Airbus Helicopters has quietly launched a new reduced weight variant of its EC145 light-twin, aimed at the firefighting and aerial work segments.

Designated the EC145e, the manufacturer has stripped out all unnecessary weight from the airframe – including the second pilot's seat. It estimates that around 200kg (440lb) has been cut from the aircraft's empty weight.

Production will be around 10 aircraft per year, Airbus Helicopters Germany chief executive Wolfgang Schoder says.

Final assembly will take place on the same line as the new EC145 T2 at the airframer's Donauwörth plant, although this could be moved to its US facility in Columbus, Mississippi, where production of the similar UH-72A Lakota takes place.

At present two separate lines are running at Donauwörth, producing both legacy EC145 C2s and the newer T2. However, work on the older model will stop "in a few months", Schoder says.

Work on the enhanced T3/P3 versions of the lighter EC135 is also taking place at the German unit. Certification of the upgraded types is expected in September, with first delivery to Italy's Aiut Alpin Dolomites mountain rescue group taking place a month later.

Improvements include longer rotor blades, modified engine intakes and engine control software to boost the helicopter's hot and high performance.