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Eurocopter Group Highlights Military Helicopter Market

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Representatives from both Eurocopter Group and American Eurocopter highlighted the current military market and potential opportunities in that market during this week’s “Heli-Expo 2013,” held in Las Vegas, Nev. by the trade group Helicopter Association International (HAI).

A Bulgarian soldier watches a U.S. medical evacuation UH-72 Lakota helicopter prepare to land during Operational Mentor Liaison Team training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 18, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashley Webster

A Bulgarian soldier watches a U.S. medical evacuation UH-72 Lakota helicopter prepare to land during Operational Mentor Liaison Team training at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 18, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ashley Webster

Eurocopter military helicopters include platforms like the UH-72 series Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the “Tiger” attack helicopter.

According to Dr. Lutz Bertling, president and chief executive officer of Eurocopter Group, the global market for military helicopters in 2012 encompassed 698 helicopter platforms. Eurocopter had 18 percent of that global market, joining Russia (24 percent), Sikorsky (24 percent), Boeing (12 percent) AgustaWestland (6 percent), Bell (6 percent), Avicopter (4 percent) and others (6 percent).

Turning to the UH-72 LUH, Marc Paganini, president and CEO of American Eurocopter, observed that the 250th aircraft ‘was turned over to the U.S. Army a couple of weeks ago’ and that the program passed its 100,000 flight hour milestone in May 2012.

“This aircraft is used more and more in the Army than was [originally] thought,” he said. “And we see a lot of very positive feedback from the customer.”

“One of the missions that has been absolutely key for the National Guard has been the mission on the southwest border,’ he explained. ‘We have 12 aircraft flying there. They have been there for eight or nine months. They fly over 700 hours every month and they have already logged over 8,400 flight mission hours with very [high] availability [rates] for the aircraft.”

Regarding the future of the current LUH fleet, Paganini pointed to recently-started efforts toward a possible UH-72 fleet upgrade “around the 10 year mark,” With a design effort taking 12-18 months and first modification of the aircraft around 2017.

The LUH Eurocopter EC145 T2 is also the basis for one of the potential platforms that might satisfy a future Armed Aerial Scout requirement for the U.S. Army. Designated by the company as the AAS-72X, the company efforts are being conducted in a team arrangement with integrator Lockheed Martin.

EADS North America's AAS-72X has successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations for the U.S. Army's Armed Aerial Scout helicopter competition. EADS North America photo by James Darcy

Eurocopter’s AAS-72X has successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations for the U.S. Army’s Armed Aerial Scout helicopter competition. EADS North America photo by James Darcy

Paganini called the platform’s performance during last year’s “voluntary flight demonstrations” at Alamosa, Colo., as “best in class in hot and high conditions,” adding that the company hopes the Army will make some announcement on AAS program direction after the summer.

In addition to its military aircraft, Eurocopter has more than 100 MH-65 D/E model Dolphin helicopters flying with the U.S. Coast Guard.

“They have logged over 1.25 million hours,” Paganini said. “We are working with the Coast Guard to extend the life of this aircraft to beyond 2025 – 2027. It is a project we are working with them. They love the platform. They want to continue with them. It is very reliable, resilient and up to the missions. So they asked us to study how to extend the life and that is what we are doing. There are a lot of things we are going to do on this aircraft to make it fly to 2025, but the aircraft can make it.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...