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Europe mulls moving helicopter project outside NATO


Reuters, April 18, 2000 - PARIS, France - Governments are considering transfering management of the NH90 military transport helicopter programme to European armaments group OCCAR, an official at the French defence procurement agency said on Tuesday.

Putting the NATO-led project under a strictly European agency could raise eyebrows within the United States, the official said.

``German Deputy Defence Minister Walter Stuetzle wrote to his European partners suggesting the programme be moved under OCCAR,'' Alain Bergeot, director of programme management at the French DGA, told Reuters.

``The countries involved are currently studying the issue, but in order to make the move there would have to be a very convincing financial argument because it could be interpreted as unfriendly towards NATO,'' he added.

Currently the NH90 programme is managed by a transnational group called NAHEMA -- the NATO Helicopter Management Agency.

A consortium called NH Industries (NHI) is expected to get the green light to begin building the NH90 for France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands at the Berlin Air Show in early June.

NHI is composed of Eurocopter , Agusta and Fokker of the Netherlands.

France, Germany and Italy are already members of OCCAR, an agency set up in 1996 to coordinate procurement and manage common defence programmes across European borders. The Netherlands is on track to become a member of OCCAR shortly.

OCCAR currently manages a handful of European defence programmes including the Tiger helicopter, the Milan, Hot and Roland missiles and the MRAV armoured vehicle.


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