Thailand Orders Eurocopter’s EC725 for SAR Missions
In September 2012, the Thai Air Force signed an undisclosed contract with EADS Eurocopter for 4 EC725 medium search and rescue (SAR) helicopters. The twin-engine EC725 Cougar features a unique digital 4-axis autopilot, which is very useful for precise positioning during retrievals. It’s also a good deal larger than the Army’s H-60 Black Hawks and UH-1 Hueys, with seating on board for 25 persons. Based on contracts elsewhere, a price of around $180-220 million seems likely. Deliveries will take place in 2015, at which point Thailand will join their neighbor Malaysia and Singapore as local military operators of the Super Puma family.
There’s also a larger competition underway for business within Thailand, as the country looks to modernize its Vietnam-era helicopter fleet. Eurocopter sold the Thai Army 8 AS550-C3 Fennec light scout and utility helicopters in 2011, and has received interest from the Royal Thai Police. Eurocopter’s line will be competing with Sikorsky’s Black Hawk/ Seahawk family. Thailand’s services have bought several H-60 variants, and the Cougar implicitly beat HH-60 Pave Hawks for the SAR mission. Eurocopter and Sikorsky will also have to deal with Russia’s Mil series – especially the multi-role Mi-17, whose low price has given it a foothold in Thailand’s armed forces. Eurocopter.