EADS is to establish a helicopter facility in Alabama as it seeks to increase its US presence. Its location and function have not been decided, but it will be involved in helicopter manufacturing and will initially employ around 100 people, says Ralph Crosby, president and chief executive of the newly formed EADS North America.

Former Northrop Grumman executive Crosby has been hired to consolidate and expand EADS' North American business, possibly to include acquisitions. Although Airbus places substantial work with US companies, EADS's US businesses are relatively small - far smaller than those of European rival BAE Systems.

As a result, the European giant's ability to bring political pressure to bear on US procurements is limited, as illustrated by the recent US Air Force rejection of EADS's offer of an Airbus A330-based aerial refuelling tanker as an alternative to the congressionally mandated 100-aircraft Boeing 767 tanker lease.

The lease offer was turned down because EADS had not demonstrated in-flight refuelling capability, Crosby says. "We have now taken the step to develop a refuelling capability at our own expense. If the 767 lease does not happen, or if there is a future tanker acquisition, we will be fully up on the step."

The 767 lease deal has run into difficulties with the US Office of Management and Budget, and US Air Force secretary James Roche says the service may have to return to "Plan A" and seek to accelerate the acquisition of new tankers. "The USAF have given us a clear indication that they want us as a competitor in the future," says Crosby.

EADS's goal is to be able to compete in the USA as both a partner and a prime, Crosby says. EADS is a member of the Lockheed Martin/ Northrop Grumman Deepwater group which will re-equip the US Coast Guard. It is also working with Lockheed Martin on the US/German/Italian Medium Extended Air Defence System. EADS has agreed to work with Boeing on missile defence, and the companies are negotiating a helicopter tie-up.

But jobs buy political influence, and EADS North America aims to expand EADS's US presence, now limited to around 2,000 people.

Source: Flight International