First Cougar Delivered to Bulgaria
Eurocopter delivered the first, of 12, AS532AL Cougar to Bulgaria in a ceremony at the 24th Air Force Base in Krumovo (Plovdiv Airport). The €360M contract also includes 6 AS565MB Panthers.
Eurocopter, August 28, 2006 - In a ceremony at the 24th Air Force Base in Krumovo, Bulgaria, in the presence of several Bulgarian and French officials, Eurocopter handed over the first Cougar helicopter to base commander General Stefan Petrov.
This initial delivery follows the signature in January 2005 of a contract with the Bulgarian armed forces for the acquisition of 12 Cougar AS 532 AL and 6 Panther AS 565 MB helicopters for a total of 360 million euros.
At the ceremony, General Petrov declared: “I am pleased to accept our fist COUGAR helicopter. We are convinced it will greatly improve the capabilities of the Bulgarian Air Force in national and international defence missions. This is the result of an outstanding cooperation with the EUROCOPTER teams, which have succeeded in respected all their commitments toward us.”
The contract is the first of its kind in Bulgaria, since the Bulgarian forces until now have operated only Russian helicopters. It is a direct result of the reforms undertaken when Bulgaria became a member of NATO in March 2004. The Eurocopter helicopters that will be operated by the Bulgarian forces are interoperable with those used by NATO forces in Europe, most of which are equipped with helicopters of the same type. It will therefore be possible to deploy them to external theatres within the context of NATO or UN missions. The first East European country to acquire the Cougar was Slovenia in 2002, when it was preparing to join NATO.
Eurocopter developed a specially tailored training programme to ensure that Bulgarian pilots would be able to make the transition from Russian to European helicopters in the best possible conditions.
Olivier Michalon, Eurocopter Senior Vice President Eastern Europe Sales & Marketing, who handed over this first Cougar, said: “For two years, dedicated teams from the Ministry of Defence, the Air Force and EUROCOPTER, have developed a partnership type relationship, and we are proud to have been entrusted and to have become a key contributor to their NATO interoperability efforts.”
Delivery of the 18 helicopters, which starts today, will continue over 6 years. The Cougars will be delivered between 2006 and 2009, and the Panthers between 2010 and 2011.
The Cougars, which are destined for the Bulgarian Air Force, will be used for tactical transport (8 aircraft) and combat SAR missions (4 aircraft). The AL version of the Cougar can also be equipped with cannons and rocket launchers. These helicopters will also be used for parapublic missions: fire-fighting, evacuation from flood zones, mountain rescue, etc. More than 700 aircraft from the Super Puma/Cougar and EC 225/EC 725 family have been sold to 90 customers in 48 countries.
The 6 Panthers for the Bulgarian Navy will be used for maritime surveillance, SAR, anti-submarine and anti-surface missions. 850 Dauphin/Panther/EC 155s have been ordered by 164 customers in 59 countries.
About Eurocopter: Established in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The Eurocopter Group employs approx. 13,000 people.