Eurocopter co-ops forge ahead

 - February 17, 2008, 5:38 PM

Eurocopter has reported progress on two major programs on which it cooperates in Asia: the civil EC 175, in China, and the military Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH), in South Korea–both seven-metric-ton-class helicopters.

The French-German company still plans to fly the first EC 175 medium twin in 2009 and says the program is on schedule. Developed under a 50-50 venture with Harbin Aircraft of China, the EC 175 is to compete head-to-head with the AgustaWestland AW139. Design work is well under way with various Harbin partners. The critical design review took place on December 5, program director Francis Combes told AIN, adding that certification remains on schedule for completion in 2011.

Harbin Aircraft is in charge of the airframe, main rotor, tail transmission, flight controls and fuel system, while Eurocopter is responsible for the main gearbox, tail rotor, avionics, hydraulics and electrical system. Integration and flight testing also is the responsibility of the Europeans. Two production lines will be set up, one in Marignane in southern France and one in Harbin.

The EC 175 (or Z15, under its Chinese designation) will be powered by two 2,000-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67E turboshafts–a dedicated variant of the -67. The helicopter reportedly is designed for two-pilot IFR and single-pilot VFR operations, carrying up to 16 passengers. Early specifications include a 140- to 150-knot cruise speed and 200-nm range. Harbin and Eurocopter are each investing about $440 million in the program.

KUH Takes Shape
In South Korea, Eurocopter is a subcontractor of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), which is in charge of the KUH’s airframe development and system integration. The European company has a 30-percent share in the program, supplying the autopilot, the main gearbox and main rotor components. In addition to this role, Eurocopter provides KAI with technology transfer and technical assistance. A Korean team spent one year in Marignane, from June 2006 to June 2007, and about 40 Eurocopter engineers now are working at the Korean Design Center in Sacheon.

Finally, Eurocopter is responsible for the development test vehicle (DTV)–a Super Puma modified to represent the KUH. The DTV will play a significant role in integration of the General Electric T700 powerplant chosen by the Korean procurement agency. The engine is being developed for the KUH under the direction of the Korean Aerospace Research Institute.

The DTV is pegged to fly in Marignane by 2009, and the first of five actual KUH prototypes is to make its maiden flight in mid-2010. The KUH’s specifications include a 7.5-ton mtow, an empty weight of 5.2 tons and a cruise speed of 140 knots.

The primary mission is described as two hours long, carrying two pilots, nine troops and two gunners. Standard mission equipment will include countermeasures and two 7.62-mm machine guns. The Korean agency for defense development is responsible for avionics and mission equipment.

The Korean army has ordered 245 KUHs, but no production contract has been signed yet. Last fall at the Seoul airshow, KAI and Eurocopter announced the forming of a joint venture (51 and 49 percent, respectively) to work on KUH export. “The export marketing effort will be under Eurocopter’s control and leadership,” Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said in January. It hopes for at least 300 sales.