Eurocopter officials expect a contract for setting up production lines for the Tiger combat helicopter to be signed at Le Bourget on Friday.

Jean-Francois Bigay, Eurocopter chairman and chief executive officer, says the signature ceremony is expected to take place at the French Defence Ministry's pavilion.

In attendance will be the new socialist French Defence Minister Alain Richard and his German counterpart Volker Rühe.

The industrialisation contract setting up two assembly lines, one each in France and Germany, will be signed by the countries' arms procurement agencies, Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA) and its German counterpart the BWB.



Eurocopter is 70% owned by France's Aerospatiale and 30% by Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA).

France is ordering 80 ground support and air protection versions while Germany is buying 80 of the UHT/HAC anti-tank version.

The French order is estimated at Ffr12billion, after a 10% price cut demanded by the DGA, says Bigay. In exchange, the DGA has agreed to place orders covering several years, instead of yearly as in the past, thus enabling manufacturers to reduce production costs.

Two of five Tiger prototypes are on the static show and in flight displays daily.

Produced at Eurocopter's factory in Marignane, near Marseille, southern France, and Donauworth, near Augsburg, Germany, first deliveries are due in 2002-2003.

As part of the development test programme for the Tiger attack helicopter, Stinger and Mistral air-to-air missiles and HOT-2 air-to-ground anti-tank guided missiles were successfully fired from Prototype Tigers just prior to the Le Bourget air show.

The firing trials, carried out under various flight conditions such as hover, forward flight at a speed of 80kt, have served to prove the safe separation, capture and guidance of the missile using the newly-developed Euromep OSIRIS mast mounted sight of the Tiger UHT/HAC version.

By the end of this year, Trigat fire-and-forget missiles will be launched, initially from a Panther test vehicle and later on from the Tiger.

Source: Flight Daily News