PICTURES: PARIS - Eurocopter insists X3 hybrid demonstrator debuting at show is commercially driven project

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In a subtle swipe at rival Sikorsky's X2, Eurocopter has insisted its X3 high-speed hybrid - making its flying debut at the show - is a commercially driven project rather than simply a technology demonstrator.

"We are convinced there is a market for such a helicopter," said the EADS company's head of global business and services, Dominique Maudet. "Competitors might be faster, like Sikorsky's X2. But this is not simply about speed. We are looking for a market."

eurocopter x3 flight validation, billypix
 © Billypix

The X3 - which Eurocopter pronounces "X cubed" - is based on a medium-twin AS365 Dauphin airframe, with two engines that power a five-blade main rotor system along with two propellers installed on short-span fixed wings. The aim is to combine the speed of a turboprop-powered fixed-wing aircraft with the full hover flight capabilities of a helicopter.

The aircraft, which flew for the first time on 6 September last year, met Eurocopter's target of a true airspeed of 180kt (337km/h) during flight testing last year and is expected cruise at 220kt. The 260kt maximum speed Sikorsky X2, on the other hand, uses two four-bladed coaxial rotor systems.

The Franco-German manufacturer says the X3 follows its strategy of "transforming major innovation into competitive products". It says potential markets for the concept include long-range search and rescue, coastguard duties, border patrol, VIP shuttles, military special missions and troop transport.

Speaking at an EADS media seminar on Saturday, Maudet also said that Eurocopter was continuing to develop its industrial and support footprint in emerging markets, including China, Russia and particularly Brazil. The South American country had "an opportunity to become the fourth pillar of Eurocopter after France, Germany and Spain", he said.