During a Sunday morning press conference here at Heli-Expo, Eurocopter president Fabrice Bregier quietly announced a pending agreement with China to codevelop a new helicopter. Called the EC 175, the new 22,000-pound-gross-weight helicopter will be positioned between the EC 155 and the Super Puma to compete in the heavy-lift market.
Delivery of the seven AgustaWestland A109 Power helicopters ordered by Saudi Aramco are almost complete, with the last aircraft due for acceptance by the end of the year.
Television images last May of Saudi commandos dropping from a Kawasaki-Vertol KV 107IIA helicopter in a dramatic rooftop assault to free hostages from terrorists has underscored the importance of rotary-wing aircraft to Middle Eastern governments. The current heightened security state, with its emphasis on anti-terrorist operations, has made helicopters the airborne assets of choice for close-in, fast-reaction operations.
Eurocopter added a large order to its book just before the Farnborough airshow opened when the Australian government signed a contract on June 30 for 34 more NH90 military helicopters for its army, increasing its total orders to 46 aircraft. Australia placed its first order for 12 MRH-90s, as they are designated down under, less than two years ago.
AgustaWestland is not relocating all its military helicopter manufacturing to the UK, as had been assumed by some in the wake of last month’s dual announcements of a UK Ministry of Defence order for 70 Future Lynx helicopters and the news that the firm’s AW149 model will be built at its facility at Yeovil in southwest England.
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