By Graham Warwick in Washington DC

Europe’s EADS has secured its first US defence prime contract, winning the contest to provide the US Army with 322 light utility helicopters (LUH). Eurocopter’s EC145 light twin was selected over the AgustaWestland AW139, Bell 412EP and MD Helicopters MD902 Explorer for the contract, potentially worth $2.2 billion.

Although the contract boosts EADS’s ambitions of breaking into the US defence business, its Eurocopter subsidiary has already made inroads into the government market with the sale of up to 55 EC120 border patrol helicopters to the Department of Homeland Security and the re-engining of US Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphins.


The EC145 will be designated the UH-72A in US Army service

Dubbed the UH-145 during the LUH contest, the off-the-shelf EC145 will be designated the UH-72A in US Army service, and will be used “only in permissive, non-combat operational environments” for light support, search and rescue, medical evacuation, homeland security and counter-drug missions.

EADS North America has received a $43 million contract for an initial eight helicopters, the first of which is in assembly in Germany for delivery in November. The total LUH programme is for 322 helicopters, with the option of another 30, says EADS.

Production will be transferred in steps to American Eurocopter’s plant in Columbus, Mississippi, beginning with partial assembly, followed by full assembly and finally the US manufacture of major subsystems. The company expects the plant to at least triple in size to accommodate the LUH programme.

Meanwhile, Turbomeca plans to assemble all of the Arriel 1E2 engines required for the programme at its expanded Turbomeca USA facility in Grand Prairie, Texas. The manufacturer is now qualifying US suppliers, aiming for a minimum 65% US engine content within three years, including blades, castings and other parts.

US partners already on the EADS team include Sikorsky Aircraft, which will provide contractor logistic support, and CAE USA, which will supply cockpit procedures trainers.

Source: Flight International