Eurocopter continues NH90 talks with cash-strapped nations

Marseille
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Eurocopter is continuing discussions with three financially stricken European nations as it attempts to resolve doubts over outstanding orders for NH Industries NH90 transport helicopters.

Between them, Greece, Portugal and Spain have ordered a total of 75 of the type, with Greece the only of the three to have begun taking deliveries. It has so far received four in the initial operational capability configuration, with one of these now at Eurocopter's Marignane site near Marseille, France, for upgrade to the full operational capability standard.

Spain is locked in talks with Eurocopter, a partner in the NH Industries joint venture along with AgustaWestland and Fokker, to cut "around eight aircraft" from its 45-unit order, says the airframer.

No timetable has been fixed for resolving the issue, but Olivier Michalon, Eurocopter sales and customer relations vice-president for Europe and central Asia, says he hopes the talks can be concluded "sooner rather than later". However, he notes that "right now Spain has many, many topics to discuss".

Portugal has 10 NH90s on order, but there is no delivery schedule in place. "We are talking to the [Portuguese] authorities and they want this project to go through as their Pumas are close to the end of their lives and need to be replaced. But when you look at the financial situation in the country, it's hard to say when they will take them," says Eurocopter.

 

Eurocopter

Greece is in a similar situation. Deliveries of the 16 remaining NH90s from its 2003 order are "spread over several years", says Michalon, to replace a fleet of 80 Bell UH-1s. But "Greece's financial situation is far from being optimal", he says.

"In all these countries we want to be accommodating and be part of the solution. But at the end of the day a contract is a contract," warns Michalon.

"We need to sit down with them and see if an additional delay can help them with their obligations."

However, better news could be provided by Russia. Eurocopter has five light helicopters - three single-engined AS350B3es and a pair of AS355NP light twins - being evaluated by a private company in the country with a view to a potential requirement for light trainers for the Russian armed forces. An eventual order could comprise as many as 200 units, indicates Eurocopter, with a decision to potentially come by the end of the year.