Eurocopter in 'advanced' talks for launch of SAR EC175

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Although the initial batch of EC175s will be delivered in a configuration for transport work in the oil and gas sector, Eurocopter is actively pushing the 7t type for use as a medium-range search-and-rescue platform.

It has yet to secure a launch customer for the SAR variant, but the Marignane-based airframer confirms it is in talks with a number of potential clients.

"Eurocopter is engaged in deep discussions with all the major SAR operators. They are very deep, very advanced discussions and we are very optimistic about the outcome of those," says Jérôme Ronssin, Eurocopter sales manager for central and Mediterranean Europe.

Changes over the baseline transport model include the addition of a 360˚ radar mounted under the nose and the integration of electro-optical imaging systems, with L3 Wescam's MX-15 model the first to be offered. It will later add similar systems from Flir Systems and Sagem, it says.

Other mission-specific equipment will include a searchlight, weather radar, twin Goodrich class-1 winches and belly- and tail-mounted cameras.

dominic perry

Dominic Perry

The EC175 is highly configurable, making it adaptable to a host of situations

Eurocopter sees the EC175 as ideally suited for the role thanks to its large cabin - which it leaves the operator to configure as it likes - and avionics, including the auto-pilot, taken from its larger sibling, the SAR-proven EC225.

It also claims the type will boast a radius of action for SAR missions in excess of 250nm (463km).

Programme manager Laurent Vautherin adds: "It is tailored for the SAR mission because it was designed for this from the very beginning."

The EC175 is being touted as a possible solution to some of the UK's SAR requirement, which envisions deliveries taking place in 2015. However, if selected, Eurocopter believes it can deliver SAR-certificated helicopters to the UK from 2014.