European helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland and Russian conglomerate Oboronprom last month signed an agreement for a civil AW139 final assembly line near Moscow, less than six months after announcing the project’s outlines.
The 50-50 joint venture is scheduled to deliver its first aircraft in 2011. The partners said the production facility will meet demand primarily from Russia and CIS countries. In July, Oboronprom director general Andrey Reus suggested the production rate could be 24 helicopters a year. AgustaWestland and Oboronprom are still seeking approval from the Russian government.
The launch customer may already have been found, as Russian-based operator UTair has signed a letter of intent for 35 to 49 AW139s. They will be delivered during a five- to seven-year period starting in 2011. This is a major foray into the Russian market, as UTair operates a fleet of 182 helicopters, only four of which are Western types.
According to Reus, the cooperation between the companies will benefit the Russian helicopter engineering sector by providing access to advanced production technologies and high-quality standards in product support. A wider agreement includes the establishment of maintenance centers for AgustaWestland helicopters in Russia.
AgustaWestland parent company Finmeccanica has been trying to strengthen its ties with the Russian aerospace industry. For example, subsidiary Alenia Aeronautica in 2006 agreed to buy 25 percent plus one share of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company, the designer of the Superjet 100 regional jet.