Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

The German parliamentary budget committee has approved the purchase of the first batch of Eurocopter Tiger combat helicopters, shortly before the expected signature of a procurement contract.

Germany has simultaneously restated its continued commitment to the long-range version of the Trigat anti-tank missile, despite France's withdrawal from this missile programme.

The procurement contract signature is expected to be announced at the Berlin International Air Show, which is being held from 18-24 May.

Programme sources say that the German defence ministry has confirmed its plan to procure the first batch of 80 Tigers for delivery from 2001, with France buying an equal number.

The procurement will cost around DM4.6 billion ($2.6 billion), with an additional DM1 billion to be spent on related infrastructure, pre-production work and administration costs.

The German helicopters will be UHU battlefield support variants, while France's order consists of 70 HAP escort/fire-support helicopters and 10 HAC anti-tank variants of the aircraft.

The HAPs are to be delivered from 2003, with the first HACs handed over in 2011.

Final assembly of the UHU and HAC variants will take place at Eurocopter Deutschland's Donauwörth site, with the HAP to be assembled by Eurocopter France in Marignane.

Germany will initially arm its helicopters with the Euromissile HOT 3 anti-tank missile, but the defence ministry insists that it is persevering with plans to replace this with the long-range version of Trigat after 2005.

France recently announced it could no longer finance the long-rangeTrigat missile. The country plans to select a weapon in a competition with other systems, including the Boeing Hellfire.

Source: Flight International