence in Chad, Cameroon and Liberia to mention just a few.

“What has brought a separation of power in internal security against an internal insurgency or homegrown terrorists and banditry needs thorough intelligence estimates to determine if it is not a waste of resources or the work of insider threats”, Ojikutu said.

According to him, there had been reported cases of ‘mid-air attacks’ on soldiers during some of the NAF attacks on the insurgents and banditry; adding that these could have been the results of poor intelligence reports, poor information of the locations of the enemy or poor knowledge of the area of operation or poor knowledge of the operating equipment.

He said if these are not properly discerned by the responsible national defence authorities, no matter the sophistication of any equipment, and if the users are not sufficiently trained, the equipment is as good as ineffective.