EADS-owned Eurocopter has made early advances to the UK Ministry of Defence promoting "notional solutions" to a growing crisis in its battlefield helicopter capabilities. A document recently submitted outlines a range of options centred on the potential delivery of NH Industries' NH90 and Eurocopter's EC635, it says.
EADS also earlier this year launched an effort to raise awareness of its products within the UK armed forces' user community, during which British pilots flew the NH90 and EC435. The company has also given assurances to establish full manufacturing and support services for the aircraft within the UK given a selection of its products. "We have given the UK government information on possible options, while also securing its indigenous manufacturing capability," it says.
Early suggestions include the possible manufacture of the NH90 at AgustaWestland's Yeovil site, plus the establishment of a UK centre of excellence within Eurocopter "along the lines of the Airbus model". AgustaWestland is fully focused on selling its Future Lynx and additional EH101 helicopters to the UK, but with Italian parent company Finmeccanica holding a 31.6% stake in NH Industries, the NH90 could prove an acceptable second option.
However, EADS says it could also produce the aircraft in the UK under separate arrangements with other companies. A further potential incentive for the UK could be linked to it assuming a leading role during the future development of a civil version of the NH90, EADS sources suggest.
EADS says it could meet much of the UK's maritime rotorcraft needs with the naval variant of the NH90, while its EC635 could be developed for a light reconnaissance role in support of the British Army's Boeing-Westland Apache AH1 attack helicopters. The latter requirement could also be met by the EC135/145, it says.
CRAIG HOYLE / LONDON