Julian Moxon/PARIS

Final agreement on workshare and production of the NATO NH90 transport helicopter came a step nearer at Berlin's ILA '98, with the removal of a major stumbling block to the project.

Senior national defence officials from France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands thrashed out a deal under which the production investment and production elements of the four-nation 647 helicopter programme will be combined in return for an industry commitment to cut project costs by up to 15%.

Individual national workshares for the production phase have also been narrowed to a "bandwidth", taking into account existing investment in the development phase, likely production offtake and potential economies of production.

Under the present timescale, the first of an initial production lot of around 150 NH90s will begin rolling off the production line in 2003. The official adds that there is "palpable relief" over the outcome of the steering committee meeting, saying: "We have agreed on one of the most difficult points."

He says the final offer from industry - with guarantees on prices and deliveries, along with the required national configurations for the helicopter - will be presented in July.

This will lead to the production memorandum of understanding, the signing of which must await the outcome of the German elections later this year. "That could delay things until early 1999," says a senior official with NATO NH90 management agency NAEHMA "-but it is still well within the production timescale".

Source: Flight International