Airbus Helicopters has given the clearest indication yet that it is gearing up to launch the successor to its best-selling H225 11t-class rotorcraft.
Dominique Maudet, executive vice-president global business and services at the Marignane-based manufacturer says a replacement for the Super Puma would likely enter service at the "beginning of the next decade".
Programme launch for the helicopter, provisionally known as the X6, could happen "some time in the second half [of 2015] or next year".
Little detail has been released about the configuration of any new rotorcraft, but long-time engine supplier Turbomeca is known to be working on a new turboshaft in the 3,000shp class which has long been rumoured to be destined for a new Airbus Helicopters model.
Although the exact timing of any development is still fluid, particularly given the state of the oil and gas market, Maudet is convinced that a new Super Puma will be needed. "The X6 will come because the H225 is such a success, both in the commercial and military markets, so there has to be a succession plan."
The military M variant – presented at Paris on the Airbus Group static display – has hit a rich vein of form recently having been selected by Poland for a 50-unit order and with Kuwait in discussions for a purchase of 24 rotorcraft.
In the interim Airbus Helicopters is bringing a long-range variant of the current model to market, with the H225e due to enter service next year.
This features uprated Turbomeca Makila 2B engines, boosting range by 50nm (92km) in a 19-passenger configuration. Maximum take-off weight rises from 10.45t to 11t, allowing the addition of an extra 470 litre fuel tank.
Further out, the airframer is also in the early definition stages for the X9, a new light twin to replace its H145. However, with the latest iteration of the type only entering service last year, Maudet says there is "no urgency" to bring in its replacement.
Meanwhile, with US rival Sikorsky currently facing a possible sell-off by parent United Technologies, speculation has frequently linked Airbus Helicopters with a bid for its rival.
However, Maudet offers few clues as to its intentions: "We are watching the situation because in our position because what happens to any of our competitors might have an impact on the market," he says. "It is just to be professional, to pay attention."
Source: Flight Daily News