Douglas Barrie/LONDON

BRITISH AEROSPACE has informally approached rival bidder Westland for the UK's £2 billion-plus attack helicopter procurement, offering it final assembly of the Eurocopter Tiger should BAe emerge victorious from the competition.

The move is the latest attempt by BAe to undermine any political "Westland factor" influencing the UK Government's decision by offering the helicopter maker substantial work, even if it loses the Army Air Corps competition.

John Weston, British Aerospace Defence chairman, says that the company is willing to "...give Westland final assembly". He adds that BAe has already informed Westland of this.

Westland is teamed with McDonnell Douglas in offering the AH-64D Apache to meet staff target (Air) 428 for an attack helicopter to replace the Westland Lynx Mk7.

All three final contenders for ST(A)428 (Westland/McDonnell Douglas, BAe/Eurocopter and GEC-Marconi/Bell, offering the Venom derivative of the AH-1W Cobra) are lobbying furiously in the run up to the decision; expected in early July.

Jean Francois Bigay, Eurocopter chairman, said on 15 May that the French and German Governments will sign a memorandum of understanding covering production investment on the programme, along with each country's production offtake in terms of numbers.

Originally, intended to be signed by the end of 1995, it was brought forward in response to the need to meet UK Ministry of Defence time scales, for the introduction of the attack helicopter into service.

In pushing the Tiger, Weston stresses that the UK would effectively be abandoning over £200 million in investment in the pan-European Long Range Trigat missile-development programme were it to choose either the Apache or the Venom.

The LR Trigat forms the primary anti-armour weapon of the Tiger. Variants of the Hellfire anti-tank missile, are being offered, by the other two contenders.

Source: Flight International