Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

GERMAN DEFENCE minister Volker Rühe has delayed by 12 months production of the Eurocopter Tiger helicopter.

The move is an attempt to ease pressure on an overloaded and heavily cut German defence budget. Tough negotiations with industry over funding for production of the Eurofighter EF2000 continue (Flight International, 9-15 October).

Despite Rühe's decision on the Tiger, Eurocopter maintains that "-we are driving forward with the programme, but the production investment phase has supposedly been delayed by a year".

Reports from Bonn say that the defence minister still hopes to begin introducing the Tiger into service in 2001, with an accelerated production rate in the early stages of procurement, bringing 50 helicopters into service by 2006. The programme will be stretched out after the first 50-60 helicopters have been delivered.

The NH Industries NH90 helicopter is being given a higher priority than the attack helicopter, with deliveries due to begin, as planned, in 2003.

Senior Eurocopter and Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) management officials were scheduled to meet politicians in Bonn on 11 October to discuss the Tiger and Eurofighter programmes.

To date, the ministry has offered industry only DM100 million ($66 million) for Eurofighter production investment in 1997, with DASA saying that it needs at least DM350 million.

Speaking to the parliamentary defence committee on 9 October, Rühe said that he hoped that parliament would pass the Eurofighter production investment plans in the next few weeks, but go-ahead in 1996 is "by no means certain".

Source: Flight International