By Justin Wastnage in London

Swiss aerospace and defence supplier Ruag Aerospace is to assemble Eurocopter EC135 family helicopters as part of a deal signed earlier this week for light transport helicopters.

Switzerland has ordered 20 helicopters for its armed forces from Eurocopter, including the second order for the EC635 militarised version of the EC135 light twin, multi-mission helicopter.

The Swiss procurement agency Armasuisse signed the contract with Eurocopter for 18 EC-635s and two EC135s on Tuesday in the Swiss capital Berne. The helicopters are part of the Swiss light transport and training helicopter (LTSH) programme and will be used by the Swiss army to replace its fleet of Aérospatiale Alouette III.

Eurocopter Deutschland will deliver the first four of the order from its Donauwörth facility from 2008-09, but the deal also sees an assembly line for the type at Ruag's facilities in Alpnach in central Switzerland. Ruag will deliver the remaining 16 EC635/135s to the Swiss army and will also be responsible for level O, level I and level D maintenance throughout the helicopter's service life.

Switzerland becomes the second customer for the EC635 after Jordan, which has nine in service and  recently placed a firm order for an additional four, plus an option for three more. In August 2002 launch customer Portugal cancelled its 1999 contract for nine of the types after dissatisfaction with the lengthy certification process, which ended in 2001. 

The EC635s will be used for utility and advanced training missions and the two EC135 for VIP transport missions.

Lutz Bertling, chief executive of Eurocopter Deutschland says: "the selection of the EC635/EC135 by the Swiss armed forces, renowned for their professionalism and top-class international standards, further underlines the high quality and military capability of our best-selling light twin".

The EC635 is powered by either Turbomeca Arrius 2B2 or by Pratt & Whitney PW206B2 engines. No engine selection has yet been confirmed.

Source: Flight International