Brazil has signed a memorandum of understanding that is expected to result in the manufacture and assembly of a new version of Eurocopter's AS532UL/AL Cougar transport helicopter, with the pact building on its standing defence co-operation agreement with the French government.

Outlining the planned purchase of 50 helicopters by the Brazilian armed forces, the MoU will also entail investments of roughly $350 million to expand the Itajuba facilities of Helibras Eurocopter's Brazilian subsidiary. Further agreements are being hammered out with local suppliers including Elbit Systems subsidiary Aeroelectronica and carbonfibre manufacturer Inbra Group in support of the deal.

Helibras sources indicate that versions of the Cougar and Super Puma will be developed to meet Brazilian military and civilian requirements, and lead to the availability of a new model dubbed the "Super Cougar".

Eurocopter Cougar 
 © Eurocopter

The Brazilian army is likely to be the prime customer, as it has a nominal need for 24-30 medium troop transports, but the nation's navy - which recently opted to acquire Sikorsky's S-70B Seahawk to meet anti-submarine warfare requirements - has also nominally committed to fielding the Eurocopter derivative. Other sources indicate that the new agreement could also cover the European company's EC725 design to deliver air force combat SAR services.

Helibras is also targeting the burgeoning local civilian offshore market and other South American air forces under the deal.

Source: Flight International