Eurocopter has moved to silence Bell's criticism over the industrial value of the Australian army's planned purchase of 22 Tiger- armed reconnaissance helicopters (ARHs), confirming that the machines and EC120 helicopters will be locally assembled in Australia from kits produced in France.

However, Australian industry is to also manufacture airframe components and wiring harnesses for all Tigers.

Bell has repeatedly questioned Eurocopter's commitment to Australian industry participation in Tiger manufacturing, alleging the European company is blurring the definition of "manufacture" and "assemble" during contract negotiations with Canberra.

Speaking at the opening of a new headquarters for the EADS subsidiary Australian Aerospace last week, Eurocopter vice-president Philippe Harache said: "As part of the Air 87 Tiger project, Australian Aerospace directly, and in conjunction with local industry partners, will manufacture the Tiger ARH and the EC120 here in Queensland.... The EC120s manufactured here are destined for the local, regional and international markets. Tiger composite airframe components and wiring harnesses manufactured here shall be for the global Tiger market."

Australian defence minister Peter Reith says: "The first few helicopters will be assembled by Australian technicians in France. While the final assembly site in Australia has not yet been confirmed, locations at Oakey and Brisbane are being examined."

Bell finished second to Eurocopter in the competition and has been asked to keep its bid open until a contract is signed with the European manufacturer.

Source: Flight International