Ozark, Alabama has a long history associated with the U.S. military and helicopters. Ozark is home to Fort Rucker, the U.S. Army’s helicopter training center, and is a hub for helicopter-related industries with suppliers providing everything from fleet support to flight simulation.
New Business Council of Alabama member Bell Helicopter has called Ozark and the Wiregrass home since 2005. Last month, Bell announced that it will assemble the U.S. Navy’s next generation training aircraft in Ozark should Bell win the contract from the Navy. Currently producing the Bell 407Gxi, the company is hoping to replace the Navy’s TH-57 which Bell started producing in the 1970s.
In a release from Governor Ivey, Bell President CEO Mitch Snyder stressed the unique situation of the company’s location as a key factor in hopefully securing the contract.
“Our Ozark team has the proven capability to deliver advance training aircraft for the next generation of Naval aviators,” Snyder said. “We appreciate the support through Alabama’s workforce readiness programs, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our state and local partners to win the U.S. Navy trainer program.”
Bell is the only U.S.-based manufacturer to participate in the competition. Alabama’s workforce development training and being home to the Alabama Aviation College positions the Wiregrass as above the rest to be able to build these specialized aircraft.
If Bell wins the contract, it will build 130 helicopters for the Navy who is expected to announce its decision later this year.
Last year, the U.S. Navy awarded Bell a contract for multiple commercial airframes in support of the MC-8C Fire Scout aircraft, which is an unmanned autonomous helicopter used for reconnaissance, aerial fire support and other naval missions. Work on that contract is being performed in Ozark.