EUROCOPTER IS LIKELY to offer a military version of its EC135 twin-engined light helicopter to the South African Air Force (SAAF) as a replacement for the ageing Aerospatiale Alouette III.

A formal requirement to replace up to 50 SAAF SA316Bs Alouette, used in air-support and training roles, has not yet been issued by the South African Government, but is expected to emerge following publication, scheduled for November, of a defence review.

Other potential customers for the helicopter, known as the EC635 in its military guise, include the South African police force, the Botswana Defence Force Air Arm, for training and communication purposes, and the Zimbabwe air force, which also operates a fleet of 25 Alouette IIIs in a counter-insurgency and training role.

The Franco/German manufacturer, attending Aviation Africa '96 in Johannesburg on 24-27 April as part of a demonstration tour for the civil version of the EC135, confirms that "a lot of interest" is being shown in the helicopter by military and paramilitary agencies in the region.

A demonstrator of the military version has not yet been developed, although a formal study into its market potential and possible customer requirements was completed earlier this year. Eurocopter, which is also offering surveillance, search-and-rescue and training versions of the EC135, says that the survey was conducted " that, should an RFP [request for proposal] be issued anywhere, we will be ready".

According to Eurocopter, the final specification for a military EC135 would depend on individual customer requirements, but would probably include new avionics and uprated engines.

The six-seat civil EC135 was launched in January 1995 with Turbomeca Arrius 2B or Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206B engines, as well as Sextant Avionique Nouvelle avionics.

Source: Flight International