Millon adds muddle to French helicopter number confusion FRENCH DEFENCE minister Charles Millon has added to speculation over France's future attack- and transport-helicopter requirements by specifying a need for 215 Eurocopter Tigers for the army and a reduced purchase of "around" 160 NHIndustries NH90s. Millon's comments, in an interview with the French financial daily Les Echos will further confuse the question of procurement of the Tiger and NH90.

The procurement numbers for both programmes were flung into doubt with publication in May of the Chirac Government's 1997-2002 Loi de Programmation, or defence budget, which called for a total of "around" 180 army helicopters to be in service by 2015.

This tallies with a recent French Senate defence and foreign-affairs committee report, which specified procurement of 120 Tigers and 68 army NH90s. Germany, which partners France in both programmes, has apparently still not been notified officially of any change in the original numbers.

Even if the higher figures stand, procurement of both machines will still be subject to budget constraints in future years, and is likely to be decided annually, according to industry sources.

Millon remains committed to a 30% reduction in production and procurement costs of both machines, a target which Eurocopter France says that it can meet "without difficulty".

Millon claims that agreement with Germany on production arrangements for the Tiger is "imminent". Eurocopter France says that a decision before December is "critically important", if delivery of two production helicopters to the French army by the year 2000 is to be achieved, which it says is necessary for the programme to have export credibility.

The Loi de Programmation calls for 25 orders for the HAP escort and fire-support version of the Tiger between 2000 and 2002, with first deliveries in 2003, while the HAC anti-tank version should, it says, be purchased "later".

Source: Flight International