By Paul Derby in London

EADS company Eurocopter and Sikorsky have held high-level talks about joining forces to build a new heavy transport helicopter (HTH) in what would be an unprecedented collaboration.

The potential co-operation follows EADS's decision to appoint Sikorsky to provide contractor logistics support for the US Army's light utility helicopter (LUH) programme. The European manufacturer was recently selected for the $3 billion contract, offering a UH-72A variant of its EC145.

Eurocopter Heavy transport

The defence ministries of France and Germany this year released a joint request for information on the HTH, spurred by Germany's approaching need to replace its Sikorsky CH-53 Super Stallions (Flight International, 21-27 March).

Eurocopter president Fabrice Brégier says a co-development agreement with Sikorsky is just one of several options for the HTH. "I am strongly in favour of an international partnership," he says. "This type of aircraft is very complex to develop from scratch and if we want to offer a competitive solution, one good way is partnering." Other options available could include a partnership with Russian industry or a collaboration with Boeing.

Far more likely, however, is a more extensive agreement with Sikorsky, which already has a $3 billion contract to develop the CH-53K shipborne heavylift helicopter. Brégier says the CH-53K would not be large enough to fulfil the requirements of the European HTH, but adds: "The CH-53K programme is certainly getting closer to the requirement."

Eurocopter believes there is a market for at least 100 HTH aircraft and has based its initial concepts on a three-engine design with a maximum take-off weight of 36t, including a 13t payload.

Brégier says the fly-by-wire technology employed on the NH Industries NH90 would be mandatory on the HTH, as would an advanced avionics suite.

Source: Flight International