EADS is forging ahead with longstanding plans to co-develop a six tonne-class utility helicopter with China as part of a wide-ranging strategic partnership announced earlier today during Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao’s visit to France.
One of two major contracts signed today, the helicopter deal launches the EC175, which will be co-produced by wholly-owned EADS subsidiary Eurocopter and Chinese manufacturer AVIC II. The second contract covers the purchase by China of 150 A320-family aircraft.
The twin-turbine EC175 is "intended for the international market" and will "complete the respective product ranges of Eurocopter and AVIC II", says EADS.
China has been a customer for helicopters developed by Eurocopter and its forerunners since the 1960s, when it purchased Alouette IIIs. The Dauphin was produced under licence in the 1980s and China became an industrial partner on the EC120 in 1992.
News of the EC175 initiative first emerged at the Helicopter Association International 2005 Heli-Expo event in Anaheim, California, earlier this year.
Eurocopter chief executive Fabrice Bregier said at Heli-Expo that the EC175 would help the manufacturer take on new products such as the Bell/Agusta AB139. It will be positioned in Eurocopter’s product line-up between the AS365/EC155 Dauphin/Panther and EC225/EC725 Super Puma and Cougar families.