Helibras, Eurocopter's Brazilian subsidiary, has officially inaugurated its Itajubá final assembly line for the production of EC725s destined for the Brazilian armed forces.
Brazil has 50 of the type on order, to be delivered to its army, navy and air force. Four aircraft have been delivered so far - one to each service and a fourth as a VIP government transport - with a further three to be handed over by the end of this year.
Although the initial units were entirely produced at Eurocopter's main production facility in Marignane, France, the airframer is steadily increasing the Brazilian content of the aircraft.
Two further local suppliers were signed up on 2 October, to add to the 14 already involved in the technology transfer programme that underpins the contract with Brazil.
A joint venture between Atech, part of Embraer, and Cassidian Brazil will provide mission kits for eight of the 16 aircraft destined for the navy, alongside weapon systems. And Inbra - which is gearing up to produce composite fairings for the EC725's tail section - was signed up to manufacture armour for 48 of the helicopters.
Other suppliers are also increasing their local content. Engine manufacturer Turbomeca, whose Makila powerplants drive the EC725, has just opened an assembly line in Rio de Janeiro to support Helibras. The first engine assembled in Brazil underwent its initial test on 2 October and should be delivered to Itajubá within three weeks, says François Haas, chief executive of Turbomeca Latin America.
Helibras also intends to produce the civil variant EC225 at Itajubá and announced its first tentative commitment on 2 October. Lider Aviação, a Belo Horizonte-based operator, has signed a letter of intent for up to 14 of the heavy rotorcraft, destined to support its contract with state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
If the deal is firmed up, deliveries will commence in 2015 at a rate of three per year. Helibras is already in discussions with other operators in the segment with a view to securing further deals, says François Arnaud, the company's vice-president commercial and marketing. "The motivation is that the EC225 will be produced in Brazil. Everyone knows that will gain them points in future tenders with Petrobras."