Advertising
  • News
  • FIDAE - Helicopters - Heavylift prospects attract suppliers

FIDAE - Helicopters - Heavylift prospects attract suppliers

US companies anticipate huge boost in military funding in Chile due to surge in revenues from state-owned copper business

Helicopter suppliers chasing a potential military need in Chile for a modernised heavylift fleet are optimistic of making a sale by the end of the year. Chilean army officials have not yet moved forward on the project, but an expected rise in arms spending this year has contractors eyeing a near-term deal.

Chile's would-be helicopter demand drew a solid corps of suppliers to the FIDAE 2004 show. Poland's PZL Swidnik displayed the 12-passenger, twin-engined W-3 Sokol helicopter. Meanwhile, Eurocopter strengthened its ties to Chile's Enaer, signing an agreement to launch joint helicopter assembly, manufacturing and repairs. Agusta-Westland also came to emphasise the EH101's heavylift capabilities.

US manufacturers are also expected to make a strong push for the contract. Bell Helicopter is advertising its Bell 412 for the army's multirole requirement, Sikorsky plans to offer the UH-60 Black Hawk, and Boeing plans to campaign with the CH-47 Chinook.

A multirole, heavylift helicopter fleet for the army is understood to be leading the Chilean military's wish list, which already has completed deals for 10 Lockheed Martin F-16s for the air force and four used frigates and cruisers for the navy since 2002.

Industry sources say the Chilean army wants a troop carrier helicopter that can also perform as an assault ship and a search and rescue platform. This could eliminate previous interest in a dedicated attack helicopter fleet to complement the army's Leopard tanks.

Some industry officials expect to see a competition with a decision to be completed by year-end. The accelerated pace is being driven by recent government estimates that revenues for arms sales could be doubled this year, thanks to a one-year quirk in the country's unorthodox financing mechanism.

Chile automatically sets aside 10% of annual revenues from its state-owned copper business to fund the military's weapon purchases. A normal year generates about $250 million, which is by law distributed evenly between the services. This year, however, copper prices have soared to a nine-year high, perhaps pumping $400-500 million into the funding stream.

Armen Kouyoumdjian, a Chile-based analyst for the Institute of Strategic and International Studies argues that the windfall could be exaggerated, as last year, when higher copper prices were offset by declining demand.

Related Content
Advertising

Advertising