AgustaWestland, Eurocopter and Russia's Rosoboronexport arms agency have submitted a combined seven proposals in response to a Brazilian air force requirement for 24 new medium-lift and attack helicopters.

Nominally budgeted at $395 million, the combined programme was placed on the fast track in late June, when the Brazilian defence ministry issued a request for information, with a request for proposals having followed early in the third quarter.

The air force says its initial programme calls for the purchase of 12 medium-lift transports also configured for search-and-rescue and combat SAR tasks, plus 12 attack helicopters. Service sources are concerned that numbers could differ when the programme's final budget is approved early next year, but Brasília-based sources say the procurement's importance could spur the government to inject additional funds to cover the required number of aircraft.

AgustaWestland's proposal includes its EH101, A109 light utility and AW129 attack helicopter designs, while Eurocopter is offering the EC725 and Tiger. Moscow's submission is based on the Mil Mi-171V and Rostvertol Mi-35M.

Sources close to the programme suggest that the EC725 is the leading candidate for the medium-lift requirement, due to the air force's experience in operating Eurocopter's AS332/532 Super Puma/Cougar family of helicopters, but say the Tiger's high unit cost could deter the defence ministry from following its preferred single-source supplier model.

The defence ministry hopes to sign contracts for the selected aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2008. The Brazilian air force also intends to early next year address a separate requirement for heavylift helicopters.

Source: Flight International