Cancellation of the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter programme has left France's Giat Industries, already reeling from a hard-hitting restructuring plan, with a half-developed turreted gun system and no platform for it.

Giat, in collaboration with General Dynamics, was building 13 prototypes of the turret, which was to have been entirely made from composite materials, making it at 127kg (280lb) the lightest turret developed.

The servo-controlled unit was to have been integrated with the Comanche airframe.

This was the first contract Giat had won in the US market, but was not its only aerospace contract. It makes the THL30 30mm gun turret for the Eurocopter Tiger HAP and gun pods for the Dassault Mirage F1 and Mirage 2000.

Giat says it is negotiating with General Dynamics, not only over compensation for the cancelled contract but also for intellectual property rights. Jean-Louis Thaumiaux, Giat's secretary-general, says: "We are negotiating about what we can do with everything that we have learned while developing this product."

State-owned Giat lost €640 million ($762 million) in 2003 and restructuring costs are estimated at €900 million, meaning that the French government will have to put hand to pocket for the eighth time since 1991 and find €1 billion.

Social unrest following the announcement of the restructuring plan in early 2003 almost paralysed the group for a year.


Source: Flight International