First of 24 helicopters with hot-and-high uprated engines and higher gross weight set to be delivered in 2007/8

Spain has selected the Eurocopter Tiger HAD to meet its long-running combat support helicopter requirement. Madrid will buy 24 machines, which will be built in Spain and delivered from 2007/8.

Prime contractor Eurocopter Spain hopes to finalise the deal by year-end, including the schedule, and finding a site for the factory.

"We have conditional agreements with a number of Spanish suppliers" says Eurocopter Spain, "but these must now be negotiated into firm contracts."

Local participants include Amper Programas, avionics and mission control systems; Gamesa, composite technology; Tecnobit, infrared and electro-optical systems; Indra, which could develop and manufacture the main landing gear and hydraulics systems, and ITP for the engine.

MTU Turbomeca Rolls-Royce will give ITP 25% of the development and 20% of the production of the MTR390 Enhanced turboshaft, which will power Spain's 24 Tigers and French army examples from the 38th of 80 machines on order.

The MTR390 Enhanced will be 14% more powerful than the standard turboshaft and is required as Spain's Tigers will operate in hot-and-high conditions and carry heavier loads, taking the machine into 6,000kg (13,200lb)-class, up from the standard Tiger's 5,400kg.

MTR90 Enhanced development will begin in 2004 and be completed in 2008. MTR and ITP expect the development, production and support to be worth more than €200 million ($221 million).

Eurocopter Spain says the HAD will be armed with the MBDA Trigat MR anti-armour and Mistral air-to-air missiles, a 30mm cannon, and 70mm (2.75in) unguided rockets.

The HAD variant combines the anti-tank capabilities of Germany's Tiger UHT and France's HAC with the combat support, reconnaissance and escort roles of the latter's HAPs.

Spain will receive three Tigers next year, but these will be French HAP variants, which Paris has agreed to provide, allowing Spanish pilots to begin training and provide an immediate attack helicopter capability, which the Spanish army lacks. A decision is pending over whether Spanish pilots will use the joint Franco-German Tiger training school in France or train in Spain. Another three HAPs will be delivered in 2005-6 with all six to be upgraded to HAD-standard from 2007.

Eurocopter now has orders for 206 Tigers, including 80 each for France and Germany, and 22 for Australia. Australia's machines will be a version of the Tiger HAP armed with Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Spain had been considering the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow, and recently renewed an option for an interim lease of AH-64As to perform a similar role to that planned for the Tiger HAPs (Flight International, 26 August-1 September).

Source: Flight International