NEWS | NH Industries NH90

Eurocopter confirms 243 NH90 order

Reuters, June 30, 2000 - LONDON, UK - France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are due to sign a 5.6 billion euro ($5.4 billion, $1=1.04 euro ) order for 243 NH 90 military helicopters in Paris on Friday, said a spokesman for Eurocopter, one of the firms involved.

The contract would also include options on a further 55 NH 90s which, if taken up, would take the value of the deal to 6.6 billion euros, the spokesman said.

The long-awaited and much delayed launch contract, foreshadowed by a memorandum of understanding earlier this month, finally initiates production for a 1980s project to develop a standard NATO helicopter originally designed for service in the 1990s, hence the designation NH 90.

The Eurocopter unit of EADS -- a merger of DaimlerChrysler's aerospace arm, France's Aerospatiale Matra and Casa of Spain -- has 63 percent of the project while Italy's Finmeccanica has 32 percent and Fokker Aviation BV of the Netherlands five percent.

Engine makers Rolls-Royce Turbomeca and General Electric Co also share in the order.

``The manufacturing contract opens concrete perspectives for exports, and we have already responded to tenders,'' Alain Gauthier, the consortium's commercial director, told Reuters.

These included a tender by Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland for a common transport helicopter, and the consortium plans to reply to future tenders from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, he said.

The NH 90 is a medium-size helicopter that will compete with the popular but ageing H-60 (or S-70) model from United Technologies Corp's Sikorsky unit. Like the H-60, the NH-90 comes in army transport and naval variants.

Different sources have stated different sizes and values for the initial NH 90 order, however.

The German government on Thursday said a contract for 366 helicopters would be signed on Friday with a value of 6.7 billion euros -- almost the same as the figure that Eurocopter quoted for 298 units.

Germany also said the initial production order would be for 298, even though it now appears that only 243 are actually being contracted for, with the others remaining mere options.

And it is unclear how the number of 366 helicopters was arrived at. The memorandum of understanding described a similar quantity when it was signed with some fanfare at the Berlin air show instead of the order contract that had been expected.

The Eurocopter spokesman said the four European countries had undertaken eventually to buy 595 NH 90s.

The German government on Thursday divided the first series of 298 helicopters into 134 of the NH 90's transport version for Germany, 27 naval NH 90s for France, 117 of both types for Italy and 20 naval machines for Germany.

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