Airbus Helicopters has received a boost for its X6 with European Commission approval for €377 million ($420 million) of French and German funding for the programme.

Launched at the Paris air show in 2014, the X6 is currently in a concept study phase as the manufacturer evaluates the market requirements for a new heavy helicopter.

The Commission says it approved the funding as the programme "will significantly contribute to research and innovation in the EU without unduly distorting competition".

France will provide €330 million and Germany €47.25 million in repayable launch aid, which is due to be paid back over eight years.

"The scope of the X6 helicopter project is such that the associated risks are high and the investments required exceed the self-financing capability of Airbus.

"The financial markets are also reluctant to finance such an ambitious research and development project for which a return on investment is only expected over a long period," says the Commission.

When the concept study phase was launched, Airbus Helicopters chief executive Guillaume Faury indicated a timeframe of about two years for its completion, based on its experience with the earlier X4 programme.

However, he points out that the concept phase "has no duration" but was a "validation phase" and gives no timeframe for any possible launch.

"I think I have some ideas, but I will tell you in due time," adds Faury.

Initial plans called for an 11t-class helicopter that would enter service alongside its H225 heavy twin and would feature next-generation engines and fly-by-wire controls. Service entry was planned for 2022-2023, but there is no clarity on whether this schedule still holds.

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