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UAE decides to buy Eurocopter Panthers

THE UNITED ARAB Emirates is to purchase seven Eurocopter AS.565 Panthers and upgrade seven Eurocopter Super Pumas to meet its anti-submarine-warfare (ASW)/anti-surface-vessel requirement.

The $235 million deal, agreed on the last day of the IDEX show, appears to bring to an end a long-running saga, during which a senior UK defence official claimed at the same show two years ago that Westland had won the competition.

Eurocopter was competing against Westland, offering the Super Lynx, and Sikorsky, with the SH-60 Sea Hawk.

Although Eurocopter has been selected, the final agreement has yet to be signed say company officials. The deal also covers the supply of the Aerospatiale AS15TT and Exocet AM39 missiles.

Eurocopter is understood to have reduced the price of its bid just 24h before the deal was announced, in a successful, but last-ditch, attempt to secure the business.

To meet the ASW requirement, the Super Pumas, will be fitted with a dipping-sonar. It is unclear whether the helicopters will be shore- or ship-based.

Westland had been thought to be in lead position for the contract, although speculation that the UK's inability to finalise a defence-collaboration agreement with the UAE may have influenced the latter's decision.