AgustaWestland has secured a potentially hugely lucrative agreement with Russia's Oboronprom that will see the AW139 medium twin helicopter assembled in Russia.

The heads of agreement, announced at the show as the first for a Western manufacturer, will lead to the creation of a new final assembly facility outside Moscow to deliver aircraft for bullish Russian and CIS civil markets. The 50:50 joint venture will offer Western technology that is also built in Russia.

Assembly operations will begin as early as 2010, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2011. The two companies said they would also consider co-development of a new helicopter, but only after establishing the initial manufacturing capability.


AgustaWestland chief executive Giuseppe Orsi says: "Establishing an AW139 final assembly line in Russia will allow us to better satisfy the constantly growing AW139 demand in the commercial market for this helicopter and to further expand our presence in the Russian and CIS civil markets."

The collaboration will develop in stages, with assembly operations leading to full-scale manufacture at a later date. "We are aiming to produce 24 aircraft a year initially, but this is just the start of our agreement. It is critical that we move quickly because the market is already there. We will find further ways to work together," says Oboronprom director general Andrey Reus,

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland is increasing the maximum gross weight of the AW139 in a bid to capture a greater share of the long-range offshore transport market, a sector now being served by larger 18/19-seat types. The manufacturer said at the show it plans to certificate the AW139 with a maximum gross weight of 6,800kg (14,990lb), 400kg more than the current model. AgustaWestland says the improvements will give operators increased productivity and will be available as an option on all new production aircraft.

The Anglo-Italian airframer also said at the show it will launch development of the XX9 light twin helicopter at the end of the year. Although the company remained tight-lipped on specific details, Orsi said the aircraft will be in the 4-5t range, and will fit between the Grand and the AW139 in AgustaWestland's product line.

Source: Flight International