Eurocopter and an unnamed UK operator have proposed leasing civil EC 225 medium-lift helicopters to the British Ministry of Defence as an interim solution to bridge the gap in capability aggravated by the British armed forces’ engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The plan would provide new, high-performance helicopters to the armed forces as an alternative to upgrading and maintaining older helicopters now in service.
The EC 225 is the civil variant of the EC 725, both of which are the latest versions of the Super Puma helicopter family. The EC 725 is in service with the French army and air force while the EC 225 has customers in the offshore oil and gas industry, in governmental VIP service in Japan and Algeria and in search-and-rescue and offshore operations in China. Eurocopter, a division of EADS, is displaying an EC 725 on the Farnborough static display (OE17).
According to Eurocopter, its lease proposal includes a financial arrangement that would not burden the MoD’s equipment budget. The COMR (commercially owned, military registered) solution could replace the existing Puma and possibly the Sea King Mk 4 helicopter fleets.
Eurocopter said it believes its EC 225 is also a strong contender for the SAR-H program, recently launched by the MoD and Maritime Coast Guard Agency.