Company aims to use Spanish Tiger order as springboard

EADS Casa wants to use Spain's decision to buy 24 Eurocopter Tigers to break into helicopter manufacturing. The Spanish arm of the European aerospace group is to be a 40% stakeholder with the Franco-German helicopter manufacturer in a new entity - Eurocopter España. It will carry out final assembly of the Tiger HAPs for the Spanish army and become sole-source manufacturer of the aircraft's rear fuselage. It wants to use this as a platform to create a full-scale manufacturing base and become a major player in the European helicopter sector.

"This partnership is a first step to establishing a permanent centre of competence for making complete helicopter structures in Spain," says EADS Casa president Francisco Fernández Sáinz. The partnership will benefit local companies, he adds, including engine developer ITP, avionics and missile controls systems provider Amper Programas, composites manufacturer Gamesa and infrared and electro-optical systems builder Tecnobit.

Fernández told an aerospace seminar earlier this month organised by the Spanish state holding SEPI, which owns a 5.5% stake in the European consortium: "We have accumulated a technological expertise which allows us to grow by ourselves into new areas." The company is targeting the space market and has set up EADS Espacio Casa.

Fernández says Spain's decision to acquire 24 Eurocopter Tigers means EADS Casa can "start converting the Spanish industry into an integral part of Eurocopter. This goes far beyond a standard industrial offset for the Tiger acquisition."

SEPI's vice-president Pablo Olivera says SEPI's 5.5% stake in the European EADS consortium is fundamental to Spain's strategy for building its aerospace sector. "The initiation of a Spanish helicopter industry is an important step into that direction," he says.

Olivera suggests integrating Spain into Europe's helicopter industry is another important step towards a common European defence policy. "SEPI's contribution to the industry is also a contribution to a Common European Defence Policy, which has a strategic need for developing its own air-to-air refuelling, airlift, combat helicopter and missile capacities," he says.

Source: Flight International