The first NH-90 Tactical Transport Helicopter (TTH) in final operational configuration was delivered to the French Army on January 30. “This is the culmination of the most important helicopter program ever launched in Europe,” said Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling. Earlier deliveries of the TTH version to Australia, Germany and Sweden attracted criticism in those countries for various deficiencies. But Eurocopter said that the final configuration includes field-tested avionics that enable the helicopter to carry out its missions night and day with no major restrictions.
Ongoing major requirements and a growing defense budget in the Republic of Korea prompted a big showing by major aerospace companies from Europe and Israel, as well as the U.S., at the Seoul Air Show in mid-October. Show organizers claimed that nearly two-thirds of the 313 exhibitors were from 30 foreign countries.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) flew the prototype of its Surion utility helicopter for the first time on March 10. Flown by two pilots and with a test engineer aboard, the Surion took off for a 30-minute maiden flight at Sacheon air base, near Korea’s south coast, and performed hovering and hover turns.
Eurocopter’s revenues in Asia grew by 58 percent in 2009, to ?896 million ($1.25 billion)–20 percent of the group’s total. In fact, CEO Lutz Bertling is so optimistic that on Tuesday here at the show he predicted the Asian helicopter market one day will be the size of that of the U.S., which today ranks first by far.
Eurocopter (Stand H23) has chosen a strategy of partnerships in Asia. In Japan, the helicopter manufacturer wants to grow its subsidiary, notably through its maintenance joint venture with All Nippon Airways (ANA). In Korea, it is supporting Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI, Stand T87) in the design of the Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH), also known as the Surion.
Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling rebuffed concerns about how his company would fare in the face of the ongoing global economic crisis by stressing the company’s market dominance and its commitment to conserving euros. “Cash is king,” he said, adding that Eurocopter has improved its cash position and dramatically reduced production lead times–by 35 percent–over the last year and that the company has “exceeded our efficiency goals.”
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.
Eurocopter ended 2005 with a major military contract win in South Korea–traditionally a U.S.-dominated market. The Korean government chose the EADS subsidiary as the primary partner of Korea Aerospace Industries in the Korea Helicopter Project (KHP)–a new $6 billion to $8 billion program for the development of the country’s first indigenous military transport helicopter in the 7.5- to 8.5-metric ton class (16,534 to 18,739 pounds).