EADS North America has unveiled plans to start a second production line for the EC145 to cater to US customers, but it is contingent on the company winning the $1.1 billion US Army Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) programme.

The army plans to buy 322 civil-certificated helicopters over the next five years to replace ageing Bell UH-1 Hueys and OH-58 Kiowa Warriors, as well as assume some of the basic transport missions of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. The army also plans to introduce the LUH as it reorganises National Guard battalions now performing counter-drug missions into a more generic mission called “support and surveillance”.

At least around 50 of the first of the so-called UH-145s for the US Army would be built on the existing Eurocopter EC145 production line in Germany, with the American Eurocopter plant in Columbus, Mississippi providing completion kits.

But EADS North America plans to transition to full production of the UH-145 in Columbus after the first 50 aircraft, although company executives say the exact transition will be driven by events – not by numbers.

In the US civil market, Eurocopter sells about 10 EC145s a year, but is projecting a sharp increase in demand over the next few years.

These aircraft also would be built in Colombus, says Tom Harrison, EADS’s newly installed vice-president for LUH.

Source: Flight International